Nudge, Nudge.

The nudge unit has been busy, I see. The latest wheeze is to encourage smokeless fags –  or electronic cigarettes –  in order to nudge smokers into giving up. Better not tell Dick Puddlecote or Leggy, those buggers smoke these and the real things…

This means that hmg will have to nudge the previously intractable anti-smoking lobby and its pharmaceutical backers into shifting from their erstwhile opposition to such products.

In the UK, medicines regulators have actively discouraged the development, marketing and promotion of cigarette substitutes containing nicotine because it is addictive, but they are now looking into approving such devices for use.

The cognitive dissonance is a wonder to perceive.

Anyway, not only smokers but just about everyone is to get a nudge or two –  whether we are filling in forms or buying the meat and veg.

It also says making people write “This is an honest account of the truth” on insurance claims forms could cut fraud.

The French have something similar on their official forms –  basically a confirmation that you have read, understood and agreed with the contents. Everyone scribbles it off and no one takes any real notice. I mean, do they really think that someone about to engage in insurance fraud is going to be put off making the claim because they have to write a few lines stating that their claim is honest? Really?

But critics of the unit’s activities have suggested there is little evidence that such “nudges” actually work.

My money is on the critics frankly. Here’s a wee list of some of the nudges being proposed –  nudges that would irritate me enough to do precisely the opposite to what they want:

  • making drinkers more aware of how much alcohol others consume – on the basis that most people overestimate how much others drink
  • removing alcohol from prominent positions at the front of supermarkets – Asda, Morrisons and Waitrose have already done so
  • redesigning hospital prescription charts to cut down on errors due to incorrect completion and bad handwriting
  • providing upfront rewards like shopping vouchers or council tax holidays to encourage household energy efficiency improvements – rafter than stressing the longer-term gains to be made
  • altering letters to tax debtors to inform them that the majority of people in their area have already paid up and reminding them of the link between tax and local services – trials showed a 15% improvement in response rates
  • placing declarations of honesty at the start of forms, not the end, to “prime” respondents to tell the truth, or requiring them to write out, by hand, an “honesty sentence”

Some MPs reckon that the half million quid a year this nonsense is costing us is a waste. Ya reckon?

8 comments for “Nudge, Nudge.

  1. David C
    September 17, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    I hate the idea of the nudge unit as much as anyone. However, the fact that an official body has recognised that e-cigs might be a good thing, is a step forward. I seem to remember the banning brigade wanted to outlaw them outright. Remember the ‘skoal bandits’, which were banned, despite evidence that they too were likely to reduce harm from smoking.

    • September 18, 2011 at 6:34 am

      I remember candy cigarettes too… 🙁

  2. September 17, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    redesigning hospital prescription charts to cut down on errors due to incorrect completion and bad handwriting


    • September 18, 2011 at 6:34 am

      And poor English, perhaps? 😈

  3. john in cheshire
    September 17, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    Those of us who are sensitised to socialist ploys, are naturally antipathetic towards the ‘nudge’ philosophy. It’s just more marxist manipulation. Say ‘NO’ to any of these proposals. For God’s sake, why can’t people just decouple their personal prejudices from wanting a law about it?

  4. September 18, 2011 at 12:01 am

    Anyone else finding it incresingly difficult to auto-tune into the main BBC radio stations while local and commercial ones are fine? It’s my belief that they are weakening the analogue signal to “nudge” is into demanding Digital radio.

    • September 18, 2011 at 6:35 am

      Yup, I’ve noticed that. Changed the batteries in my work radio before I realised that wasn’t the problem.

  5. Lord T
    September 18, 2011 at 11:24 am

    I’m waiting my chance to nudge them into the path of a bus. Sadly, it aint looking likely.

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