Sunday, 25 November 2012

Petition 01451 update

Scottish Parliament Petition 01451, which closed 22 October, will receive a hearing on Tuesday before the Public Petitions Committee. As on earlier occasions, the petitioners have not been invited to give evidence.

The SPICe (Scottish Parliament Information Centre) Committee has briefed the Public Petitions Committee. I haven't found a reference for it yet but there is a note from the clerk to the committee based on the briefing here (PPC/S4/12/17/3).

The clerk's note makes a number of points. It notes that EU 13779 – the ventilation standard published by the European Commission four years ago that shows how to clean smoke out of buildings – doesn't have the force of law. (Our petition simply points out that removing smoke can be part of a coherent air quality standard.)

It flags up a UK Parliament document by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology on indoor airborne pollution pointing out that no government department has specific responsibility for this area. (This document seems to concern itself mostly with cooking fumes and ETS, and cites the famous Pellesque 17 per cent drop in heart attacks that allegedly followed the implementation of the Scottish smoking ban in evidence.)

In a section on passive smoke, it then lists evidence that passive smoke damages health, using all the usual sources.

It lists counter-arguments, sourced mainly from the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association.

In a section on ventilation, it gives arguments against the use of ventilation (basically, against the use of piss-poor ventilation that has already been shown not to work).

It presents arguments in the petition in favour of using air-cleaning systems: Paragraph 19:
Those who support the use of ventilation systems also use the wider argument that identifying and measuring the components of ETS and assessing the exposure of non-smokers to them in real-life situations, present very great difficulties.  TMA (2004, p 8) stated that various substances that make up ETS are generally only present in extremely low concentrations, some below any meaningful measurement.  It contended that some of these are likely to be present in the air anyway, emanating from other sources and inseparable from the ETS contribution.  
It gives a brief history of parliamentary activity on the smoking ban, listing the two previous petitions. It then addresses the Scottish Government's view. The Scottish Government does not intend to review the smoking ban. It considers on the basis of studies carried out in the early stages of implementation that the smoking ban had proven health benefits. It does not want to reverse the tide of denormalising smokers, and it also wishes to adhere to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which recommends public smoking bans.

Finally the petitions clerk suggests that further information could be sought from interested parties, including ASH Scotland, NHS Scotland, Forest, the TMA, or the petition could be referred to the Health and Sport Committee.   

Inherent bias is overwhelming. The Scottish Government's plan for tobacco control will be published early in the New Year, and we get a hint of it here – the Government has announced a plan to make Scotland smoke-free by 2030. (John Watson of ASH Scotland says: 
"We know that 69% of smokers say they want to quit and we know that two-thirds of current smokers started before they were 18.
"If we achieve those goals, we are actually talking about a small number of willing adult smokers continuing to do that. That is their business, and we don't want them to be criminalised or stigmatised for doing that."
Is Watson unique in tobacco control, not to want to denormalise smokers? Or is he lying?)  

As usual, competing interests of the tobacco control lobby are ignored:
In its submission to the then Scottish Executive‘s consultation in 2004, ASH Scotland, presented details of research which led it to conclude that ventilation could not be accepted as a solution to the risks associated with exposure to ETS. 
ASH Scotland received a considerable funding boost in the lead-up to the smoking ban (£1m in 2005/2006 as opposed to £779K in 2004: FOI request result). Are we supposed to believe that this conflict of interest was immaterial? On this basis they decided that because a certain ventilation system was not fool-proof, no other air cleaning system could possibly work!

Petition 01451 calls for a review of the smoking ban in the light of EN 13779, which shows how an indoor air quality standard can accommodate smoking, and in view of advances in air cleaning technology which has to deal with toxins that are far more dangerous than secondary smoke.

The Scottish Government really does not want to consider our petition! Note the mention of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and note also that every single reference to arguments in favour of our petition is sourced by tobacco interests – that even those the petitions clerk suggests consulting over the petition are tobacco interests. (Article 5.3 of the FCTC advises against allowing tobacco industry interests to contribute to health policy. This will allow the Scottish Government to reject the evidence of these contributors solely because they are assumed to wish to 'undermine or subvert tobacco control interests'.)  They are setting up straw man arguments by only taking evidence from opponents they distrust as a matter of principle.           


Pat Nurse MA said...

Next on the Fascist Scottish agenda is criminalisation of smokers so your petition was never going to get anywhere because to make smokers criminals, first they had to make them social lepers and that was the real motivation for the ban.

It was never about health. That was simply the excuse for the stupid and the bigoted.

Anonymous said...

At least the petition has the virtue of bringing the bigotry and junk science to the fore.
I believe that what we are seeing is a form of 'ethnic cleansing'. The cleansers do not need a reason. They just enjoy it and many of them get paid handsomely for it.