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« Sunday Politics West – plain packaging | Main | Stephen Williams wants to be public health minister »

Why Forest exists

Forest Eireann's John Mallon (above) appeared on RTE's flagship current affairs programme this week.

He may only have been in the audience (albeit at Prime Time's invitation) and he may only have been given a very short time to make his point, but that's neither here nor there.

The important thing is that he was there, representing adults who don't want to quit smoking, however hard politicians like Ireland's minister for health James Reilly insist they do.

So, was it worth a round trip from Cork costing €200 including overnight accommodation? Read John's verdict on the Forest Eireann blog, No winners and losers on Prime Time.

Likewise on Friday I travelled to Bristol from Cambridgeshire to record an interview for the Sunday Politics West knowing I would get, at best, five minutes shared with a presenter and two other guests, to put the case against plain packaging.

I know from experience that viewers (even friends and family) rarely listen to what you actually say on TV or radio. The important thing is you're there and the viewer (or listener) recognises there are two sides to the argument.

That alone is worth the time, trouble and, yes, money it costs to represent smokers and tolerant non-smokers.

As it happens one of my fellow guests on Sunday Politics was anti-smoking campaigner Stephen Williams MP who has just tweeted:

I was discussing standard packs for cigarettes with @Forest_Smoking on @daily_politics Here's why

The link takes you to a post Stephen wrote on his blog in January 2012 after he helped launch the taxpayer-funded Plain Packs Protect campaign (Tobacco plain packs – a protection against the “Silent Salesman").

I'm curious he has nothing new to say on the subject, despite the fact that Australia has now introduced plain packaging.

Perhaps he's struggling to find any evidence that the policy is working. Or perhaps he doesn't want to unleash another torrent of opposition (1382 comments, mostly negative!).

Anyway, whether in the UK or Ireland, the fight against excessive regulation goes on and everyone working for Forest will do their very best to make sure the consumer is represented, whatever the cost in time and money.

As for Sunday Politics, I can't say I got the better of Stephen Williams. I didn't. My chief opponent was the presenter!

I was quietly pleased however that before the recording Stephen expressed surprise that I had travelled to Bristol. "You're committed," he said.

And that's the point, isn't it? Forest and many of the people who write or read blogs like this are committed.

This isn't a hobby. It's a passion.

We feel very strongly about the issues we write and campaign about. We won't go away and we'll accept every opportunity offered to challenge tobacco control campaigners wherever that might be.

So when the chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health says "You're committed" I take it as a compliment.

And so should you.

Update: The furthest I have gone for an interview is Torquay, a round trip of twelve hours for a ten minute item broadcast on ITV's early evening news programme.

On another I occasion I was flown to Dublin at the expense of Sky News to appear on the Richard Littlejohn Show on the eve of the introduction of the smoking ban in Ireland.

I can't even calculate how many miles or how many hours it took me to get to Dublin and back but I do remember that my "soundbite" was no more than 20 seconds and I stumbled over the first few words.

Oddly enough, one programme was broadcast from a pub, the other from a hotel bar, which may have been an incentive.

Try as I might I honestly can't remember.

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Reader Comments (6)

Thanks for making these journeys Simon. It must be difficult to deal repeatedly with situations where everything, from time allowed To the master of ceremonies, are against you.

Sunday, June 16, 2013 at 17:59 | Unregistered CommenterNorman Brand

We smokers need to do our bit, too. I try to do mine by spreading the word that opposition to the denormalisation programme exists and that the ban is based on a trumped up case.

Why is Stephen Williams linking to that post which shows the plain packs case in a very poor light - is he mad?

Sunday, June 16, 2013 at 19:29 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

Thanks so much Simon for being so committed and travelling long distances, even to other countries, and standing up for the silent majority of us smokers who feel so dejected these days against the overwhelming attack on smokers by the anti smoking lobby.
And that goes for John Mallon of Forest Eireann too, his recent appearance on RTE was well appreciated even though the time given to make his point for smokers was barely a few minutes, but then most people may not be aware that these shows are all pre planned and rehearsed in case you say anything controversial or upset the PC apple cart.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 11:47 | Unregistered Commenterann

I posted the following (see below) on Facebook yesterday and of my 25 Friends, two responded warmly and shared and four of their Friends also shared. In my circle of good, loving people, few see this as a problem and if they do, then it is trivial. It does expose the limitations of friendship itself. There are areas of communication and many more where there are none. I don't demand agreement. A modicum of comprehension would be welcome. My message on Facebook follows:

'Whenever I see an elderly woman in a wheelchair pushed by her relatives to somewhere beyond the boundaries of a hospital, so that she can smoke a cigarette, or an old man on a drip, sheltering outside a hospital building, so that he can light up, I think of the words of C.S. Lewis:

‘..those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. Their very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level with those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will…." (The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment’– 1949)

'And when I see people in their last years who grew up with tobacco, denied its solace, as they or their loved ones approach their end, I do wonder at the cruelty of those who think they are doing good.

'Separate smoking rooms with modern ventilation would not be much for which to ask.'

Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 14:55 | Unregistered CommenterNorman Brand

In case anyone is looking for the post on Facebook which I mentioned above, I've deactivated my account. On the subject of the contemptuous and cruel treatment of smokers, especially of those who are old, frail, bereaved, sick, isolated and scared, someone has switched off my microphone. For the moment it's a waste of my energy and of moral ammunition to continue to try to get through to the majority of my friends on Facebook.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 19:34 | Unregistered CommenterNorman Brand

Slept on it. Back on Facebook.

Thursday, June 20, 2013 at 11:05 | Unregistered CommenterNorman Brand

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