Octabber

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Stoptober(2012) was a campaign fully funded by the NHS in an effort to get smokers to quit smoking for the whole of October. A hyperbolic version of No Smoking day if you will.

Octabber was set up as a result[1][2], by people sick of the government spending money on telling people how to live their lives.

It was repeated in 2013, and every year thereafter

Announcement

Stoptober was breathlessly announced by the BBC on 8 Sep 2012:

Smokers across England are being urged to quit for a month in a government campaign.

Research has shown that people who manage to stop smoking for that length of time are more likely not to start again.

"Stoptober" takes place for 28 days from 1 October.[3]

Quite why someone thought that October has only 28 days is unclear.

England's Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said it was the first time that the government had launched a "mass quit attempt".

The campaign will involve TV and radio advertising, a daily messaging service and roadshows around the country. There is also a Stoptober app and a Facebook page.

Health Minister Norman Lamb, who said he quit smoking last week, told BBC Breakfast the campaign was "a good investment in health promotion".[3]

Unfortunately there was insufficient space in the BBC's report to mention how much tax-payers money was actually, in Mr Lamb's words "a good investment."

Nor, sadly, what effect this would have on the Exchequer should the campaign actually work (hint: 10% of the health budget)

Reaction

As with any government (funded) initiative that purports to tell people how they should live their lives, there was a backlash.

It started shortly after the BBC's item with a series of tweets by Chris Snowdon:

Should have known the anti-smoking lobby would rip off the Mo-vember idea. Stoptober?! Doesn't even rhyme[1]

Might launch an Oc-tabber campaign for people who like smoking tabs.[1]

This was picked up by Pat Nurse:

I first heard about the Govt's Stoptober scheme aimed at getting us all to do "the decent thing" and quit smoking from Chris Snowden's tweets

I liked his idea of launching a counterblast Oct-tabber campaign for people who don't want to quit and it appealed to many people I chatted to in the real and online world who also took that familiar sigh of despair on hearing of yet another "let's give those smokers a shove with tax payers' cash" initiatives - for our own good, of course, because we want it, allegedly.[1]

And subsequently by numerous other blogs[4].

Pat then goes on to point out the fallacy about getting 1/5th of the population of England to quit:

That [starving the anti-tobacco groups of tax-payers mone], incidentally, is not the main intention of #Octabber which does, however, aim to make tolerant non smokers realise that without adult consumers' tobacco tax they will have to make up that shortfall with tax imposed on other goods like food, beer, petrol and clothing to cover this massive loss of revenue to the Treasury in a time of deep recession.

According to Junican, each one of the 15 million smokers pay £5 each in tax per pack so that equates (if my sums are correct) to a loss of some £75 million in one month if we all do as we're told and quit en masse. Actually, I wonder if the figure is higher than that bearing in mind that 12 billion is given to the treasury each year from tobacco consumers. In short, Stoptober is a luxury we can't afford. [4]

Implementation

Unfortunately it appears that Stoptober didn't get off to an auspicious start. From one blogger who started a diary of their efforts:

By the time I got off the bus I was worse. I wanted my usual roll up but I didn't and I didn't have any with me anyway. I'd chucked it all out last night just before I had my last roll up. I had myself prepared for the day despite the let down of not getting my Stoptober pack in time (GRRRRR) but I had a bag of mixed nuts and raisins, 5 packs of Extra gum and my lovely boyfriend gave me a stress ball with his works logo on it :)[5]

As another blogger who found the above entry pointed out:

Really? Now, I'd have thought that for a campaign which revolves around starting the quit attempt on the 1st of October, it is pretty damn vital that the 'support' arrives before that date. No?[6]

The Marquis continues:

I popped by my brothers after work to swap some Nicorette gum for an e-cigarette to try. He showed me his Stoptober pack that did arrive and that he was quite disappointed with. Seemed to just contain loads of leaflets, a chart that doesn't relate to smoking roll ups and a stress bass that wasn't even really squidgy[5]

Stoptober, it would appear, is aimed only at pre-made cigarette consumers. No apparent effort has been made to those who roll their own, those who smoke pipes, or cigars.

'twould appear to be a half-hearted attempt, and as of yet, still no idea how much this is costing the tax-payer.

Previous Years

2016

This year's celebrities were Phil Tufnell, Craig Revel Horwood, Chris Kamara and Natasha Hamilton[7] They were paid £29,000[8]. No numbers for how many people signed up were made available[8]


2015

"Over 215,000" people apparently signed up for this year's effort[9][10], with Bill Bailey, Al Murray, Shappi Khorsandi and Rhod Gilbert being paid a total of £195,000 to promote the campaign.[11][12]

2014

"Over 250,000" people signed up in 2014[13]

References