13 August 2009

Policy by interest group

Patrick Basham describes how tobacco policy in the UK is being shaped by anti-tobacco groups:
So just who, then, in the DoH [Department of Health was responsible for conducting a wide-ranging, objective, and transparent review of the evidence about tobacco advertising and tobacco displays and their supposed effect on young people? It certainly wasn’t regular civil servants with expertise on tobacco issues who approached the issue without a vested interest. Instead ...the review was a product of Cancer Research UK, a charity that has also acted as an advocacy group consistently calling for bans on tobacco displays. Displaying the truth about policymaking, Spiked, 13 August
In this blog I've often criticised wealthy corporate bodies, as well as government agencies, for their influnece over policymaking. They take advantage of the difficulty of non-initiates in comprehending the often arcane and always complex, long-winded process of law-making. Mr Basham's article is a reminder that it is not only large corporations who can hijack policy, but also well-intentioned lobby groups:
In effect, the government’s policy about tobacco displays is not the result of wide-ranging research, evaluated objectively and transparently, but rather was based on a single report produced by an advocacy group campaigning for a display ban, and helped along by a senior official from that group working inside the DoH. What’s objective, evidence-based, comprehensive, or transparent about that?

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