Wednesday, 23 May 2012

More on the blatantly one-sided plain packaging consultation

Over the last two days, even more reasons to feel this whole consultation arrangement falls far short of a transparent and all-inclusive consultation.

1. The study commissioned as an 'independent academic review' is not only authored entirely by tobacco control professionals, but as DP points out, it relies on a collection of studies that are not only specifically tobacco control studies and funded as such but nearly half of them are authored by the authors of the so-called independent review.

2. (h/tip Xopher, from his own consultation response)
Previous consultations have been criticised as quoted below :
 “The Government has been accused of fixing the outcome of public consultations on health policy after it emerged that reviews were flooded with block votes from groups funded entirely by the taxpayer.”  
“…….. said the disclosures summed up Labour's "cavalier" approach to consulting the public.” 
…… said: "It will come as no surprise to us if the Department of Health has funded organisations that provide the responses to consultations that the Government is looking for.” 
"The public are understandably cynical about the way Labour consults the public - it's time we had a Government that treats the public and their views with the respect they deserve." 
Can we be assured that this consultation will be impartial and free of the above criticism? I hope so since these are the words of Andrew Lansley MP who in his current Government role has a full oversight of Health Department activity and as an elected Member of Parliament is duty bound to uphold democracy in this Country. 
What's the difference between being in Opposition and being in Government? Quite a lot, it would seem.

Of course Action and Smoking on Health (and now ASH Scotland) both know that there are reasons the public cannot be trusted with fully open consultations. Action on Smoking and Health recently published its tobacco company stooge list, which included the CBI, major trade unions and everything in between. Sheila Duffy today publishes an opinion piece in the Scotsman, explaining why Scottish ministers should fully implement Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
Article 5.3 of the FCTC recognises the “irreconcilable conflict” between public health and tobacco industry interests and requires governments to engage with the industry only so far as is absolutely necessary to organise effective regulation. 
If Scottish ministers were fully to implement Article 5.3 that would mean agreeing to transparency in all contacts with the industry. 
It would involve a policy of disinvestment of public money from tobacco shares. It should require a special declaration of any tobacco interests from any individuals and organisations engaged in public health policy discussions.
In the real world where the rest of us live, the world is full of interests that can endanger health if left unchecked. It is not only bad products but corrupt practices that contribute to poor public health outcomes. For example from the US (just to illustrate) an executive from Monsanto has undue power in the FDA. This is of no concern to the Sheila Duffys of this world because they are still in the nursery where food is good for you and tobacco is bad for you.

Sheila also has a go at defending the current consultation process but does not begin to address the issues. One suspects that she does not really understand them.
Over the last month a joint UK and Scottish Government consultation on requiring tobacco to be sold in plain packaging has been met with industry-funded opposition, scaremongering stories and misleading information.
There is nothing misleading in what Dick Puddlecote, the Hands off our Packs Campaign, I or anyone has said in pointing out that the Department of Health wants to listen only to tobacco control and they attempt to make a virtue of this one-sidedness by invoking article 5.3 of the FCTC.

1 comment:

david said...

I doubt that the general public have the slightest idea how consultations are rigged. Furthermore, a great many probably don't give them a second thought.

That apart, have tobacco companies and related businesses legally challenged the blatantly biased process? Imagine a legal case where the judge and jury all had a vested interest to find a defendant guilty. And that the vast majority of permissible evidence was provided by the Prosecution.