Friday, September 24, 2010

It rather depends on what impact you assess

The European Commission has just launched its public consultation on a review of the EU's pan European Smoking ban legislation. If you want to get involved the place to go is here, and you need to have done it by the 19th November.

With it comes the Impact Assessment that they Commissioned from the Rand Corporation. It weighs in at 345 pages and I cannot pretend to have read it all. (Which I suspect is the purpose of the document - nobody, not even the reports joint authors will have read it all).

I did however do a few words searches in it. After all if we are looking at the impacts one would expect that Health impacts would be taken into account. Economic impacts also.

Another key impact is on choice, liberty and lifestyle - society to use a phrase.

So lets look at the results of my most unscientific study.

Before even reaching Page 1 of the document proper there were over 50 references to health.

Again, before reaching page 1 we have more than 50 references to 'Economic'

I got to page 174 before I reached 50 (of course the use of the word social is interesting in itself but I digress)

So I tried Freedom
1 reference found on page 66. It was referring to Freedom of entry in the market - the cigarette market is largely an oligopoly with 5 major players. This is seen to be a bad thing - but of course the impact of smoking restrictions at point of sale will make the appearance new entrants into the market and will ossify competition - one of the key reasons that big tobacco is largely sanguine about much anti-smoking legislation. It drives out competition).

None references to Liberty.

7 references to choice. Mostly talking about choices that the Rand corporation made in running the study and in the questionnaires sent out to interested parties, something that deserves highlighting as it rather frames the whole approach.
there are no questions on wider impacts of regulations on, for example, consumer choice, property rights, or illicit tobacco trade.
They claim that they will be looking into these matters later.

I checked Rights in the light of this, and we have 7 again, including the above, but otherwise merely a very dismissive approach to whether having plain packaging mandatory would impinge on Tobacco companies property rights over their own packages, happily for the anti-smoking enthusiasts, this isn't a problem.
it should be noted that some governments have been reluctant to consider seriously the introduction of plain packaging owing to concerns about intellectual property rights and trade issues that have been brought to the fore by the tobacco industry.
(For a summary of the arguments and state-of-play, see: Physicians for Smoke-Free
Canada, 2008) Nevertheless, various trademark attorneys have been presenting their views on the legal side of the debate and have come to the conclusion that plain packaging would not violate the tobacco industry’s intellectual property rights (see, e.g., (Gordon, 2010) and (Davison, 2010).
Oh by the way there are 2 references to pubs, none to restaurants, bars or licensed premises.

So go on then, consult away.


Colin said...

Damn it, Gawain - don't make me have to agree with you again this year.

As an ex-smoker (18 months now, can hardly believe it myself) I still think bars look weird without smokers in. I am happy to go into places where smoking is allowed - it's my choice.

I think the option should be given for people to vote with their feet. There's a bar around the corner from me that allows smoking. People have to stand outside to smoke because it's so popular.

Gawain Towler said...

I won't hold it against you...

Dick Puddlecote said...

"It weighs in at 345 pages and I cannot pretend to have read it all"

I had a good go and found quite a bit of tobacco control-funded junk science referenced as gospel, which was quite funny when reading about their concern that some information was garnered from tobacco companies so should be "treated with suspicion".

I love the way they counted ALL possible costs of smoking, including intangibles and notionals, but discounted losses of business to industries such as transport and advertising because "they can always get new customers". WTF?