Before the TMA/Forest reception in Birmingham on Tuesday I attended a meeting entitled 'Does Prohibition Ever Work?'
Deborah Arnott was one of the speakers but the prize for the most assinine remark goes not to Debs (who arrived late and then spent most of the time talking about plain packaging) but to Julia Manning, founder and chief executive of our hosts, 2020health.org.
According to Manning (who was sitting in the audience) even one alcoholic drink increases the risk to our health. Chris Snowdon, sitting next to me, muttered, "That's what the prohibitionists in America used to say."
When challenged Manning said her assertion was based on "research" carried out or published by her organisation. I would expect nothing less of a group now chaired by Dame Helena Shovelton, former chief executive of the British Lung Foundation.
Dame Helena retired as CEO of the BLF in June but she was still there when Professor David Nutt wrote this stinging article, Smoke without fire? Scaremongering by the British Lung Foundation.
Nutt, a former government advisor on drugs, accused the BLF of "promoting unfounded claims about the harms of cannabis to the lungs". His comments were supported by Clive Bates, former director of ASH, who wrote, "Excellent post, just what’s needed to counteract this rubbish. BLF has been knowingly pulling this trick since 2002 ... Not sure why they qualify to be a charity."
Last year Shovelton wrote an article for the Huffington Post entitled Calls for a ban on smoking in cars are welcome, but action on children is needed now.
Now she's chairman of 2020health.org. I'm sure she'll get on extremely well with Julia Manning.
PS. As I left the meeting one of the health2020.org organisers thanked me for coming. "It's good to have a range of opinions," she said.
In future, then, they might like to have a more balanced panel. Here, Alex Deane was the token libertarian and he was treated as if he had two heads.
The most disturbing panellist was not Deborah Arnott (a transparent anti-tobacco fanatic) but Conservative MP John Glen. Sharp-suited Mr Glen, a JP, struck me as the very worst kind of paternalistic Tory.
In his world, it seems, laws must be introduced to "save" people from themselves, even if the vast majority of people don't need saving and can think for themselves.
The problem with some MPs, JPs and doctors is that they experience the most extreme cases of drug addiction, lack of education or poverty and want to 'help', which is laudable, but their notion of help condemns everyone, not just a needy few, to a lifetime of nagging and restrictive practises.
Assist those who want or really need help but don't impose draconian laws on the rest of us (by which I mean the overwhelming majority).
See also: Talking prohibition with Conservatives (Velvet Glove Iron Fist)