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Follow your head (and your heart) to Stony Stratford

A strange thing seems to be happening.

After years of passive acquiescence, the nation's smokers are slowly beginning to fight back. I don't mean armchair activists commenting on blogs such as this. I'm talking about people who are willing give up their time and take to the streets (or even the Houses of Parliament) to make their point.

In 2008 Forest marked the first anniversary of the smoking ban in England by organising a small event at the House of Commons. Our 'protest' attracted 40 people.

A year later we launched the Save Our Pubs and Clubs campaign to amend the ban. Two weeks ago 200 people attended a Save Our Pubs and Clubs reception at the House of Commons. There were publicans and members of the Working Men's Clubs and Institute Union, but the majority were ordinary, decent smokers, some of whom had travelled hundreds of miles to be there.

A few says later, in Lincoln, smoker Pat Nurse organised a small protest against what she calls "smokerphobia". Two things stood out. "I've never taken part in a protest before," she wrote on her blog. Later she reported that "Several more people came to lend their voice to the protest and I counted 14 of our own and two bystanders who joined in which made our number 16. That included the lady who was pleased to 'see something being done and said at last'."

This coming Saturday, in Stony Stratford in Buckinghamshire, blogger Dick Puddlecote is organising his own protest against proposals to ban smoking throughout the town. No-one knows how many people will attend. It could be 20, or 50. Not a huge number, but that misses the point.

The point is, a lot of people (smokers and non-smokers) have had enough of the bully state telling them what to do and where they can do it, and some of them are prepared to give up the best part of a day to make their feelings known.

I'm cautious about making rash predictions but I believe we could be seeing the start of a grassroots revolt that could change the course of the war on tobacco.

It's early days but all rebellions have to begin somewhere and Stony Stratford – like Lincoln – is as good a place as any. Details here.

See also: Health Hitlers and a mutiny in the town trying to ban smoking (Daily Mail)

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Reader Comments (8)

The Daily Mail link has


instead of

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 at 15:08 | Unregistered CommenterFredrik Eich

One can only hope this proposed ban is firmly and overwhelmingly rejected. If not , then there are only 2 possible outcomes - the bans will be followed by a swathe of 'me too' councils up and down the land - OR - before it gets to that point - SS becomes a calling in point for people to go and openly defy the ban and refuse to pay any fines that are issued. Whereas the defiance of the smoking ban in a pub would lead to the Landlord being heavily fined, this is down to individuals. The only way for it to be enforced would be through Bailiffs or the Courts. I suspect there will be little appetite for cash-strapped councils to be spending money pesuing such fines, nor for clogging up the Courts with such trivail clap trap.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 at 15:36 | Unregistered CommenterD'babe

ASHTRAYS. Please take ashtrays. Or rather, small jamjars with lids. So they can’t photograph any mess made by the protestors’ butts. (And take some spare ones with you to give to others - HT Nisakiman.)

I use one that had caviar in it: still says “caviar”. A nice posh touch. I always use it here in Greece: don’t want to be responsible for setting fire to the country on top of its other problems.

Wish I could be with you, but it’s a bit far to travel :D

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 at 15:41 | Unregistered CommenterLysistrata

As to Simon's point - I agree with his summation. People are getting sick to the back teeth of being nannied, bullied, nudged and generally treated like children - be it in regards to drinking, smoking, diet, excercise, recycling etc etc etc ETC. The list has grown long enough to p**s enough people off enough for them to start biting back. Long may it continue I always believed that the anti-smoking crusade would eat itself eventually, and with any luck it'll take a few more down with it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 at 15:43 | Unregistered CommenterD'babe

I hope that this is the start of a ground swell of opinion of smokers and non smokers alike. The health lobby have made a fatal mistake of with the demonisation of smokers they a have moved onto drinkers, obese and car drivers.

Us smokers warned that drinkers were next and we have been vindicated. I also think the average (non smoking) person does have an objection to government dictated blanket smoking bans. While they may like smoke free pubs they nevertheless feel strongly we should have a choice.

On the other side of the coin Forest has continued to be HQ of the fightback. Also there are many readers of Taking Liberties, bloggers and individuals who have made strenuous efforts to raise the profile of smokers to a wider audience. Whether it is the "Westminster Bubble," campaigning groups, the local political party, or national or local newspaper column.

We are far from winning but as Winston Churchill said in November 1942 "Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

We can but hope.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 at 16:20 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

The Daily Mail talking about "Health Hitlers"! I don't believe it! The pendulum swinging maybe?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 at 18:08 | Unregistered CommenterFrank

The tide may indeed be turning, But what can we, the people, do about it when the likes of Deborah Arnott seems to be running the country? It's not just the funding, the unquestioning acceptance of everything they say. It's the emails that Chris Snowden dug up using FoI requests which had the Health Minister basically saying, "Oooh, we'll have to run this past Deb before I make a decision." And then today, over at Dick Puddlecote's, there's a photo of the Lords debate on tobacco packaging and who is sat in the chamber making sure to keep an eye on her puppets?


I mean, do ano other Heads of "Charities" have such access?

They are just soooo sinister! What can we, as electors, as taxpayers, do about such people when they can pull the strings of everyone who is supposed to represent us?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 at 20:08 | Unregistered CommenterMr A

Simon, I am encouraged by your views. I do think the linkage of the smoking ban and other annoying nanny state initiatives will give us some traction. Also, I think that the message is getting across that they will come for you next (the drinkers and hamburger eaters etc). Now the anti-smoking lobby is being seem as part of a wider issue and not just smoking, which it was when the ban came in. All we need now is CAMRA to finally swing round and agree that the ban has been a major problem for pubs - especially as they are now after drinkers.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011 at 9:43 | Unregistered CommenterMark Butcher

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