It's journalism, Jim, but not as we knew it

Here's an interesting business model: is a non-commercial, co-operative model where the journalists do not accept or expect remuneration for their work but only due credit.

And here's an example of their work:

Vaping vs. Smoking: The price of our healthcare system, environment and cost to businesses!!

A shocking £12.9billion is the total cost of smoking to society every year! Not only could switching to vaping save a life, £3.2billion could be re-located to impoverished areas of the world!

Action is needed to make a change!

At we collected research and data in conjunction with to compare the true cost of vaping, against smoking. We analysed three keys areas of society: health, environment and cost, valuing each factor against each other.

Not only are 5.6 trillion cigarettes smoked every day in the world, but in the UK alone, 80,000 people die every year from smoking. To put that into perspective 86% of cancer cases in the UK could be avoided. 

If it costs currently £2billion every year to the NHS from smoking-related diseases and deaths, think about what £2billion a year could be spent on instead??

The Royal College of Physicians, released a report entitled: Nicotine without Smoke: Tobacco Harm Reduction. In the report, they stated that ‘electronic cigarettes have the potential to make a huge contribution towards preventing the premature death, disease and social inequalities in health that smoking currently causes in the UK’.

If medical professionals agree, then what’s stopping you?

When I left university in 1980 with every intention of pursuing a career in journalism (it had been my ambition since the age of nine or ten) there was a very clear distinction between journalism and public relations.

To put it bluntly, old school journalists hated PR execs, especially those who had been to university.

Then again, many viewed all graduates with suspicion, dismissing them as smart alecs who thought they knew everything after a couple of years on some crummy student rag.

The best age for joining a newspaper, it was explained to me, was 17, before you had time to pick up any bad habits.

Anyway there was a clear line you didn't cross and when, hot out of university, I accepted a job in PR I knew I was almost certainly torpedoing a career in mainstream journalism (although by then I was more interested in writing for The Spectator or Private Eye).

Today the line between PR and journalism has been breached and twisted on its head so much it's difficult to spot the difference – unless it comes with an obliging note that reads "in conjunction with".

So thank you,, the home of "innovative and unique journalism", I'll politely decline your interesting graphic "detailing the true cost of vaping against smoking".

I don't really have room for dubious stats and colourful estimates on this blog. 

I'm sure there's a market, though. Have you tried tobacco control?


Smoke screen

There was a wonderful documentary on BBC2 on Saturday night.

Produced and directed by Julian Temple, Keith Richards - The Origin of the Species was a documentary about "Keith Richards's postwar childhood in Dartford and London, exploring the cultural undercurrents and transformative thinking which occurred between 1945 and 1962."

Having read his autobiography a couple of years ago I've become a big fan of Richards. He clearly has the constitution of an ox (there are very few people who could have survived his lifestyle) but what comes across in the book – and every interview – is his sense of humour and live and let live philosophy.

Like David Hockney Richards is rarely interviewed without a burning cigarette in his hand and Temple's documentary was no exception. In fact the director was so keen to highlight this endearing characteristic whole scenes were bathed in tobacco smoke.

It was beautifully filmed – some of the frames should be included in an exhibition on smoking. You can watch it on BBC iPlayer here.

Viewers are warned that it 'Contains some strong language'. Amusingly there's no mention of the devilishly alluring smoke that snakes and swirls across the screen for much of the documentary's 60 minutes.


Campaign for vapers' rights 

Wow. Didn't see that coming.

The Freedom Association has launched a campaign, Freedom to Vape, that will make the "positive case for vaping" as well as promoting "vapers' rights".

Nothing wrong with that. Curiously however the explanation for this anti nanny state campaign could have come straight from the tobacco control handbook:

E-cigarettes have the potential to save millions of lives. Public Health England has urged employers to have separate vaping rooms to encourage staff to move away from smoking cigarettes, and along with the Royal College of Physicians, has said that they are 95% safer than smoking combustible tobacco.

There has been talk of the NHS prescribing e-cigarettes as one of their stop smoking aids. What is the point of banning people from using e-cigarettes, making them go out into the cold, and not only breathe in the cold air, but also the second hand smoke of other smokers? It makes them less likely to quit smoking. Encouraging pubs and restaurants to say that vapers are welcome in their establishment not only gives more freedom to vapers, it is better for public health and encourages more vapers to frequent those businesses.

According to a recent article in the Daily Mail, since e-cigarettes went on sale, they have reduced smoking-related deaths in the US by more than a fifth in those born after their introduction. Let’s encourage their use before either the bureaucrats regulate them into a slow death, or the nanny statists put them to the sword more quickly.

"Encourage their use"? What, by repeating the mantra that if smokers switch to vaping it will save "millions of lives"?

Or suggesting, on the basis of a single report based on "computer modelling", that e-cigarettes have already reduced smoking-related deaths in the US by a fifth?

Or implying that "second hand" smoke, even outside, is a risk to other people's health?

What other fallacies will they promote on behalf of "vapers' rights"?

I like Andrew Allison, the man behind the campaign, but I can't help feeling that The Freedom Association is jumping on the pro-vaping, anti-smoking bandwagon – and there's nothing libertarian about that.

If I'm wrong I'll hold my hands up. For now the jury is out.

PS. The campaign's Twitter account has tweeted this article, E-cigarettes are a critical tool in the war on smoking. Just saying.


Made in Hell

One of my guilty pleasures is ... Made In Chelsea.

I started watching the "scripted reality" TV programme because my children liked it. The storylines may be a bit naff but the production values are great.

London rarely looks this good on screen. Every shot offers a pristine image of the city. Dirt and grime are conspicuous by their absence.

The cast is immaculate too. On a scale of one to ten their personalities vary enormously but you won't find a stray hair or unwelcome speckle among them.

Cast and locations are sanitised to ridiculous levels.

Alcohol flows freely but it's invariably champagne in a sparkling flute rather than real ale in a scruffy pint glass.

Nobody is obese. (Fat is forbidden.)

And no-one ever smokes.

Seriously, I've been watching the programme for two or three years and I've never seen a single person light up.

So it was interesting to see pictures of the show's most entertaining character, Spencer Matthews, in the Daily Mail this week.

Following well publicised problems Matthews wasn't in the last series but he's in the news again because it was announced last week that his brother has just got engaged to Pippa Middleton.

Naturally the media is on the lookout for stories about the Matthews clan and there he was, outside a Chelsea pub, arguing with his latest girlfriend, Morgane Robart.

According to the Mail:

The pair appeared to be deep in disagreement and were seen angrily waving their arms at each other, before making up and embracing, with Mr Matthews placing one hand on his girlfriend’s posterior and holding a cigarette in the other.

Miss Robart, who met the former foreign exchange trader while on holiday in St Barts, wore a pleated red summer dress and white trainers and also puffed away on a cigarette during the exchange.

Interesting then that the producers of Made In Chelsea have clearly made a decision to exclude images of the cast smoking, conscious perhaps that in a programme that puts style light years ahead of reality they might be accused of glamorising the habit.

Alcohol, on the other hand ... fuel your liver!!

Spencer Matthews is far and away the best character in Made In Chelsea. Without him the show struggles.

If he returns would it be so bad to let him light up on screen? It would add the crowning touch to his mock villain status.

If viewers didn't know he was a bad 'un that would be the ultimate proof of his descent into Hell.


Brexit four weeks on: why a key district voted to leave the EU

Three days ago the BBC marked 'Brexit Four Weeks On' with a series of reports from different parts of the country.

One report, in Watford, featured my good friend Gary Ling who I have known since we were at university in Aberdeen.

Gary was an active Leave campaigner and although I wanted the UK to exit the EU I couldn't see it happening.

My friend however was far more optimistic and on June 22, the day before the referendum, he posted on his blog what in hindsight is a remarkable analysis – and prediction.

Naturally it was a week or so before I bothered to read it and I've been kicking myself ever since because it deserved a much wider audience.

You can read the full post here (If Watford #Brexits, Britain Exits) but Gary has also given me permission to post it here.

With Remainers continuing to cry 'foul' it serves as a valuable insight into what was happening in a key district that invariably backs the winning side in a general election.


GARY LING, June 22, 2016

As the United Kingdom’s EU Referendum campaign comes to a close, here are eight key takeaways from my ten-week part-time participation for the Leave side in the Hertfordshire town of Watford, one of 201 non-Metropolitan Districts in England that will declare a result 0330-0400hrs Friday morning.

Key 1. Even taking into account that the Remain side had the huge advantage of the Government’s communications machine going for them, the national Leave campaign got off to a poor start back in mid-April when the @Vote_Leave organisation was officially designated. Crucially, however, one thing that really struck home with the Watford public was the #ProjectFear storyline. From my first weekend on the Leave stall in the town centre, ‘Government’s #Scaremongering’ was something that people mentioned to me right off the bat. Of course, this will only prove to have been amazingly effective if the District scores for Brexit. The Remainians have been trying to turn the tide on the effectiveness of the views of so-called ‘experts’ ever since. The extent to which they are successful in this as the campaign ends will determine the outcome.

Key 2. Ten weeks of street stall conversations with random shoppers around the District does not a proper market research project make. Yet my assumptions of the effects of ‘significant events’ amplified by social media on people’s choice in this referendum were changed by my on-street interactions. I was concerned that President Obama’s intervention in Week 3 was going to have a negative impact on Leave. On the contrary, the street reaction that weekend was broadly that he should ‘keep his nose’ out. This was a surprise to me as was general anti-US feeling. Similarly, the brutal and tragic assassination of Jo Cox does not seem to have been a major topic on the streets these past two days despite social media frenzy. In fact, as a digital strategist, I regret to say that social media buzz is a sideshow or an irrelevance to many working people.

Key 3. Since Watford is one of the most densely populated and diverse Districts outside of inner city London, immigration is an important issue here. Many people walking past the Leave stall are Eastern European immigrants who cannot vote in this referendum but whose increasing choice of Watford as a place to settle has influenced the decisions of people who can vote. Unquestionably the arrival of these new residents puts Watford’s public schools, hospital and local GP surgeries under pressure and drives up Leave vote pledges.

Key 4. From the start it was obvious that there was strong support for Brexit in the Asian community in Watford. Many mentioned to me the discriminatory nature of the EU’s free movement of people rules that allow EU citizens to enter the UK without visas while citizens from Commonwealth countries have to go through a harder, more restrictive visa process. Interestingly the Mosques in Watford don’t seem to be putting out an ‘informal’ line on how to vote in this referendum, as far as I can tell from speaking to Muslims on the High Street. That’s significant.

Key 5. Many young peoples’ support for Remain is superficial at best. Those who stopped and spoke to us at the Leave stall asking questions left, in most cases, thinking seriously whether the celebrity-fronted arguments pushed by the Remain side were as solid as they first thought. In any case the motivation of this demographic to actually turn out and choose in this (to them) complex debate is questionable.

Key 6. The determination of those who will definitely @Vote_Leave is remarkable. A plague of locusts could descend on Watford District tomorrow and Leave voters will fight their way through to the polling station. Many weekends the Leave stall was almost side by side with a Remain one flying the EU flag. Can’t say I saw much enthusiasm for the symbolism of the stars on blue in Watford. I have no doubt there is a solid and substantial Remain vote in Watford. Obviously, who turns out to vote on the day is critical. Thunderstorms are predicted Referendum day in this town. Will that make even a marginal difference? Studies of weather affecting election outcomes say not.

Key 7. Remain or Leave this event in Watford and nationally will have some serious structural implications for UK politics in terms of the futures of all the main political parties. Many mainstream UK parties were split on the EU issue - some more publicly than others. I met some great people from across the political spectrum in this campaign and it’s the first time I have ever delivered a political leaflet with a ‘Green’ message!

Key 8. I have been involved in politics for many years and the people who say they ‘don’t care’ about voting this time around is the lowest I have ever seen in any plebiscite in my adult life. This is maybe because it’s a simple binary decision which people who have a great disdain for party politics can engage in. I don’t go so far as to say we’ll see a whole bunch of Jehovah’s Witnesses turning up at the polls but, generally speaking, more people are thinking about the issues at least than for any campaign I have experienced including general elections.

Prediction: The conventional psephologist wisdom is that the closer to London a voter is the more likely they are to vote Remain. Watford borders Greater London and is often touted as the ‘Gateway to the North’. It is a barometer parliamentary seat and has voted for the party of government in every general election since 1974. After ten weeks involved in the #EURef campaign here I can say with some certainty that things are very, very close as of today. The Remain camp need a larger margin here if they are to avoid Brexit as results sweep into London proper. Putting aside all my inbuilt bias as best I can, I’m calling the result in Watford District as 51:49 for Leave on the day. If I’m right Britain is headed out of the EU and into an outward looking, global trading future as an independent nation state.

Below: Gary Ling interviewed on a BBC News report about 'Brexit Four Weeks On'.


A tale of two conferences

As I wrote on Wednesday, repeating what I have said several times before, public health campaigners are very clearly trying to control the debate on e-cigarettes.

By issuing 'guidelines' about vaping in the workplace the aim of Public Health England is not merely to 'encourage' more smokers to quit but to control where and how often adults can vape as if it's part of a smoking cessation programme.

Advocating rooms where people can vape, plus extra vaping breaks, may seem liberal in relation to other tobacco control policies but it still seems a bit controlling to me.

If I remember there were similar 'guidelines' about smoking at work until, one day, legislation was passed that imposed strict regulations on employers with threats of fines and other penalties if anyone contravened the law.

Vaping rooms, like smoking rooms, are designed to divide and conquer. I'm reluctant to use the word but in its more general meaning it's really a form of apartheid (ie segregation on grounds other than race).

It's also a subtle form of denormalisation. Want to vape? There's a designated room for that.

Another way public health is trying to exert control is by organising or dominating all those "summits" and seminars on the subject.

Take the E-Cigarette Summit, now in its third year. I went to the first one, in 2014, but chose not to attend last year's event.

There were several reasons (see Why I'm not attending today's E-Cigarette Summit) but the main one was the appearance of so many familiar faces from tobacco control, many of whom had spoken at the inaugural event the previous year.

In alphabetical order they included:

Prof David Abrams, John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Deborah Arnott, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
Prof Linda Bauld, University of Stirling, UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies (UKTAS) and Cancer Research UK
Clive Bates, former Director, ASH
Prof John Britton, UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies
Shirley Cramer, Royal Society for Public Health
Andrea Crossfield, Tobacco Free Futures
Martin Dockrell, Tobacco Control Lead, Public Health England
Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos, Onassis Cardiac Surgery Centre, Greece
Prof Peter Hajek, Queen Mary University, London
Beryl Keeley, Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA)
Jim McManus, Director of Public Health, Hertfordshire County Council
Prof Ann McNeill, UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies
Prof Ricardo Polosa, Institute for Internal Medicine, University of Catania
Louise Ross, Leicestershire Partnership NHS
Prof Robert West, Director of Tobacco Studies, Cancer Research

To that list the organisers belatedly added a handful of actual vapers but only those who could be relied upon to not rock the boat or ruffle a few public health feathers.

Tobacco control only wants to hear from vapers who have quit or are trying to quit smoking. Dual users? Not so much. Smokers who don't want to quit? No chance.

The tobacco industry – or anyone with links to Big Tobacco – were noticeable by their absence on the list of speakers and panellists despite the fact that the companies clearly have a huge role to play in the development of e-cigarettes and other harm reduction products.

Anyway, confirmed speakers for the E-Cigarette Summit 2016 currently include:

Prof David Abrams, John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Deborah Arnott, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
Beryl Keeley, Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA)
Prof Linda Bauld, University of Stirling and UKCTAS*Martin Dockrell,* Public Health England
Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos, Onassis Cardiac Surgery Centre, Greece
Prof Peter Hajek, Queen Mary University, London
Jim McManus, Director of Public Health, Hertfordshire County Council
Prof Ann McNeill, Professor of Tobacco Addiction (UKCTAS)
Ram Moorthy, British Medical Association
Robert Morrison, Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP)
Prof Marcus Munafo, UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies
Prof Ricardo Polosa, Institute for Internal Medicine, University of Catania
Louise Ross, Stop Smoking Services, Leicestershire NHS Trust
Prof David Spiegelhalter, Winton Professor of The Public Understanding of Risk, Cambridge University
Prof Robert West, Director of Tobacco Studies, Cancer Research

If that list seems familiar it's because it is. (Those who spoke at the 2015 event are highlighted in bold.)

Note that both sets of speakers include Deborah Arnott, CEO of ASH. That's right, the same Deborah Arnott whose alleged complaint about "unpleasant and distracting" vapour led the organisers of the Global Forum on Nicotine to ban any vaping in plenary and parallel sessions.

In other words, same old, same old – and still no sign of any speakers from the tobacco industry.

But it doesn't have to be like that. For example I was asked recently to speak at something called the Next Generation Nicotine Delivery conference in London.

According to the invitation it "brings together KOLs (key opinion leaders) in the alternative nicotine delivery and tobacco industries, alongside regulators and advocates".

It was suggested I might moderate or take part in a session entitled 'Gaining valuable insight into consumer needs and consumption of alternative nicotine delivery in different markets/regions'.

I didn't want to moderate so I replied as follows:

I would be happy to be on the panel, if you want a slightly alternative viewpoint. (I don't think I would be suitable to chair or moderate the session.)

As someone who doesn't smoke or vape I can't bring any direct personal experience to the session so I would have to talk in more general terms, from a Forest perspective.

Although we primarily represent adults who choose to smoke combustibles, an increasing number of our supporters also use e-cigarettes (for a variety of reasons). Common sense dictates that we embrace and endorse any harm reduction product but most of all we advocate choice, an issue that is sometimes lost in the current debate.

Consequently we are a little uncomfortable with the evangelical nature of many pro-vaping advocates who in their enthusiasm for e-cigarettes are blind to the fact that many smokers don't like or aren't attracted to e-cigarettes.

Likewise at the e-cigarette conferences I've attended there seems to be a general incomprehension that more smokers don't want to switch. This attitude was reflected only last week by Mark Pawsey MP, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on E-Cigarettes, who said he found it "mind-boggingly incomprehensible" that, knowing the health risks, so many people continue to smoke combustibles.

As part of the session therefore I would like to address the reasons why so many smokers haven't switched to vaping, and why they shouldn't be forced to.

Also, most if not all of the vaping representatives at e-cigarette conferences tend to be ex-smoking vapers which makes them unrepresentative of many vapers, the majority of whom are (I believe) still dual users.

They are also unrepresentative in other ways – notably the type of products they use. We very much hope there is a niche for every product for which there is some consumer demand. Long-term however we believe that if the e-cigarette market is to grow substantially and attract more smokers to switch, the two essential factors will be cost and convenience.

Based on anecdotal evidence we also believe there are some aspects of the current pro-vaping advocacy that are actually driving some smokers away from e-cigarettes.

Overall I would be very positive about e-cigarettes and their role in harm reduction. At the same time however I'd like to raise issues involving current smokers (and potential vapers) that are often overlooked when pro-vaping advocates get together.

As a result of this I thought I might be quietly dropped from the programme. Not a bit of it. The conference organiser replied:

I believe having an alternative viewpoint will be valuable as we don’t want to regurgitate the same message and the audience would really benefit from hearing your experiences at Forest.

I believe your insights on smoker-centric approach with emphasis on understanding and educating the smoker, alongside not having a biased approach, will resonate well and will indeed support an engaging discussion.

How refreshing is that?

Interestingly my fellow panelists include a representative from a tobacco company and another from an "independent e-cigarette manufacturer".

Frankly the third Next Generation Nicotine Delivery conference, which describes itself as "an open, unbiased and interactive platform to discuss TPD implementation, alongside alternative nicotine delivery product innovation", sounds rather more open and interactive than its cousin, the public health dominated E-Cigarette Summit.

Sadly if you want to attend both conferences and compare notes there's one small problem – the dates overlap! Madness.


Tobacco control freaks

Public Health England is urging businesses to provide vaping rooms so vapers won't have to stand outside with the smokers and their nasty little cancer sticks.

Personally I've no problem with vaping rooms. Like smoking rooms (outlawed) this should be a matter for individual businesses.

What's more interesting is that PHE is also suggesting that workers who vape should be allowed additional breaks to top up their nicotine levels:

Vaping provides a generally lower blood nicotine level and takes longer to reach a desired level, requiring frequent interim top-ups,” PHE said in the guidelines for employers. “This difference should be taken into account, particularly when developing policies for workplaces.”

Yesterday the Scottish Sun invited Forest to respond. They also contacted vaping advocate Linda Bauld (currently on holiday in Canada) possibly because they thought we would take opposite positions - Linda in favour, Forest against (on account of it being 'unfair' to smokers who have to go outside).

I explained that our position on vaping at work is exactly the same as our attitude to smoking. Ultimately it should be a matter for the employer.

I did however query whether fellow workers would appreciate vapers being given extra breaks.

We were close to deadline so after a quick chat I sent the following response:

"Not all smokers wish to quit and their right to smoke outside during legitimate work breaks must be respected.

"But if employers want to encourage employees to quit smoking it makes sense to provide rooms where they can vape in comfort without having to stand outside with the smokers.

"Non-smokers might draw the line at allowing vapers additional breaks but in many ways it's no different to allowing people to have additional coffee breaks.

"What matters to any business is how effective you are as an employee. If you produce your best work by being allowed to smoke, vape or consume caffeine at regular intervals that's a matter for you and your employer.

"E-cigarettes are arguably the best smoking cessation tool ever invented because they mimic the act of smoking in a way that no other stop smoking aid can match.

"Ultimately, though, this is a matter for individual employers who must be allowed to devise a policy on vaping that best suits their business and the interests of all members of staff."

I don't expect them to use more than one or two sentences but it's an issue that I'm sure will run and run.

In the meantime it's worth noting - again - how public health groups are progressively taking control of vaping behaviour to the extent that they are now issuing 'guidelines' to employers.

There are some, I'm sure, who will welcome such initiatives as evidence of a more liberal approach by public health towards nicotine.

Perhaps it is.

What shouldn't be forgotten however is that these guidelines are simply the latest stage in a hugely illiberal tobacco control strategy designed to force adults to quit smoking.

As readers know (because I've repeated it often enough), Forest embraces e-cigarettes and other harm reduction products because we believe in choice, but a truly liberal society is one that accommodates those who want to smoke whilst educating consumers about the relative risks of using e-cigarettes, combustibles etc without hyperbole or scaremongering.

Btw, I notice that PHE isn't liberal enough to suggest that people might be allowed to vape at their desk or in any other communal area. Oh no, there has to be a separate vaping room with vapers "permitted " additional breaks.

Guidelines, regulations, legislation. However you look at it, they really are control freaks.


Disgruntled passenger to Cunard: "Smokers are treated like pariahs"

John Staddon is professor emeritus at the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University in the United States.

He's also honorary visiting professor at the University of York.

A couple of years ago John wrote a book, published by the University of Buckingham, entitled Unlucky Strike: The Science, Law and Politics of Smoking.

It included illustrations by his friend (and Forest supporter) David Hockney and I reviewed it here.

To help promote the book Forest organised a speaker meeting, Why government should leave smokers alone.

Shortly after that John and his wife joined us at The Freedom Dinner and we have kept in touch, occasionally swapping emails.

A couple if weeks ago John sent me a copy of a letter he had written to the CEO of Cunard following a recent cruise. It reads:

I have just returned from a generally enjoyable trip on the remastered QM2. It is my third QM2 trip, but it may be my last. The physical facilities, especially the library, were excellent; the service and food very good. The talks and entertainment were generally excellent cruise fare.

Those are the good things. But there were also bad things. There were computer problems which caused many people to wait hours before they could embark. You probably know about these.

But there are two other chronic problems that you may not be aware of. First the security in Southampton was intrusive and obsessive to a ridiculous degree. As a result I temporarily lost my watch, which was demanded by a robotic security officer – I say ‘robotic’ because he used so little judgement that he could have been replaced by a machine.

In the course of my efforts to find my watch I spoke with the security officer. When I questioned the excess of the whole security procedure – worse, in my experience, than at most airports – he proudly proclaimed “The rules are the same!”

But of course the risks are NOT the same. The QM2 is unlikely to be threatened by a watch, even an explosive one. You don’t check people’s watches and walking sticks when they go into a theater or get on a train. The QM2 is no different. The risks are different so should be the security procedures, and on most cruise ships, they are.

Being treated in a reasonable and civilized way is one reason that people choose sea travel over air. Cunard is throwing this advantage away.

Second, the treatment of smokers, especially cigarette smokers, is disgraceful, even offensive. Smokers are now treated even worse than on previous voyages of the QM2. (And worse than the crew, apparently.)

Cigarette smokers (I am an occasional cigar smoker) have no heated, covered area where they can smoke. It would be more honest if Cunard announced that their ships are all non-smoking rather than intimidate and insult cigarette smokers in the way that you do.

On this last trip passengers were regaled with several entertainments celebrating Cunard’s distinguished history. No-one could fail to notice that smoking was treated for most of that history as a civilized part of travel on a Cunard ship. Now smokers are treated as pariahs. Disgraceful!

The sensible and decent thing would be to designate the large and often largely empty Commodore Lounge, which is adjacent to the diminutive Churchill cigar room, as a smoking area.

I generally enjoyed my trip, but I will not be signing up again unless Cunard does something about these two very unpleasant features of your travel experience.

No word yet on Cunard's response but I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime I'm booked on another Cunard ship, the Queen Victoria, next month.

One of the ports we're due to visit just happens to be in Turkey. In the circumstances you'd hope Cunard might turn a blind eye to nervous passengers lighting up in no-smoking areas!

PS. John Staddon is right to highlight the long history of smoking aboard Cunard ships.

Last year, at the TabExpo Congress in London, maritime historian Brian Hawley gave a very interesting if nostalgic presentation entitled 'Smoking tales on the high seas'.

Hawley also has a hand in this fascinating feature, Queen Mary and Hindenburg: A Detailed Comparison, which reveals that not only were there smoking rooms on both vessels, "passengers could smoke virtually anywhere on Queen Mary":

While the First Class smoking room was an especially elegant place for a man to enjoy a cigar, pipe, or cigarette, passengers were free to smoke in their cabins, in the dining room, and almost everywhere else.

In contrast:

Because Hindenburg was inflated with highly-flammable hydrogen, smoking was strictly limited, and passengers were required to hand all matches and lighters to a steward before being allowed to board.

But Hindenburg’s designers knew that a smoke-free airship was not likely to appeal to the nicotine-addicted travelers of the day and came up with an ingenious way to allow passengers to satisfy their cravings without destroying the airship; a pressurized smoking room entered through an airlock.

The air pressure in the smoking room was kept higher than ambient pressure, so that no leaking hydrogen could enter the room, and a steward carefully monitored the door to make sure that no passenger left with a lighted cigarette, cigar, or pipe.

Well worth a read.