Monday
Feb272017

That's entertainment

Email received last night.

Good evening Mr Clark,

For many years I have listened to your passionate defence of smokers 'liberties'.

Rather like being amused by the drunk at the bar and having just a little sympathy for his wild eyed defence of whatever extreme position he is defending, I have always found your arguments entertaining.

Now however you have lapsed into seeming madness with your ridiculous defence of smoking outside hospitals.

Of course I don't care about the idiot mothers who insist that their little 'angels' wear a cycling helmet but don't care enough to stop smoking while they are having their brats in the first place.

Natural selection helps in that regard and that is one area where smoking assists the general population by killing off just a few of the morons who will decide to smoke in the first place.

It is certainly the case that the gene pool is improved while the less intelligent in society continue to smoke and a very good reason why smoking should not be banned across the board.

I care about two things only:

1. The absolute filth that is left by inconsiderate smokers who cannot be bothered to dispose of their disgusting cigerate ends and just throw them on the floor.

2. The 5.2 BILLION pounds that is being spent by the NHS on smoking related problems. [Actually it's £2.5bn, allegedly, and smokers contribute £12bn in tobacco taxation annually.]

You have to decide which positions to defend and which to fight. You have made a sad lapse in judgement in trying to fight this possible ban.

Do keep up your entertaining work. We need some eccentrics to fight ridiculous battles to keep us entertained.

Reading this you might think that my correspondent is a trifle eccentric himself.

However he and his wife run what appears to be a delightful and very successful bed and breakfast in the south of France so he can't be a complete fruitcake.

I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and suggest that February must be a quiet month and he's got too much time on his hands.

That said, I'm delighted my "passionate defence" of smokers' rights hasn't gone unnoticed, even in the ex-pat community.

Monday
Feb272017

Weasel words and bully boy tactics

The "tobacco free NHS" story rumbles on in several of today's papers.

Last night I was on the Stephen Nolan Show on Five Live, which neatly bookended the interview I gave to Five Live Breakfast at the start of the day.

I was also on Sky News although I was stood down from the live interview I was booked to do because they wanted to stick with Jeremy Corbyn who was speaking at the Scottish Labour conference.

Instead they recorded, via Skype, the briefest of soundbites for use in the evening news bulletin.

One interesting thing about this 'story' is that it isn't 'news' at all. The media is reporting that Duncan Selbie, the CEO of Public Health England, has written to all NHS trusts asking for their help to implement a smoke-free policy across all hospital sites.

Selbie's letter was actually written, sent and widely reported in November (see Health boss says hospitals should ban all smoking on their grounds).

Yet three months later the same story is doing the rounds and getting a similar amount of coverage.

Selbie was at pains yesterday to emphasise that "This isn’t about forcing people [to stop smoking], it’s about helping people."

These are the usual weasel words we've come to expect from prohibitionists.

By all means assist smokers who want to quit by offering them help, advice or some form of smoking cessation aid, but banning smoking across every NHS site will affect all smokers, including those who don't want to quit.

Even if you choose to ignore the 'No Smoking' signs the very fact that you are doing something 'wrong' and could be asked to stop at any moment will itself be stressful at a time when all you want to do is to have a quiet smoke – and a break from the hospital ward – outside and in the open air.

I don't think that's too much to ask yet the bully boys in public health don't see it that way. Whatever it takes, they are determined try everything to persuade or force you to quit.

The press coverage has been one-sided (we knew nothing about the story until late Saturday night so we missed the boat in terms of issuing a response) but the reaction from listeners to Five Live Breakfast ("so many messages") was far more polarised. For or against, people had "very, very strong views".

Btw, if you want to listen to the interview I eventually did with Five Live yesterday morning, click here.

Update: I'm on BBC Radio Oxford at 10.30, followed by BBC Three Counties at 10.45.

Sunday
Feb262017

Today's battle with the Beeb

I've written many times about my battles with the BBC.

The routine rarely changes.

An anti-smoking campaign or policy is reported with several supporting quotes but not a single opposing comment.

So I pick up the phone – sometimes late at night or early in the morning – and find myself speaking to a news editor who agrees to include a comment from Forest.

This is duly inserted, sometimes within an hour of the original report appearing, but it can take longer – several hours or, very recently, six days!

This morning I've had to fight on several fronts which I didn't expect because last night it was going so well.

Shortly before 10.00pm I got a call from a Five Live Breakfast producer. Sunday's programme was leading, he said, with a report about a campaign by Public Health England to ban smoking on all hospital sites.

They were interviewing Duncan Selbie, CEO of PHE, after the 8.00am news bulletin. Could they interview me on the back of that?

Yes, I said.

I was sent the PHE press release and told that BBC News online would probably be running the story after midnight.

I emailed our response to Five Live Breakfast thinking they might include a soundbite in the news bulletin.

The next step was to speak to the BBC News online newsdesk to ask if they too would quote Forest.

I spoke to an editor at 22:36. My quote was sent at 22:46 and acknowledged ("Many thanks, Simon – much appreciated") at 22:52.

This morning I got up at 6:30, made myself a coffee, and checked the BBC News website. There was no mention of the PHE campaign.

I turned on the radio to listen to Five Live Breakfast. The campaign for "tobacco-free" hospitals was the top story. It led the news bulletins but there was no opposing comment.

At 7:05 the programme interviewed a senior nurse from London's Maudsley Hospital who talked at length about the need for a comprehensive smoking ban.

At 8:05, as promised, the programme interviewed Duncan Selbie, CEO of Public Health England, who is driving the campaign.

A few minutes before I was due on air I got a call saying the programme no longer needed me. Apparently a nurse opposed to the policy had rung the programme and they were going with him instead.

I listened with interest and what I heard was an NHS employee who was clearly intimidated to find himself on national radio with the CEO of Public Health England.

PHE is doing a great job (or words to that effect) is all I heard him say before the red mist descended (on me, not him).

I rang the Five Live Breakfast office and complained.

"The editor can't speak to you now," I was told. "If you want to make an official complaint someone will call you back after ten."

I didn't have to wait that long. At 8:46 I got a call from another producer. He admitted the nurse had not said on air what they had expected him to say.

Would I come on the programme in the next few minutes? Yes, I said.

And so at 8:50 I found myself talking to presenter Sam Walker.

(To Walker's credit she had done her best throughout the programme to play devil's advocate with interviewees as well as reading out texts and emails from listeners opposed to a ban.)

But that wasn't the end of it. I had also complained about the news bulletins that had repeatedly promoted PHE's campaign without a word of opposition.

At 9:07 I got another call from the programme. The news bulletin was being amended, I was told, to include a clip from my interview with Sam Walker. The clip was duly broadcast at 10.00am – and then dropped.

But I'll leave the best till last.

At 9:15 this morning a report appeared on the BBC News website. It was headlined NHS 'tobacco free' campaign launched by Public Health England and, you've guessed, it contained not a single dissenting voice.

With a heavy heart I picked up the phone (again), spoke to the newsdesk and, lo and behold, an hour later the report was updated to include our response (which you can read here).

So that was my morning (and all before ten o'clock). What was yours like?

PS. I'll be discussing the same issue on Sky News (via Skype) at 1.30. Tune in!

Update: To be fair to the BBC they're not alone. The Sunday Times ran a report today (NHS seeks ban on smoking in hospital grounds).

That didn't include an opposing voice either.

The ST report was written by the health editor while the BBC News report is credited to the Health desk. Spot the connection?

Saturday
Feb252017

Dr Neil McKeganey: The Pleasure of Smoking

From our Pleasure Zone event the other night ...

Dr Neil McKeganey, director of the Centre for Substance Use Research in Glasgow, discusses his recent report, 'The Pleasure of Smoking: The Views of Confirmed Smokers'.

Click here to watch it on YouTube. Warmly recommended.

Friday
Feb242017

The Pleasure Zone won hearts and minds

Delighted to report that our Pleasure Zone event in London on Wednesday went rather well.

A packed house (above) enjoyed a hugely entertaining evening that fully justified our decision to shoehorn two events into one.

The first was a presentation by Dr Neil McKeganey, director of the Centre for Substance Use Research and lead author of a recent report, 'The Pleasure of Smoking: The Views of Confirmed Smokers'.

The second was a balloon debate on the subject 'The Most Pleasurable Nicotine Delivery Device in the World'.

I first met Neil at a conference in Bologna in 2015. A few months later our paths crossed again – this time in Chicago – when we shared a taxi to the airport and spent a couple of hours chatting before our flight home.

Neil is extremely amiable and not a bit stuffy but I did wonder whether a presentation summarising the results of an academic study might be a little dry for an audience several drinks to the good before it even began.

Not a bit of it. Abandoning his Powerpoint presentation in favour of a more ad hoc approach, Neil struck just the right note. He was affable, humorous and, most important, interesting.

Dick Puddlecote has posted an excellent review of his presentation here. All I'll add is that Neil proved fearless in addressing several contentious issues.

In fact his very presence at the event, and his refusal to be intimidated by critics of his decision to work with Forest on 'The Pleasure of Smoking' report, says a lot about him, and them. (I'll return to this issue in another post.)

Anyway, after a warm round of applause from an audience that appreciated both his honesty and his integrity, it was time for the balloon debate.

We'd managed to engage the services of six speakers to advocate the following products – cigarettes, cigars, pipes, snus, heated tobacco (aka heat not burn) and e-cigarettes.

Each contestant had three minutes, give or take a few seconds, to make their case for the 'Best Nicotine Delivery Device in the World'.

I'll summarise the debate as follows – funny, engaging and enjoyable.

Andy Stewart, who has smoked a pipe for 35 years (he began when he was 17), kicked things off. He was followed by Ranald MacDonald (advocating cigars), Chris Snowdon (snus), Mark Littlewood (heated tobacco), Angela Harbutt (cigarettes) and, finally, Judy Gibson (e-cigarettes).

I don't remember much of what was said but I do remember plenty of laughter. I wish we'd had more time, especially for Q&As, but the format worked pretty well.

When we went to the first audience vote the three products with the fewest number of votes were ejected. In no particular order they were:

Heated tobacco, pipes and, surprisingly perhaps, e-cigarettes.

That left three contestants – Chris Snowdon (snus), Ranald MacDonald (cigars) and Angela Harbutt (cigarettes) – to battle out a final round (one minute per speaker).

The audience then voted for a second and last time and the winner was ... the humble cigarette!

"What did you expect?" I hear you cry. After all, it was a Forest event.

Truthfully? I really didn't expect cigarettes to win. Forest is a broad church and our events attract an equal number of smokers, non-smokers and, increasingly, vapers or dual users.

The public has been saturated with anti-smoking propaganda about smoking. Most smokers, we are told, are addicted and want to quit.

The consumption of cigarettes, in particular, is described as a dirty, disgusting habit.

Cigars are sexy, snus is cool, pipes are less harmful (you don't inhale), heated tobacco is the future, and e-cigarettes are, well, safer, fun and groovy.

Combustible cigarettes? Meh (or so we're led to believe).

On Wednesday night Angela Harbutt won the debate by a convincing margin, attracting more than two-thirds of the final vote.

So in 2017 it's official:

Cigarettes are the 'Most Pleasurable Nicotine Delivery Device in the World'!

Update: We've received many nice comments about the event. Here's one:

That was a great evening. I think it was one of my most pleasurable Forest events. Neil McKeganey was polite, humble and direct and a nice genuine guy.

The balloon debate was hilarious and very natural. A great platform for Forest and it showed great character. Being a smoker with strong views is increasingly difficult but humour always wins hearts.

See also: Fun in the Pleasure Zone (Freedom to Vape).

Below: Angela Harbutt with her prize, a jeroboam of wine courtesy of our event partner, Boisdale of Belgravia, presented by Dr Neil McKeganey.

Tuesday
Feb212017

The Pleasure Zone awaits ...

Final reminder that The Pleasure Zone, the first Forest event of the year, takes place tomorrow night (Wednesday).

Smokers, vapers, non-smokers and dual users are invited to join us for drinks at the Institute of Economic Affairs, 2 Lord North Street, London SW1P 3LB from 6:15pm.

The main event starts at 7:00 with a short presentation by Dr Neil McKeganey, director of the Centre for Substance Use Research, who will discuss the CSUR's recent report, 'The Pleasure of Smoking: The Views of Confirmed Smokers'.

After that we are delighted to present the first Forest Balloon Debate in which six contestants try to convince you of their choice of the 'Most Pleasurable Nicotine Delivery Device in the World'!

Speakers have three minutes to present their case. Members of the audience then have their say before voting three of the contestants off. A final round (one minute per speaker) will produce the 2017 champion.

Our doughty speakers are:

Judy Gibson, International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organisations (INNCO) advocating e-cigarettes
Angela Harbutt, founder of Liberal Vision, advocating cigarettes
Mark Littlewood, director-general of the Institute of Economic Affairs, advocating heated tobacco
Ranald Macdonald, MD, Boisdale Restaurants, advocating cigars
Chris Snowdon, head of the Lifestyle Economics Unit, advocating snus
Andrew Stewart, Pipe Club of London, advocating pipes

If you'd like to come – and haven't registered yet – email events@forestonline.org.

It should be an entertaining evening.

Thursday
Feb162017

Tobacco control unpacked

Further to my previous post ASH Scotland had mixed views about the smokers' survey that formed the basis of The Pleasure of Smoking report.

Writing on Tobacco Unpacked, the ASH Scotland blog (comments unwelcome), deputy chief executive John Watson commented:

We hear that Forest is paying for a survey with the aim “to find out what smokers really think”.

This is a laudable aim – and chimes with an interest of ours. We don’t know enough about who smokers are, what they are thinking or how they perceive the actions of public health interests (or indeed commercial ones).

In particular there is a need to explore how views and desires vary amongst the 900,000 people in Scotland who smoke tobacco – why do some groups smoke more than others? What services or functions are people seeking from smoking? Why does a consistent majority say that they want to stop?

Snootily he then added:

Sadly this Forest survey will not help us with this.

The Forest survey is being promoted on their website and social media, and punted around other pro-smoking/anti-regulation networks. A message urging participation is being sent to “friends of Forest”.

The people reached by these requests will not represent the general population of “smokers”, but instead the small sub-set of smokers who engage with Forest and/or other anti-regulation interests and who feel motivated to complete a survey distributed by those interests.

To put it another way, a survey sent around to ASH Scotland supporters would likely indicate considerable scepticism about Forest’s claim to speak on behalf of smokers, but we could not simply use this to claim that the whole population thinks this way. A survey of your friends only tells you about your friends.

Now it is perfectly valid to seek the views of this group, and most organisations will want to better understand their supporter base. But as a means of producing results about smokers as a whole, this survey has been rendered completely useless.

The stated aim “To find out what smokers really think” seems to have missed this crucial point. Surely Forest is not intending to use the results of this survey to make claims about smokers as a whole? To allay our concerns, will they state clearly that their survey cannot be taken as representative of the views of all smokers and will not be presented as such?

I wonder.

Well, the report was not only sub-titled 'The views of confirmed smokers' it came with this very clear statement from the researchers, the Centre for Substance Use Research:

The survey we have undertaken was funded by Forest - the UK’s leading smokers’ rights organisation. Specifically, we surveyed a total of 650 smokers who completed an online questionnaire circulated to smokers in contact with the Forest organisation ...

Whilst our research was funded by the Forest they had no role to play in the data we have collected (other than distributing notices of the survey’s existence and website for survey completion and suggesting some possible questions for inclusion on our instrument), nor in the analysis of the material collected or the write-up of these results.

In his introduction to the report Dr Neil McKeganey, director of the CSUR, also wrote:

In this report we outline the results of research that aimed to elicit the views of a group that one might characterize as having a positive orientation towards their smoking [my emphasis]. It might be objected that the views of these smokers are irrelevant to the mainstream commitment to reduce smoking prevalence. However, it could equally be said that no individual or organization dedicated to reducing smoking prevalence should so easily dispense with any interest in the views of that group who have remained somewhat immune to all of the current and recent attempts at discouraging their smoking.

The views of the individuals we have surveyed are of interest not simply because they are rarely conveyed but because they set out so very clearly the challenge faced by those seeking to further reduce smoking prevalence within society. It is only by understanding how smokers view their smoking that agencies oriented to further reducing smoking prevalence are likely to secure that goal. If we are to better understand the views of smokers themselves, including those who are most committed to the activity [my emphasis], it is essential that we enable smokers as platform to describe their own smoking activity in the way that they choose to describe it.

If they, or some of them, find pleasure in their smoking, then whether we are offended by that characterization or not, we do not have the right to disparage their accounts for fear of undermining what may be seen as the consensus of tobacco control.

ASH Scotland published Watson's blog post (The “smokers survey” that can’t tell us anything about “smokers”) on October 25. The Pleasure of Smoking: The Views of Confirmed Smokers was published two months later, on December 27.

Not only did ASH Scotland refuse to publish any comments on Watson's post, this taxpayer-funded organisation then chose to ignore the very report whose methodology it had been so keen to criticise prior to its publication.

Frankly I take that as a compliment to the work carried out by the CSUR. After all, if the report didn't stand up to scrutiny can you imagine how ASH Scotland and their fellow travellers would have reacted?

Nevertheless, having written what he did in October, anyone with an ounce of integrity would surely have reviewed the report or, at the very least, acknowledged the complete and utter transparency with which it was researched, funded and published.

Instead, standing on his taxpayer-funded pulpit, pontificating about Forest and, by association, the Centre for Substance Use Research, John Watson is the epitome of the professional tobacco control campaigner.

Rather than acknowledge the report, which contains some insightful truths about confirmed smokers and their habit, Watson and ASH Scotland have chosen to (a) censor comments posted in good faith on the ASH Scotland blog and (b) ignore the very research whose methodology they chose – in advance – to belittle and berate.

This pathetic attitude is typical of most tobacco control campaigners. Anything that departs from the official line about smoking (and smokers) is ignored or struck from the record.

I'm long past being angry or frustrated by this sort of thing. Instead I view the likes of John Watson with complete contempt. If it wasn't for the fact that public money is paying for their salaries I'd laugh them off as a joke.

Instead Watson and his ilk enjoy a good income, courtesy of taxpayers like you and me, and repay us by deliberately censoring, ignoring or belittling the views of anyone who goes off message.

Nice work if you can get it but symptomatic, sadly, of our intellectually and morally bankrupt tobacco control industry.

Dr Neil McKeganey will present the conclusions to The Pleasure of Smoking: The Views of Confirmed Smokers, at a special event in London on Wednesday February 22. RSVP events@forestonline.org.

Tuesday
Feb142017

The elephant in the room

On balance last week was a good one for advocates of vaping.

If we leave aside the report that suggested, on very little evidence, that 'E-cigarettes act as [a] gateway to smoking for teens' (Daily Telegraph), there was general agreement, following the publication of yet another study, that 'Vaping is "far safer" than smoking cigarettes' (ITV News).

Campaigners – including public health advocates of vaping – naturally embraced the latter report and we were subjected to the usual sanctimonious drivel about e-cigarettes having the ability to secure world peace and make death history.

I jest but if you saw my Twitter timeline that's how it reads sometimes.

What really makes me laugh/cry is the apparent conviction that if every smoker switched to vaping the world would be a better, happier place and two billion people would live longer, healthier lives.

However there was (and is) one rather large elephant in the room that few people are willing to address and it's this – millions of people enjoy smoking tobacco and don't want to switch to an alternative nicotine product.

This simple, unarguable fact was one of the clearest conclusions of the recent report, The Pleasure of Smoking: The Views of Confirmed Smokers, funded by Forest and published in December by the Centre for Substance Use Research.

The report was ignored, inevitably, not only by the media but also by public health campaigners and the evangelical vaping community.

One leading public health commentator (and vaping advocate) told me the report echoed his own views but did he review it on his blog? Did he hell!!

To those who prefer to stick their heads in the sand and pretend otherwise, here's a gentle reminder of how our sample of 600+ confirmed smokers reacted when asked about alternatives to smoking:

Respondents were asked about which of the electric nicotine delivery products, if any, they had tried and what they had thought of them. In total 344 (59%) of the individuals who were questioned provided information on the new products they had used. That more than half of the smokers we were surveying had tried a reduced risk nicotine product is interesting in itself and suggests that even amongst this group of pro-smokers there was a willingness to try a reduced risk nicotine product. In total 336 of the 344 smokers who had used a reduced risk nicotine product reported having used e-cigarettes.

Respondents were asked about what they both liked and disliked about the vaping products they had used as an alternative to smoking. Below we set out the range of comments received and their frequency looking first at what the smokers had to say about what they did not like about the vaping products they had used.

The most commonly voiced criticisms had to do with the vaping experience with 133 smokers identifying negative aspects of the vaping experience. The next most common set of criticisms had to do with the equipment used (expressed by 65 smokers) followed by criticisms of the taste (46) perceived harms of vaping (30) and then finally a set of criticisms that related more to the reaction of other people to the smokers having been seen vaping (12). We illustrate a range of the comments received in each of these broad areas.

The most commonly expressed criticism of vaping was this was simply “not the same” as smoking. This view was expressed by 66 of the 133 smokers identifying negative aspects of the vaping experience. A small number of the smokers commented that they did not like what they described as the lack of a nicotine “hit” from vaping. Other critical comments to do with the vaping experience included the observation that with vaping (in contrast to smoking) you don’t know when to stop: “You never actually finish an e-cigarette so you end up puffing away continuously”.

Other smokers commented negatively that they missed the “smoke” and the “aroma” of combusted tobacco when they had vaped. Some said that they felt vaping was a “colder” less social more individualistic activity: “Its different to smoking more anonymous compared to smoking which is inherently social” It just felt artificial. Some of the smokers noted that they missed the crackle sound produced by combusting tobacco. Others commented that in their view the vaping experience was just not as “pleasurable as smoking” and that it was in their view no substitute for the “real thing” being somehow less natural than smoking.

The second most commonly expressed criticisms of vaping had to do with what were seen to be deficiencies in the technology itself chief amongst which were complaints that the technology was fiddly, that the batteries were often unreliable and required attention to ensure that they were sufficiently fully charged, and that on occasion the devices leaked e-liquid: “Not interested in e-cigs that require constant filling” “having to maintain the equipment”, “looks strange to me”, “complicated” “the hassle” “plastic metal feel, “messy, fiddly devices”, “battery life is an issue and until you know how to use them they are quite fiddly and prone to not working”, don’t like the size of the devices”, “Not as satisfying. Don’t want to have to bother with filling, recharging, they look awkward medicinal devices and I don’t think of smoking as medicinal”, “they’re too heavy to hang from my lips”, “the hard plastic feel on my lips”, “they’re too large to carry easily”.

The next most commonly expressed criticisms had to do with the taste produced by e-cigarettes with some of the smokers commenting negatively that e-cigarettes in their view lacked a sense of taste or were “too rough” that there was “no real tobacco taste” produced by the devices, that the taste was somewhat “artificial”. With regard to the reported harms that were associated with e-cigarettes the most commonly voiced criticism from the smokers had to do with the capacity of the devices to irritate their throat and produce a cough.

A small number of the smokers drew attention to what they said were the unknown longer term harms associated with vaping whilst others commented that the devices would make their lips sore. Finally, a small number of smokers drew attention to what they saw as the negative reaction of other people to vaping feeling that this had undermined their own experience of the devices “ “Same social stigma now as smoking so what’s the point, may as well keep smoking the real cigarettes as much more pleasurable” “still had to stand outside to vape often right next to rubbish bins this made it pointless to switch hence not using now” “restrictions on use” “vaping bans” “its naff may as well have the word addict tattooed on your forehead” “people laughing at me” the “hipster stigma and the holier than though apologetic attitude most vapers hold is off putting”.

On a more positive note:

In relation to what our sample of smokers most liked about vaping 225 individuals provided comments with the most frequent (94) highlighting the importance they placed on being able to use e-cigarettes in settings where smoking was not allowed: “Useful if you are in a pub and its cold and wet outside”, “ I can use it indoors”, “It's permitted in more places”, “Can use it in more situations where lighting up is prohibited”. The second most commonly noted positive about e-cigarettes expressed by 38 smokers related to the cleanliness and specifically the lack of smell that was associated with their use compared to smoking conventional cigarettes: “I like the fact that I and my flat did not smell of smoke”, “My clothes and house and breath don’t smell”, “No smoke, no ash”, “No smoke, no ash and nobody knows you have vaped”, “Sweeter taste in the mouth, no finger staining no ash or butts”. The next most common set of positive views (expressed by 38 smokers) related to the fact that vaping was significantly cheaper than smoking: “Less expensive” “Lack of 90% tax on e-cigarettes”, “Cheaper”.

Twenty-seven smokers identified taste and flavouring as the most positive aspect of their vaping experience: “Pleasant flavours”, “Variety of flavours and nicotine strengths”, “The variety of flavours compared to smoking. When I first started vaping I imagined that I would need a tobacco flavoured e-liquid and tried a large variety. Gradually I experimented with many other flavours available. Now I don’t use tobacco flavoured e-liquids and have actually come to dislike the taste of them."

The health related benefit of using e-cigarettes was the fifth most commonly voiced set of comments with smokers (26) noting that “They are better for my health”, “Better for breathing”, “Good for my health”. Given that e–cigarettes are often discussed and presented in terms of their being significantly less harmful than smoking combusted tobacco, it is interesting that our sample of smokers placed less importance on the health benefits associated with e-cigarettes than the greater variety of situations they could be used in, their greater perceived cleanliness, their cost, and their taste.

Nine smokers commented that they particularly liked the fact that the vaping was very close to the smoking experience and in some ways more convenient: “Closest thing to smoking”, “Similar throat hit to smoking”, “Similar to smoking”, “Not having to find my lighter”. There were only a small number of individuals who commented that they particularly liked the technology of e-cigarettes and the reactions of other people to the sight of them using the equipment: “I thought it looked cool”, “Easy to use”, “I enjoy the customisable options in both hardware and flavours”, “Less stigma”, “Not being treated like a leper”, “Less public opprobrium”.

Btw, I'm not discouraged by the lack of interest in The Pleasure of Smoking report. It merely confirms what we've known for a very long time – that the concept of 'pleasure' in relation to 'smoking' is increasingly taboo and even so-called 'libertarian' commentators and bloggers are reluctant to stick their heads above the parapet on the issue.

The good news is ... The Pleasure of Smoking: The Views of Confirmed Smokers is available online and in print.

Copies have been circulated widely already and the report will continue to be disseminated at home and abroad in the weeks and months ahead. You can do your bit by forwarding a copy to family, friends, your local MP and anyone who might be interested.

You can also support our event in London next week when Dr Neil McKeganey, director of the Centre for Substance Use Research and lead author of The Pleasure of Smoking, will give a short presentation highlighting the main conclusions.

Neil's presentation will be sandwiched between a drinks reception and a balloon debate on the subject 'The Best Nicotine Delivery Device in the World' so it should be an entertaining evening.

Full details here. RSVP events@forestonline.org.