Tonight's the night

Looking forward to the Public Affairs Awards in London tonight.

As I explained a few weeks ago, Forest has been shortlisted for 'Party Conference Reception of the Year'.

The event was Eat, Drink, Smoke, Vape. We've organised better parties but it attracted 500 guests and word got round. reviewed it as follows:

What it was: Forest and the Tobacco Manufacturers Association – the fags lobby.

Why people might not like them: For pushing cancer sticks.

The image they wanted to portray: If you want to pay to slowly poison your body for little discernible gain, then that's your choice. Also, you can vape now, which is less cool – but if we talk enough about that maybe you'll forget the cancer.

What the party was like: Actually really good. An upper-middle market bar packed to the gills with free booze, mini burgers, pocket ashtrays (a weird plastic wallet thing you can carry around) inscribed with the words "Say no to outdoor smoking bans", and leaflets about how "A once benign nanny state has become a bully state, coercing rather than educating adults to give up tobacco."

Entertainment: It was advertised as 'Eat. Drink. Smoke. Vape.' so like all good parties there were no frills beyond the amount of inebriants you could stuff in your body.

What the entertainment should have been: The same but with the film Breathless projected onto one of the walls, because that's hands down the best advert for smoking ever made.

If I was a politician, would I be convinced by this? Yeah, this was a convincing a case for freedom to chose. Almost as convincing as talking to a doctor about why you shouldn't smoke.

Seriously, that was a good review compared to the same journalist's comments on other receptions:

Heathrow and Gatwick Airports: Heathrow sponsored a party in the "sky bar" of a hotel that I failed to blag my way into, but if previous form is anything to go by, I'm going to assume [it was] "very boring". At both the Labour and Conservative conferences Heathrow erected an airport-style lounge, ie places people hate being, to promote themselves. I also briefly went to a Gatwick reception at the Labour conference, where people were crowding into a stuffy room to hear somebody mumbling quietly about airports. The booze had run out so I didn't stay long.

Association of British Bookmakers: The absolute classic, mate – a room full of people drinking wine and eating canapés. You get to take your picture with some Scottish football trophies, which would maybe be a big deal to some Scottish people.

British Association of Shooting and Conservation: A drab, half empty hotel room where people pawed at tepid goujons and talked about the best type of shotgun with which to murder wildlife.

See We did a bar crawl of the Tory conference's parties (

Venue for tonight's black tie event is the Park Plaza Riverbank Hotel in London and the host is Sky News' presenter Kay Burley. If we win it will be a miracle but whatever happens I will keep you posted!


Another voice

Yesterday I bemoaned the absence of voices criticising the latest anti-smoking measure in Scotland.

Today, writing in the Scottish Daily Express, columnist Keith Aitken declared:

Within hours of Scotland's ban coming into force on smoking in cars that contain children, the anti-smoking lobby was bawling for it to be extended to cover all private vehicles at all times.

Know what this strategy reminds me of? The Bush administration's rationale for waterboarding. Ends justifying any means. It is about tormenting the remaining smokers until they break.

You can – just about – make a sensible case for the new law against smoking with children in car though, personally, I think it unnecessary and probably quite useless.

It's not just that English police find it unenforceable. Only an idiot, given what's now universally known about secondary smoke, would smoke in a car with kids, and laws don't make idiots smart.

But a private car is no different in principle from a private home. The law has no business telling me how to behave there, unless it adversely affects others.

As for the idea that your smoke might harm someone getting a lift, are we really arrogant enough to think that grown-ups can't sort that out for themselves?

I quit smoking 17 years ago, and I'm glad to have done so.

Relentless persecution of adult smokers by the unco guid is the one thing that could make me start up again ... just to spite the creeps.

Note: Unco guid is a Scottish term for those "who are professedly strict in matters of morals and religion".

There are others of course who take a different view and earlier this week I received the following email:

Dear Mr Clark,

I have just heard your comments on the ban on smoking in cars where children are present. I understand that you are biased in favour of smokers but when you say we should rely on smokers using their common sense I would suggest that smokers do not possess common sense in regard to this issue. Experience shows that many, many smokers are prepared to put their children's health at risk by smoking in their presence.

I note from your comments on the Forest website that, in response to a doctor's suggestion that smoking in cars should be banned regardless of whether there are children present, you reckon smoking in cars does no harm to others. I would beg to differ. Many are the occasions when I have been behind a car with a smoker and that foul smoke has penetrated my car.

Your organisation was a loud critic of the ban on smoking in bars, restaurants, hotels, etc. The evidence of the health benefits of the ban is overwhelming, and demonstrates that lackeys for the tobacco industry are so obviously biased and merit no attention.

Yours, appreciating a smoke free environment.

I don't think Forest has ever said smoking in a car "does no harm to others". What we have said is:

  • Smoking in a car is inconsiderate (at best) if children are present and we don't condone it.
  • If only adults are present they can sort it out between themselves. We don't need the state to intervene.
  • Very few people (including children) are exposed hour after hour, day after day, to smoke in a car.
  • The dose is the poison and if people do light up in a car they tend to open the window which reduces the smoke significantly.

Another point I made on BBC Radio Scotland on Monday was this.

The baby boom generation of the Fifties and Sixties was exposed far more to smoking in the home (and the car) than the current generation, yet that earlier generation is living longer than any in human history.

I'm not drawing a correlation, I said, but it suggests that the effects of even long-term exposure to tobacco smoke in childhood has not been as bad as some people would have us believe.

I personally would err on the side of caution where young children and small confined spaces are concerned, but legislation?

No thanks.

Update: If you want to comment on Keith Aitken's article you should write a short letter to I'm sure he would appreciate some support!


The slow death of compassion in Britain's hospitals

I got a call yesterday from BBC Breakfast.

They wanted Forest's response to a report by the British Thoracic Society. Bizarrely however they wouldn't forward the press release because "it's embargoed".

They did however email the opening paragraph which gave the gist of the thing:

According to a major new report launched on Wednesday 7th December, NHS hospitals across UK are falling ‘woefully short’ of national standards on helping patients who smoke to quit and enforcing smoke-free premises.

As I understood it, the BTS want to"help" all patients who smoke to quit, not just those who are in hospital with a so-called smoking-related disease.

So I responded as follows:

"It's quite wrong to put smokers under pressure to quit while they are in hospital, especially if the reason they are there is not smoking-related.

"Being in hospital can be extremely stressful and having a cigarette is a source of comfort to many smokers.

"Enforcing smoke-free premises is a cruel and unfair way to treat patients who smoke.

"Nagging them to quit when they are at their most vulnerable also demonstrates a worrying lack of empathy.

"This is the opposite of health care. In the name of public health compassion is being replaced by zealotry and intolerance."

In the event I heard nothing more. Whether BBC Breakfast dropped the story I don't know. I watched the programme for a bit this morning but there was no mention of it.

Incidentally, it's perfectly normal to share embargoed press releases in advance, especially if you want comments from third parties.

The simple unwritten agreement is that you don't break the embargo, which I have never knowingly done. It's part of the media management game and I have no problem playing along with it.

The other rule concerns exclusivity. If the story is an 'exclusive' the journalist won't want you to release your response to all and sundry because that is also breaking the exclusivity, even if you embargo your response!

Yesterday the BBC told me the story wasn't an 'exclusive' so I emailed our reaction to the Press Association and every health editor and correspondent on the national dailies.

So far I can find only two reports.

The PA picked it up (Hospitals 'woefully failing' to crack down on smoking), and included a quote from Forest, but with the exception of Sky News the story seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

Nevertheless, coming a couple of weeks after Duncan Selbie, CEO of Public Health England, called for an outright ban on smoking on hospital grounds, there is clearly a concerted effort to see it implemented as part of the government's new Tobacco Control Plan.

Let's hope the Department of Health takes heed of Theresa May's bid to "restore fairness" in Britain. As I wrote on ConservativeHome in October:

If the Prime Minister really wants to stand up for millions of ordinary people who are sick and tired of being patronised by politicians and the professional classes, she must stop her government introducing further policies that will discriminate against the UK's seven million smokers. Enough is enough. It's time to stop this spiteful war on ordinary people who choose to smoke.

Update: I missed this earlier but the Mail Online also ran the PA story about the BTS report. See Hospitals 'woefully failing' to crack down on smoking. Includes my quote.


Defending the indefensible?

I've spent a fair bit of time over the last few days defending the indefensible.

Well, that's what it felt like.

Scotland has just caught up with England and banned smoking in cars with children. Someone had to put the case for the opposition and once again it fell to Forest.

I was quoted in most Scottish newspapers (Sundays and dailies) and I also did several TV and radio interviews.

The most uncomfortable moment was on BBC Radio Scotland when I went head-to-head with Jim Hume, the former Lib Dem MSP whose bill led to the new law.

We had a bit of a barny that finished with an awkward silence. After what felt like several seconds of dead air presenter John Beattie, the former Scottish rugby union international, stepped in and said, somewhat frostily, "I think we've taken that as far as we can."

I enjoy an argument but Hume's attitude genuinely pissed me off. He had every right to feel pleased with himself (if banning things turns you on) but every time I spoke I could hear him laughing, sighing or chuntering in the background.

I didn't say anything but I thought, "What a prick."

He even tried to suggest that I'm in favour of smoking in cars with children when I've made it clear many times that Forest doesn't condone it. We're simply against excessive regulations.

Later Beattie asked if I accepted that children were at risk if exposed to tobacco smoke in a car.

Fair question.

The gist of my answer was that the dose is the poison, to which I added that few if any children are exposed day after day, year after year, to smoke in someone's car.

At that point Hume started tut-tutting as if I'd said something incomprehensibly stupid or wicked. I was glad, frankly, when the 'discussion' came to an end.

Before that I took part in a phone-in, also on Radio Scotland. One by one a number of dour, crabby Scots came on the line to support the ban. One or two urged the authorities to go further and ban smoking in all vehicles.

As regular readers know, I grew up in Scotland. I went to university in Aberdeen. My wife is Scottish. We spent our wedding night on Skye. My children were born in Edinburgh. I support a Scottish football team.

I've visited every corner of Scotland from Stranraer to John O'Groats. I've been to Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles. I go to Scotland as often as I can. (I'm going next week, as it happens.)

However I no longer recognise the country I grew up in. Paternalism runs deep in Scottish society (think lairds and crofters) but in the Sixties and Seventies it was largely benign. Those with prohibitionist or puritannical tendencies (like the Free Church of Scotland aka the "Wee Frees") were at the margins and a source of humour not fear.

There were restrictions (you couldn't take your drink outside the pub, for example) but nothing that made drinkers (or smokers) feel like second or third class citizens.

Devolution has helped change that. Politically and culturally Scotland is now run by an authoritarian, sanctimonious elite that seeks to exercise every power they have to force people to change their ways.

The media has bought in to this (the relationship between government ministers and political journalists in Scotland is nauseatingly sycophantic) and it's encouraged a puritanical minority to speak out.

Those of a more moderate persuasion have gone to ground and in the last few days Forest has been a lone voice opposing what we believe are "unnecessary and patronising" regulations.

In fairness to the media they haven't baulked at publishing or broadcasting our views so I've no complaints on that score.

What disappointed me was the complete silence from so-called libertarian groups and campaigners who have clearly decided that this issue (smoking in cars with children) is too hot to touch so they've kept quiet.

The same, btw, is true of smoking in children's play areas. We don't condone it but we don't condemn it either. What we're against are excessive regulations instructing people how behave in public and private spaces.

Some people seem to think you can pick and choose the battles you fight. It doesn't work like that. By staying mute you are effectively endorsing the regulations and by doing that you are inadvertently giving the green light to further legislation.

Talking of which, on Monday the Scotsman's front page led with the BMA's demand for a ban on smoking in ALL private vehicles to protect "vulnerable adults".

The BMA has been calling for a complete ban on smoking in cars since 2011 but I can't remember hearing that phrase in this context before. It's always been about "vulnerable children".

It shows how tobacco control loves to move on even before the impact of new legislation can be reviewed and analysed.

Again, Forest was the only voice of protest although one or two editorials did imply it might be a step too far.

Hopefully there will be more voices opposing an outright ban. I wouldn't bet on it, though, especially in Scotland. 


Think of the children (and more BBC bias)

Tomorrow smoking in cars carrying children will be banned in Scotland.

It's pretty much identical to the legislation that was introduced in England last year.

Yesterday I recorded interviews for Radio Clyde, Global Radio and Sky Radio.

Tomorrow I'll be on BBC Radio Scotland.

Today I'm quoted by Scotland on Sunday, the Scottish Mail on Sunday and the Sunday Times Scotland.

Several people have queried why Forest bothers to fight such legislation. The reason is simple - it's unnecessary and wrong.

It's also a stepping stone to far more intrusive regulations - a ban on smoking in all private vehicles and, eventually, a ban on smoking in the home.

If smoking in cars was a significant risk to children's health it would have been prohibited a long time ago, years before smoking was banned in well-ventilated adult friendly pubs and clubs,

Or so you would have thought. Instead we're now led to believe it's on a par with child abuse, or worse.

At the very least seven million people are branded as ignorant, selfish and inconsiderate when, by and large, the opposite is true.

The overwhelming majority of smokers don't smoke in a car with children because they know that it's inconsiderate at best.

Nor do the overwhelming majority light up in children's play areas or by the school gates.

Health isn't the issue - they're outside, for heaven's sake. The principal reason is that, without legislation, most smokers have decided that it's probably inappropriate and and have changed their behaviour voluntarily.

(Personally, I think common sense should come into play and smoking in play areas should be governed by circumstances, a bit like driving fast on a clear open road or one that is heavily congested.)

Anyway governments and local authorities seem determined to brand every smoker as a potential threat to the nation's children.

Children, we are led to believe, are so vulnerable that even the sight of someone smoking will lead to a lifelong addiction.

This is not unlike the Scotland I grew up in, except the 'curse' was alcohol. In those days every pub in Scotland has frosted glass so children couldn't see adults drinking.

For the same reason customers weren't allowed to drink outside.

We've moved on from that. Now it's smoking that's cast as the morally degenerate behaviour we must save our children from.

Update: BBC News (Scotland) has a report about the car smoking ban (Ban on smoking in cars with children to come into force).

Interestingly, even though we sent the Scottish newsdesk our response on Friday, the BBC has ignored it.

Consequently at 6.30 this morning I was on the phone to the BBC in Glasgow and have just sent this email:

Smoking in cars with children: concerned at the shockingly one-sided nature of your report on this story despite the fact that we sent you our response on Friday.

Forest has been quoted by the Press Association and several newspapers including the Scotsman, Scottish Mail on Sunday and, I believe, the Sunday Times Scotland.

Your report quotes not one but FOUR supporters of the legislation and not a single opposing voice. Great journalistic standards. Well done.

The online newsdesk team get in at 9.00am, apparently. Let's see if they update their report.

Here's the Press Association report (with a quote from Forest): Ban on smoking in cars with children present to come into force.

Ditto the Mail Online: Ban on smoking in cars with children present to come into force.

The Sunday Mail and The People have also quoted Forest while the Dundee Courier reports, 'Law to protect youngsters branded "pointless" by smokers' group'.

The BBC? Nothing.

Update: My phone call to the BBC has resulted in their report being updated but why didn't they include an opposing voice in the first place, and why should I have to call them at 6.30 on a Sunday morning to make that point?


Fancy that!


Tobacco talk (on the Big Yorkshire Phone-in)

Here's a transcript of my contribution to a BBC Radio Leeds phone-in yesterday.

I've edited it very slightly where the recording was slightly inaudible or the meaning wasn't 100 per cent clear, but it's an accurate record of the conversation.

Presenter Andrew Edwards introduced me following some comments about iQOS, the heat not burn device that was launched in the UK yesterday by Philip Morris (PMI).

Andrew Edwards, presenter, BBC Radio Leeds:
Listening to that is Simon Clark. He is from the pro-smoking group Forest which describes itself as the voice and friend of the smoker and he is on the Big Yorkshire Phone-in. Good afternoon, Simon.

Simon Clark, director, Forest:
Hello, Andrew. Actually pro-choice rather than pro-smoking.

Andrew Edwards:
Right pro-choice. Good distinction. Shouldn't we just though ban tobacco altogether rather than saying we have invented this which is less harmful?

Simon Clark:
Well, no, because prohibition doesn't work. I think everybody knows the example of America where they tried to prohibit alcohol and they had to give up that experiment after 12 years because it was a terrible failure because the people who took over the market were the criminal gangs and the bootleggers.

So from that experience I think the tobacco control lobby has understood that prohibition never works and over the last few decades in the UK, and globally, we've seen an attempt to wean people off tobacco, trying to get them to give up completely, and again that hasn't worked as well as the tobacco control lobby would have liked because, simply, there are millions of people who enjoy smoking.

I think the health message has got across to most people and in many cases that has discouraged people from taking up smoking in the first place. It has also encouraged some people to give up, but many people are prepared to take the risk because they enjoy smoking and because they enjoy it they're not going to give it up until a product comes along that gives them the same pleasure that smoking tobacco does.

Andrew Edwards:
Which is where I think today's conversation is an interesting one. We understand other big manufacturers are quite close to releasing similar products to this one here [PMI's iQOS device]. Now as I understand it the difference from an e-cigarette here is that with traditional e-cigarettes the conversion rate to e-cigs of smokers is about 20 per cent, whereas the boss of PMI, who have developed this new one, says shareholders are enthusiastic about the new product as well and part of it is that it gets round the basic weakness of it not being, for a smoker, something that gives them that 'hit'. Do you take that point? Does that seem to make sense to you?

Simon Clark:
Yes, I mean we are excited by all these emerging products from e-cigarettes to heat-not-burn products. I think it's true that there is a small market of people who have switched to e-cigarettes and they swear by them. They say that these are absolutely marvellous, but it's [also] true that the majority of smokers are not switching,even though the majority of smokers have tried e-cigarettes. The majority aren’t switching because e-cigarettes don't give them, as you say, the hit or the taste they're looking for.

So those people, if they are looking to cut down or quit cigarettes completely, they want something else and what seems to be exciting about heat-not-burn is that they sort of stay true to the concept of consuming tobacco, because of course e-cigarettes shouldn’t even be called a tobacco product because they don't have any tobacco in them. So what the consumer should be offered is a range of products. Now, if you think of combustible cigarettes at one end of the line ...

Andrew Edwards:
By that you mean a traditional cigarette, a combustible cigarette?

Simon Clark:
Yes, that's right, a traditional cigarette where you have to light it and the tobacco is being burnt rather than heated. The thing is, what we need to do is offer the consumer as wide a range of choice as possible, so at one end you've got the traditional cigarette, at the other you've got the e-cigarette, but for a lot of smokers that's quite a big jump from a combustible cigarette to an electronic cigarette.

Andrew Edwards:
But aren’t we dancing around the issue that we all understand which is that smoking is very bad for you, it kills an awful lot of people, and we've known that forever, and shouldn’t we just be saying rather, 'Here's something that is less harmful,' we should just be saying, 'Look, let's get rid of it altogether.' And I take your point that you are pro-choice and you think it's a legal product, nobody is denying that. Shouldn’t we though just be saying, for the sake of the health of the generations to come, our children, our children's children, 'Look, let’s just get rid of it.' Like that texter Jonathan said to me, you know, people will look back on it like some of the madnesses, as they now see it, of taking what turned out to be poisonous things to try and cure our ailments.

Simon Clark:
Well, the problem is there are lots of things in life that are potentially not good for us. Now smoking may come quite high up that bar but drinking too much alcohol, drinking too many sugary drinks, eating too much fatty food and dairy products, there are lots and lots of things that are potentially bad for our health and we can't go around banning all these things.

The exciting thing about these emerging products is that they give control back to the consumer. I mean we have got to put this in perspective. Smoking rates in the UK have fallen dramatically over the last 30 or 40 years and if you go back to the Fifties half of the adult population smoked. Now the figure is about 16 per cent. So that’s been a pretty dramatic drop but of course the really dramatic drop actually happened between the mid Seventies and the early Nineties when there were very few restrictions on smoking and most people absorbed the health messages and they chose either not to start smoking or they decided they're going to quit.

What's happened in the last ten to 15 years is that we got down to a core group of the population who enjoyed smoking and weren’t going to quit and the government, in order to force the smoking rates down to the current level, has had to introduce a raft of very repressive, very restrictive regulations ...

Andrew Edwards:
... and things like plain packaging, advertising, and the rest. We will come back, Simon. I'm glad you are here. I am just going to remind people how to give us a call. You are with BBC Radio Leeds. This is Simon Clark from the pro-choice group – 'We are not pro-smoking, we are pro-choice' was his distinction – which describes itself as the voice and the friend of the smoker. He is live on BBC Radio Leeds. This is the Big Yorkshire Phone-in.

I'm Andrew Edwards and we're talking about the product which has been launched today by one of the world's biggest tobacco companies, Philip Morris ... and it's been described as a new less harmful cigarette. It's been launched [in the UK] and it is, as you heard Simon mention, a heat-not-burn product. So it heats tobacco but it does use real tobacco and the company claims that [although] it's not been independently scientifically verified smokers get the same nicotine hit but 90 per cent less of the nasty toxins that come with cigarette smoke. They're not pushing that end of the finding. They are just simply saying at the moment that the new product is likely to cause less harm and they are inviting scientists to test it, but I'm asking, 'Aren't we dancing around here? Isn’t the point that we should just ban smoking tobacco altogether?'

Simon, just before I open this up to our callers, I'm interested to see what you make of the chief exec, and you heard a little quotation from him there, André Calantzopoulos, who said that he would like to work with governments towards the phasing out of conventional cigarettes. He said that the company knows its products harm their consumers and that the only correct response is to, quote, “find and commercialise ones that are less harmful”, which is presumably where a product like the one you and I are talking about today fits in?

Simon Clark:
Yes, I completely understand why Philip Morris are moving in that direction and working with government seems to be a very sensible route to go, but I do think it's a bit of a kick in the teeth for their consumers who enjoy their products, their cigarettes, and I do think a company like Philip Morris should be prepared to defend the rights of its existing consumers a bit more than they appear to do. 

I mean, it's marvellous that they are working on these new products because, as I say, we embrace the concept of choice – and the more choice there is for consumers the better – and if that allows people to switch of their own volition to a so-called safer product that has to be a very good thing. But, as I say, I do think to say we are working to essentially get rid of combustible cigarettes, the traditional cigarette, I do think that is a kick in the teeth for consumers who enjoy that product.

Andrew Edwards:
But probably it’s a bit like you, Simon, taking issue with me at the beginning where, and I take your point that you described yourself as a pro-choice group rather than a pro-smoking group, but perhaps in this modern era, very heedful of the health messages, knowing about the younger generation, having shareholders, this is obviously a big private company, that they've got to walk that very delicate line between saying 'Yes, we know people like to smoke, we will try and make it as safe as possible' but, you know you can see where I'm coming to. It's a difficult, difficult line while we've got something that is legal, brings in huge tax revenues and yet is a killer.

Simon Clark:
It is [a difficult line] but one thing we keep saying to legislators, politicians and anti-smoking campaigners is, don't forget that millions of people enjoy smoking tobacco. I mean it's almost taboo these days to actually say that because smokers are routinely talked about as if they have a dirty disgusting habit and are hopelessly addicted to nicotine and all the rest of it.

And yes, there are people who are addicted to nicotine and there are smokers who want to give up, but there are many who don't want to give up because they enjoy it and I think it's up to a tobacco company such as Philip Morris to actually acknowledge that and say 'Look, we are trying to work towards a safer product because there's no doubt a lot of consumers do want that as the endgame, and we want to work with government', and again they're quite right to say that because it's absolute nonsense that government will not sit down and talk to tobacco companies because they quote World Health Organisation regulations saying they're not allowed to talk to tobacco companies. That's completely ridiculous. The companies and governmet have to sit down, with public health, and talk about these issues. 

Andrew Edwards:
Simon, I am going to leave it there. I am really glad we could talk. I am going to open this up to our callers, texters and tweetters but it's very good to talk to you. Thanks for your time.

Simon Clark:
Thank you.

Andrew Edwards:
Appreciate it. Simon Clark from the pro-choice group Forest, which describes itself as the voice and friend of the smoker.


Is this the beginning of the end for conventional cigarettes?

I have a clock radio that bursts into life at 6.10 every morning.

It's tuned to Radio 4 so at weekends I lie there, half awake, listening to Farming Today or Clare Balding rambling on (literally) as she "joins notable and interesting people for a walk through the countryside".

During the week it's the Today programme that wakes me up and today the first voice I heard was that of Deborah Arnott, CEO of ASH.

I only caught a bit of it but she was talking about PMI's new heat not burn product which is being launched in the UK today. According to this report:

Philip Morris has launched a new, less harmful cigarette in the UK which it says could mean halting sales of its conventional tobacco products.

The so called Iqos product heats tobacco rather than burning it.

The tobacco giant claims this means smokers get the same nicotine hit, but 90% less of the nasty toxins that come with cigarette smoke.

It says trials - not yet externally verified - found the new cigarette had the same impact as quitting smoking.

The firm is not pushing that finding, saying only that the new product is likely to cause less harm.

See Philip Morris could stop making conventional cigarettes (BBC News).

Shortly after seven there was an interview with André Calantzopoulos, PMI's chief executive, who confirmed the company would like to work with governments towards the "phase-out" of conventional cigarettes.

Interestingly I've been invited by BBC Radio Leeds to discuss whether combustible cigarettes should now be prohibited.

The argument seems to be that, with the availability of 'safer' non-combustible nicotine products, perhaps it's time to ban the sale of traditional cigarettes altogether.

I've said many times that Forest welcomes all alternative nicotine delivery devices and heat not burn products are of particular interest because of the link with tobacco.

Nevertheless the idea that a tobacco company wants to "phase-out" conventional cigarettes does stick in the throat somewhat.

PMI is entitled to have that conversation with government or anyone else, but they're not entitled to speak for other tobacco companies or the millions of consumers who enjoy smoking and don't want to quit, even for a 'safer' product.

Update: I've just discussed this subject on BBC Radio Leeds. Prompted by André Calantzopoulos's comments this morning, the theme of their phone-in was 'Should tobacco be banned?'

Well done, PMI, you've got people talking openly about the prohibition!

For the record I said that Forest is "pro-choice not pro-smoking" and we are excited by all emerging nicotine products including e-cigarettes and heat not burn devices.

I supported PMI's efforts to speak to government (I said that government, the tobacco companies and public health should get together to discuss these issues) but I also said that talk of phasing out traditional cigarettes was a "kick in the teeth" for consumers who enjoy smoking.

If I can get a clip I'll post it here later.