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Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Put A Little Spin On That

In America, they say "put a little english on it."  They're talking about putting some side (or spin) on a cue ball when playing pool. I don't know how it came to be called english, but maybe Americans should start saying "put a little scottish on it."

The AP and are reporting "record numbers try to stop smoking" in Scotland.  Big emphasis on the word try.  At least the AP's article accurately reports the actual quit rate after one year, that rate being only 6%. Scotland's news release on its site doesn't bother telling you that. I'll get to that percentage in a moment. Technically, the data for 2011 is still preliminary since it cannot be finalised until after the end of this year.  But that doesn't stop Scotland's public health minister from putting on a brave face and a whole lot of spin.  From both articles, Michael Matheson says:
2011 saw the largest ever increase in Scots trying to stop smoking, which is the biggest single step anyone can take to improve their health. I welcome that one in ten smokers - over 100,000 Scots - took advantage of NHS Scotland stop smoking services last year . . .
OK, that's great. Right?  I mean, if you want to quit smoking, do it. I support that 100%. It's your body. You decide what you do or don't do to it.

But you know, something is bothering me. I can't quite place it... Oh!  I know.  It's this line from Matheson (emphasis added):
We know that most smokers want to quit and enjoy the many health, social and economic benefits of being a non-smoker.
Is that right, Matheson? Social and economic benefits?  Really? Don't you fucking dare...  Wasn't it you fuckers who denormalised us?  We don't have a social life because you arseholes kicked us out of our pubs and made them utterly unsociable for us. And is it not you nannying tyrants that are taxing us to death with enormous duties on tobacco goods?  You caused this for -- what exactly?  A measly fucking 6% quit rate after one year in 2010?

Value for money, this programme of yours?  Let's see.  First, how much did Scotland allocate towards promoting NHS cessation services?  As best as I can determine, it looks like about 11 million pounds for 2010 (pdf - pg 7).  This doesn't even count prescriptions for nicotine replacement therapy, so the spend figure must be a lot higher. Nonetheless, let's look at the figures, shall we?

On page 9 of the NHS Smoking Cessation Service Statistics (Scotland) 1st January to 31st December 2011 report, we see:
There were a total of 83,925 quit attempts made in 2010 (revised 2010 figures). Of these, 32,857 were recorded as a successful quit at one month (self-reported), 14,294 were recorded as quit at three months and 4,927 quit at 12 months. This represents a quit rate of 39% at one month, reducing to 17% at three months and 6% at 12 months...
 Here's a chart if the text is too much for you:
One-month quits are bollocks - they don't count.  Three-month quits, getting there, but apparently you can have up to five cigarettes and still be considered quit. (Nice way to pad out the three-month figures.)  One-year quits are pretty good, although two-year quits would be better, since that's how long it supposedly takes for all the damage caused by smoking to be reversed.  Anyway... for actual "successes" of one-year quits, it comes out to spending about £2,232.60 per person. Another way of looking at this is that £10,340,000 was wasted (i.e £131 per person of the 94% that failed to quit.) That's probably not a fair way to look at it, but a 6% quit rate is horrible. The cessation programme is not working for 94% of people, and no one would consider a 6% success rate as being successful. No one would consider 17% or 39% successful either.  If you're not over 50% it simply doesn't count.

Even so, the smoking rate in Scotland has increased according to this article.  So what do you do?  You spend even more money for the next three years to lose the battle.
£40 million over the next three years on a broad programme of smoking reduction measures including NHS cessation services and smoking prevention activities across Scotland.
That works out to spending over 13.3 million per year for cessation services that do not fucking work. Economic benefits my arse.  Let me give you an image to illustrate that futility:
Image via Fotosearch and some other blog out there on the web
Maybe you ought to stop giving money to ASH Scotland (pdf)?  It ain't working for you. They are stealing your money for no perceivable gain.  None.

Oh, and perhaps you ought to stop putting a little "scottish" on the ball and start telling the truth and stop wasting taxpayer money on things that do not work. People are going to smoke. I'm just sayin' is all.