Sunday, 21 November 2010

Anti-smoking group in Scotland celebrates studies promoting tobacco display ban

Two studies published in Tobacco Control on Thursday, both endorsing the display ban on the basis of research done in Ireland. One study (Evaluation of the removal of point-of-sale tobacco sales in Ireland) recorded high rates of compliance, reports of quitting made easier and lower estimates of youth smoking. The other study (Economic evaluation of the removal of point-of-sale tobacco sales in Ireland) shows that the display ban has had no impact upon shops, and not led to any decline in tobacco sales over and above long-term trends.

Both stories originate with the University of Nottingham (UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies), and both are funded by Cancer Research UK. It is thus of little surprise to read that Sheila Duffy welcomed the studies: 'the tobacco retail display ban, which has been in place since 1 July 2009, has changed young people's attitudes to smoking and not resulted in any harm to businesses'. She could hardly not support them:
  1. Because the studies were published in Tobacco Control, part of the British Medical Journal group of journals. 
  2. Because the studies were funded by Cancer Research
  3. Because most of the authors have good credentials in tobacco control (and/or social marketing!)
Both institutions have a clear agenda to promote tobacco control, indeed Cancer Research explicitly states that research projects that seek funding from the Tobacco Advisory Group should favour further tobacco regulation.

This is in essence policy-driven research, and not good.

ASH Scotland, funded by the Scottish Government, promotes the display ban because of uncertainty about whether  the Coalition will choose to enact the legislation south of the boarder. (This is why I had no qualms in asking people to request MPs to vote against the English display ban. I had no doubt at all that antis would be at work lobbying MPs to vote the other way.)

And what do the studies tell us?

  • Lower product recall in adults and young people.
  • Fewer young people estimated that over one-fifth of young people smoked.
  • Fourteen per cent of smokers thought that the law made quitting smoking easier.
  • Thirty-eight per cent thought fewer kids would take up smoking. And from the economic study:
  • No significant short term change in tobacco sales.

This is all about perception: whether it is perceived that fewer young people currently smoke, that more people can easily stop smoking and that fewer young people will take it up. And no change in tobacco sales. Hardly a ringing endorsement of the policy, or worth much of Cancer Research UK's money.

But perhaps Cancer Research and Tobacco Control involvement are enough to make some readers think that the studies' results must provide unequivocal support for the tobacco display ban?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"One study (Evaluation of the removal of point-of-sale tobacco sales in Ireland) recorded high rates of compliance"

The concentration camps in Germany also had high rates of compliance.