Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH, is interviewed in The Guardian today and comes up with a novel explanation for the smoking rate rising in Ireland since the smoking ban:
To pause is to run the risk of the numbers once again increasing: in Ireland, she tells me, the government successfully brought in smoke-free legislation, but "they didn't do anything else, and smoking started to creep back up again".
As reported previously, the smoking rate did rather more than "creep back up again". It has risen to an astonishing 33%. As for the idea that the Irish "didn't do anything else", where to begin?
Ireland has constantly increased the price of tobacco and now has the highest rate of cigarette tax of any EU country; it has graphic warnings on cigarette packs; it has banned all forms of tobacco advertising; it has raised the age of purchase to 18 and it was the first country in the world to ban tobacco displays in shops.
It is completely untrue to say that Ireland has done nothing else since the ban. It has, in fact, done even more than the UK. And yet it is fast becoming one of Europe's heaviest smoking nations.
I don't recall ASH predicting that the smoking ban would make more people start smoking unless it was followed by an endless stream of legislation. I seem to recall them saying the smoking ban would be the nearest thing to a magic bullet. I also recall smoking rates falling for decades when ASH did very little and rising when they started doing a lot.
It looks like Arnott is rehearsing her excuses for when the smoking rate is shown to have risen in England. It's a convenient line to take: "what we wanted then didn't work because it needed to be accompanied by what we want now." It's not true, of course, and it doesn't make any sense, but that has seldom been a handicap.