A demonstration is being staged by Freedom to Choose (Scotland) at the 2010 UK Smoking Cessation Conference taking place on 14 and 15 June in Glasgow.
The conference’s delegate list stands at 559, including smoking cessation advisers and consultants, and representatives from Action on Smoking & Health (ASH), ASH Scotland, and from pharmaceutical companies.
Tax-payers’ money will fund most of the attendees from throughout the UK, who will discuss ‘new indications for NRT, medication compliance, marketing and supporting tobacco control activity, and the impact of illicit tobacco’.1 The bulk of the conference programme concerns smoking cessation treatments/programmes and smoking restrictions; illicit tobacco is dealt with twice.
The Scottish Government spends £11m annually on direct smoking cessation, yet its targets appear startlingly unambitious: ‘… to support, through smoking cessation services, 8 per cent of your smoking population in successfully quitting (at 1 month post quit) over the period 2008/9 to 2010/11’.2
‘This conference is a publicly funded opportunity for improving market conditions for smoking cessation treatments, most of which have a very limited success rate,’ says spokesman Michael Davidson. ‘Smoking cessation programmes are little more than a revolving door, designed to transfer smokers from the tobacco market to a reliance on nicotine lozenges and patches.’
A success rate of a mere 8% demonstrates that the true aim of the smoking cessation industry is not that people give up smoking entirely, but that they take up smoking cessation support. Both the public and private sector elements of the health service have high stakes in this market in terms of jobs and sales of treatments.
Foiled efforts to persuade smokers to take up smoking cessation services via the NHS are relentless. In 2007, ASH – a major player in the smoking cessation movement – was obliged to apologise to Allen Carr’s Easyway Organisation for suggesting its success rate of 53 per cent was a made-up figure; ASH also paid the Allen Carr organisation’s legal fees.3 Yet both the NHS and ASH still promote only medical interventions manufactured by pharmaceutical companies, combined with NHS support.4
‘At a time when public spending cuts are inevitable it is complete madness to spend money on treatments that are known to have a low rate of success when better alternatives are available,’ continues Michael Davidson. ‘It is hard to escape the conclusion that promoting smoking cessation products is a much higher priority than concern to help smokers to stop smoking. Eleven million pounds may not be a large share of the health budget. But the money is public funding, and it is being used ineffectively and inappropriately.’
Conflicts of interest are an obvious issue. The conference has been organised by Exchange Supplies, a company normally concerned with hard drug abuse issues. The conference director holds a patent application for a nicotine delivery device, tendered in the name of Exchange Supplies.5 Members of the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies, represented among the conference speakers, also hold personal financial interests in smoking cessation research.6
The participants at this conference have everything to gain from promoting smoke-free environments and increasing restrictions on smokers. This has extreme ramifications in institutions such as mental health settings and prisons where people are effectively forced to take treatments that they have not needed in the past.
The demonstration will take place outside the Radisson Hotel, Argyll Street, Glasgow, between 12 and 4pm (the closing hours of the conference) on Tuesday 15 June.
Spokesperson: Michael Davidson – 0845 643 9552
F2C Press Office