Follow your head (and your heart) to Stony Stratford
Tuesday, July 12, 2011 at 12:40
Simon Clark

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)

Update on Tuesday, July 12, 2011 at 16:13 by Registered CommenterSimon Clark

Organisations represented at tomorrow night's Smoke On The Water event in London include the Adam Smith Institute, Institute of Ideas, No2ID, spiked, TaxPayers Alliance, The Freedom Association and many more.

This follows our recent series of debates that was organised in association with Privacy International, Manifesto Club, Democracy Institute, the ASI and Liberty League UK.

Some years ago I worried that Forest was becoming detached, possibly isolated, from mainstream politics. Today we are part of a network of groups united in our opposition to smoking bans and excessive regulation.

Combined with the protests described above, it offers far greater hope for the future than I could have imagined a year or two ago.

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