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Undemocratic bullies

I voted Leave.

So did my children who are 19 and 21.

I don't think they will mind me mentioning it because they each posted a thoughtful comment on Facebook.

On Friday my daughter Sophie (right) sent me a series of texts from a house in south London:

Dad, it's kicking off now. People are angry.

My friends are all unhappy. I'm having to keep it cool.

Things are tense.

If we'd lost we wouldn't be making such a fuss.

God knows there are cranks and extremists on both sides of the referendum debate but my daughter is right.

Had Remain won, even by a tight head, the overwhelming majority of Leavers would have accepted the result with no more than a grumble.

That's the nature of democracy. Win some, lose some. Get over it.

Anyway, so much has been said and written since Thursday I'm reluctant to add to the cacophony, but here's an observation.

If you're on Twitter you'll have noticed that tobacco control campaigners are almost universally opposed to Brexit.

The most explicit reaction was tweeted this morning by the University of Bath's Tobacco Control Research Group which set up the controversial Tobacco Tactics website:

What's unbelievable is the fact that a "tobacco research group", part of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, "one of the five UK Public Health Research Centres of Excellence", and "funded by a number of organisations including the Medical Research Council, Government bodies and Charities" thinks nothing of engaging in a political battle about the UK's membership of the European Union, and doing so in a highly partisan way.

Of course there are parallels between tobacco control and the more strident, undemocratic Remainers. For example:

1. In 2006 public opinion was strongly against a comprehensive ban on smoking in all enclosed public places (Office for National Statistics). Despite that tobacco control persuaded government to ignore the more nuanced wishes of a significant majority of the people and impose regulations with no exemptions for private members' clubs or pubs that didn't serve food.

2. In 2012 the Government's plain packaging consultation resulted in a huge majority opposed to the policy. Ignoring this inconvenient fact tobacco control continued to lobby government until the PM bowed to pressure and legislation was finally passed in 2015.

3. Tobacco control routinely treats people like idiots, portraying all smokers as addicts who want to quit. Snobbishly these middle class crusaders imply that smokers (the majority of whom are working class or from poorer backgrounds) are too stupid to make choices for themselves. They must be 'helped' to quit, even if that means restricting choice and imposing punitive taxation on those who don't want to give up.

Over the last few days we've witnessed a similar refusal by some Remain advocates to accept the outcome of a legitimate, democratic plebiscite that attracted one of the largest turnouts in British voting history.

Sound familiar?

We've also seen a groundswell of bullying and intimidation with many people reluctant to admit to friends or work colleagues that they voted to leave.

Bizarrely even those pro-vaping public health campaigners who have spent the past few months complaining bitterly about the EU's Tobacco Products Directive and its impact on e-cigarettes supported Remain when it must be obvious to all that the UK government has a far more liberal attitude to e-cigs than any other EU member state and vapers will probably be better off if the UK is outside the EU.

Finally (for the moment), what should we make of the fact that Diane Abbott is the new shadow health minister?

The next time our paths cross it would be nice if she referred to me by name rather than jabbing her fingers in my direction while talking dismissively (and contemptuously) of "people like him".

It's that kind of attitude that has brought Labour to its knees.

But it's not just Labour. Politicians of all parties are guilty of an arrogant refusal to engage with people whose opinions or habits differ to their own.

And that attitude has seeped into all areas of public life including public health.

The underlying message is, "We know better than you and you will do as we say."

Last week a majority of the voting public chose to rebel. Whatever happens in the months and years to come it was a glorious moment.

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Reader Comments (19)

Virtually every Brexit spokesperson was polite and level-headed during the campaign, particularly so during the TV debates.

And Jacob Rees-Mogg is the epitome of the perfect English gentleman. He'd make a frightfully spiffing PM!

Monday, June 27, 2016 at 17:48 | Unregistered Commenterdavid

I hope with the country trying to analyse how to heal all sides that those smokerphobic bullies lose their funding and influence unless they take a very different approach towards people who smoke. They could promise to become much more honest when interpreting science and stats, for a start, and stop the hate campaigning and fear mongering.

In testing economic times to come, and with hopefully a new national mood of tolerance and fairness for all, I hope the issue of smoking/obesity/sugar/salt/alcohol and health goes back to being a small health and education promotional quango rather than the monster it has become.

There is always room for health information and education but those health freaks overstepped the line of public decency and morality when they began to invade every aspect of a free citizen's private life, while encouraging hatred, exclusion, marginalisation and stigmatisation against anyone who fails to comply with their vision of what our new world should be like.

My MP has always listened to my concerns about the rise of power from those unelected healthists or lobby groups posing as "independent charities", and has raised my concerns with Jane Ellison about smoker hatred but to no avail. She, and her predecessors, have always ignored me, and other members of the public who have written on similar themes, in favour of those self proclaimed "experts" who tell her she must ignore the public that disagrees with anti-smoker policy.

I think the public showed overwhelmingly in the EU Ref that they do not trust "experts" and they do not fall for scaremongering.

However, as with plain packaging when the public resoundingly said NO, but the Govt went ahead against public opinion anyway, I'll wait to see if the majority is ignored in Brexit in favour of some form of Remain.

Ideally, the Govt will honour the referendum result, stand back from the politics of the last 10 years, re-evaluate, take stock, think about what sort of country we really want to be, look at where we are heading, and ask whether or not the condescending sneering from tobacco control and its allies in public health working on programmes of deliberate exclusion, marginalisation, stigmatisation and ultimately criminalsation of one group of people is really the sort of thing we would want to encourage in a fair, tolerant and equal democracy.

In Boris's statement last night he said : "In a democracy majorities may decide but everyone is of equal value. " I hope he remembers that when forcing mental health patients who have no choice about confinement to quit smoking, and maybe even considers the harm the ridiculous idea of forcing criminals to quit in prison will cause.

He should also remember we smoke, we vote, we have a right to expect not to be harrassed when standing outdoors anywhere, we have a right to our own indoor leisure places to meet other people who share our culture and interest, we have a right to our beliefs and to make our own health choices, and we are consumers who should be able to expect the same rights as other consumers - including fair product tax, brand identifiable packaging and information on contents.

If my Leave vote contributes to a new way of thinking and has woken someone up in the land of the Metropolitan Elite that we are people too who do not deserve to be treated with the disdain and disgust we have endured from the very top of politics this last 10 years, then my vote has been worth something for the first time in decades.

Monday, June 27, 2016 at 18:01 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

The tobacco control project is totalitarian at its heart. It is therefore no surprise that it ignored public opinion to force its agenda and then reinforced it with manipulated studies and propaganda. It is also no surprise that they are interested in greater political influence. Power is intoxicating. They have had a taste and see they can control much more than where people can and can't smoke. After all, smoking bans were never about health; they're about social control.

Monday, June 27, 2016 at 19:02 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

Well written Simon! That Bath TR tweet group has got to be a spoof though. Accusing someone else of a "campaign based on lies"? Could the Bathers actually try to say that with a straight face? Last time I heard one that funny was when the US declared that North Vietnam was attacking the US Navy or when Poland supposedly attacked Germany.

For anyone not already familiar with it, you might spend a productive hour or three at the site that some of our folks set up in response to the "Tobacco Tactics" campaign. Visit "Tobacco Control Tactics" at


Tuesday, June 28, 2016 at 2:16 | Unregistered CommenterMichael J. McFadden

"We've also seen a groundswell of bullying and intimidation with many people reluctant to admit to friends or work colleagues that they voted to leave."

More proof that bullying = less awareness and connectivity to the actual world in reality.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016 at 4:08 | Unregistered Commenterjredheadgirl

The sad thing is Brexit will make no difference to the smoking ban, except to vastly inflate prices for more than a third of smokers who used to buy EU cigs in large quantities or buy illegal EU smokes as the bootleg cottage industry relied on wishy washy EU rules on buying cigarettes within Europe

Approx one third bought illegal cigs, add on another large number who bought legal abroad or got friends and family to buy for them which is still illegal and you have a massive number, maybe 40% of smokers could see prices double for them.

Nothing could have affected smokers more than a Brexit.

Attitude comparison before and after the vote isnt going to help smokers with this nightmare.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016 at 12:48 | Unregistered CommenterDioclese

Well, I'm going to buck the trend - I'm immensely pissed off at the result. But I hope one day I may look back and think 'that went well' as I think there's a chance.

But let me say why I'm pissed off: one of the angles of the big debate has been sovereignty. To me that means the government being able to do what it sees fit. But, as a libertarian type - I don't give a monkeys toss about the government - never have. But I do care about MY sovereignty - which has been taken away. For the past 2 decades I've made full use of the right to live, work and buy property in Europe - and the fact this may be taken away disturbs me greatly. Not for me exactly, I won't be thrown out of France anytime soon I'm sure. But what about my children? They will not have rights to enjoy and explore Europe as many have before. A bar job in Ibiza over the summer - non. A work placement at a German engineering firm - Nein.

It's a massive blow for the young - I just don't think some realise it yet.

Yes, the EU is a mess of red tape and regulations. But the businesses that have said the EU stifles them - do they assume a UK government will not regulate? And then, if they want to do business with the EU - they will have to follow the regulations anyway for that purpose. Many businesses are in for an enormous disappointment as they come to understand it will not be the utopia they think. It won't be.

However, I did say - maybe I'll look back and think 'that went well'.

I think there is a chance that a couple of other countries will now push for exit. Denmark and the Netherlands come to mind. If this forces the EU to become less intrusive and bureaucratic, all for the good. Maybe a UK government will be able to say to the people in a couple of years and claim, with justification, the EU you voted to leave no longer exists.

Or the UK joins the EEA - that also gives the right of free movement. That will also be fine for me.

But one thing is utterly abundantly clear - and no one should be in any doubt about this. The UK has absolutely no hope of maintaining a place in the single market without keeping free movement. None. What's worrying is some of the Brexiters say that's a chance. It isn't and it shows the level of ignorance and naivety on their side and gives me no confidence in their ability to govern or negotiate as they understand so little. They didn't expect to win and are now making it up as they go along.

The sensible thing to do is wait for at least a year before triggering article 50. Or even better, have a General Election beforehand. Any new Prime Minister will want a fresh mandate to get anything done. The UK vote may force the EU to change for the better for all countries - then the vote would have done some good.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016 at 14:06 | Unregistered CommenterMark Butcher

How right your daughter is Simon. If Leave had lost, its supporters would have accepted the decision and, I believe, tried to make things work. Scanning social media there seems something punitive and vindictive in the reaction of some Remain supporters, a loss of proportion which, to me, has a taste of fascism. And maybe a frightening lack of ability on the part of some in the younger generations, to recognise that the life experience of older people may have left a wider and longer perspective on the issue which is actually altruistic.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016 at 15:54 | Unregistered CommenterNorman Brand

I am proud to tell anyone who asks that i voted LEAVE as did most people i know of all ages. I agree with Pat Nurse regarding smokers rights as consumers. Why are we not entitled to see all the details of the product we consume and enjoy ?

Tuesday, June 28, 2016 at 16:34 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy Goodacre

Whilst there is tobacco control, plain packaging and the publicly funded health racket, politicians are denied my support This is a. dictatorship, not democracy I resent money taken from me in tax being spent on politicians I who I don't support in any way whatever party colour they are

Tuesday, June 28, 2016 at 17:47 | Unregistered Commentergray

It's not about cheap tobacco, it's about fair play. Under the EU position, we were never going to be treated fairly.

As for the real motivation for voting Brexit? For me it was about democracy and holding our leaders to account and being able to vote them out and change policy if it proves to be vastly unpopular as a lot of policies are - hence everyone had their own reason for voting out.

I couldn't care less if that means more expensive tobacco, although I doubt it. Illegal drug supply isn't affected by being in or out of the EU. The black market will still thrive, no one is going to be banning us from going abroad ever again, and not every personal suitcase will be ransacked looking for 10 packs over the guidelines. Also, as non EU citizens, when travelling, we can get our duty free back. So many times I have wandered over to the dirt cheap tobacco in airline shops only to be told that they are only for non EU citizens.

I voted for the young so that in time if things don't go how they want, they can also hold leaders to account in a way that Eu appointed, arrogant and bloated leaders cannot.

I honestly believe that politicians who face losing their seats and positions will try harder to work in our interests for fear of losing.

I also think if OUT is so bad for smokers, then how come just about all of our enemies and persecutors from Linda Bauld to Sarah Wolleston voted to stay in?

Tuesday, June 28, 2016 at 18:41 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Anna Soubry for PM - all together Hip Hip...?

Tuesday, June 28, 2016 at 23:25 | Unregistered CommenterJay

I voted for Leave to remove an unneeded and divisive layer of Government/Bureaucracy, and to my astonishment, my voice was heard for the first time since I've had the privilege to vote.

The campaign was awful and neither side ever rose above 'Tabloid politics' and I believe that the majority of UK citizens that voted, did so on pre-campaign beliefs, however ill informed they may have been.

The Referendum did, however, give the disaffected a fair chance to change something - a chance to register the fact that we were unhappy and angry about being ignored by successive UK Governments. For many, including myself, it was just our chance to vote for change - ANY change.

The fall out from this has been even more significant than I'd have ever imagined. It is a major blow for 'those who know best' and as they squirm and wriggle about, make new alliances, back stab their friends, panic about their futures, I'll SMOKE to that!

The fun will not last but while it is here, I'll enjoy it with a pint, a fag and a pie :)

Wednesday, June 29, 2016 at 0:20 | Unregistered CommenterRussell VR Ord

Is this a shift? Over the coming months we will see. What previously seemed impossible is now possible.

Mark Butcher stated:
"The UK has absolutely no hope of maintaining a place in the single market without keeping free movement. None".
Even this may be in doubt as outlined in the EuReferendum blog with the Liechtenstein model.

What was certain is no longer so. This has come as a shock and will take time to settle. There will be a whole host of reactions from hostility to sadness, as noted here. Many will be trying to reconcile believing they were part of a majority with that no longer being the case. Others will be joyful or in disbelief as they now recognise they were not alone or even in the minority and can effect change.

Authorities and establishments will need to respond as nothing can now be taken for granted. This is something they have not had to deal with for a long time if ever. How they respond will determine where we go from here.

The process people, on both sides are going through, may well have profound effects. I can not quite put my finger on it but something,more than just a vote about the EU has changed.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016 at 0:32 | Unregistered Commenterwest2


Liechtenstein is in the EEA - so has single market access and free movement of people.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016 at 13:39 | Unregistered CommenterMark Butcher

It seems to me that all this talk about freedom of movement being required to gain access to the free market rather misses the reality. Which is:

Britain is the EU’s largest export market and they run a huge trade surplus with us. So an independent Britain could simply approach the EU people and offer them a tarrif free trade deal. It would be very much in their interests to agree and so they would.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016 at 18:25 | Unregistered CommenterTony

@Mark Butcher
I agree, Lichtenstein is in the EEA, however at the eureferendum blog Dr Richard North explains the details of how restriction of free movement came about:
<"The numbers involved are, of course, small beer, but Liechtenstein is a tiny country. What matters is that a precedent has been set. Within the framework of the EEA Agreement, an Efta state has suspended freedom of movement and replaced it with a quota system for what amounts to an indefinite period.
If you disagree with Dr North's analysis, it is probably best to raise the points on his blog. Having read the interesting points you made, I used it as an example of uncertainty as I had, at one time, believed free movement was a given within the single market.

I voted above all on the issue of sovereignty and to me this is the basis for moving forward.

I tried to keep my original comments general as the points I was making were about, what in olden days would be referred to as, a paradigm shift.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016 at 19:47 | Unregistered Commenterwest2

llegal tobacco supply will be affected by being out of the EU, it will be a criminal matter when caught with over 200 cigs instead of as many as you like for personal use within the EU.

The change from a civil matter to criminal means everything to bootleggers, this is why the illegal supply has been so strong for around 20 years because prosecuting bootleggers under EU rules/guidelines isnt easy unless you repeat offending umpteen times that has led to every tom dick and harry knowing someone who is a bootlegger.

The black market will be harder to find and will be more expensive as cheap across the channel baccy vanishes , plus fake baccy will be the norm because there will be little genuine product available, filling your bags with duty free will be so easy for customs to monitor by airport tills and boarding passes plus you are engaging in criminal activity once you shove 10 packs in a bag and bring it back.

Really Pat, this will affect 4 out of 10 smokers in a big way , you may well care about Brexit principles that I agree with, but leaving the EU is without doubt the worst outcome for smokers based on smoking only even though its off the radar at the moment and nobody cares.

My guess is nasty fake baccy will be doing the rounds in a few years that is just about smokeable and will not offer anywhere near the savings the black market gives now.

Friday, July 1, 2016 at 18:10 | Unregistered CommenterDioclese

As I said elsewhere. We have nothing left to lose. Maybe it will even wake smokers up to fight harder.

However, I do not accept your doom and gloom scenario. I doubt full Brexit is going to happen anyway, but we'll see.

One thing we smokers know for sure is that govt will not recognise the democratic process if it doesn't suit it's agenda.

Saturday, July 2, 2016 at 13:31 | Unregistered Commenterpat nurse

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