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Friday
Jan062017

Whatever happened to the Smoke Free Arts campaign?

Nick Hopkinson's latest signature gathering exercise (see previous post) caught the attention of the Guardian, if no-one else.

Will it prompt the PM to urge the Secretary of State for Health to publish the Government's new Tobacco Control Plan "without further delay"?

Governments have their own timetable and unless this becomes a hot political potato in the near future (unlikely given the current Brexit-focussed climate) I can't see a letter in the BMJ having much impact.

But who knows? We remain on amber if not red alert. What I do know is that another Hopkinson campaign has disappeared leaving little or no trace of its existence.

Last year the Observer reported:

More than 1,000 healthcare experts, including 57 professors, have signed an open letter calling on some of London’s most respected cultural institutions to abandon their financial links with big tobacco.

The British Museum, the Royal Academy of Arts, the South Bank Centre and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, have long-standing lucrative corporate membership and sponsorship deals with two leading cigarette manufacturers, which are banned from advertising in the UK.

The links have dismayed many in the medical community. “As a doctor specialising in the care of people with emphysema, I see the harm smoking causes every day,” said Dr Nick Hopkinson, reader in respiratory medicine and honorary consultant physician at the National Heart and Lung Institute, who is leading a campaign against the tie-ups.

“Tobacco companies, which rely on getting people addicted to products, which maim and kill, must not be allowed to use arts sponsorship as a way to present [themselves] as respectable.”

See Ditch tobacco sponsors, health experts warn cultural institutions (Observer).

Nine months later, using the Just Giving platform, a total of nine 'supporters' have donated just £730 to the Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals Charity in support of the campaign.

Worse, the Smoke Free Arts website has had some sort of meltdown and is currently inactive.

Oh dear.

If however you want to see an example of the type of "sponsorship" Hopkinson objects to, I recommend you click here.

It's a video highlighting "a collaboration between Leonard Cheshire Disability, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Academy of Arts and Crisis, supported by JTI."

Judge for yourself whether initiatives like this should be put at risk through lack of funding because anti-smoking campaigners like Nick Hopkinson want cultural institutions (including the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal Academy of Arts) to refuse "morally unacceptable" sponsorship from Big Tobacco.

That Smoke Free Arts campaign doesn't seem so virtuous or clever now, does it?

Thankfully, to quote Monty Python, it appears to be resting, expired or shagged out following a prolonged squawk.

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Reader Comments (3)

Cultural revisionism runs rampant in tobacco control circles it seems. After all they want to erase all memory of smoking and its pleasures fro the arts so they can then remove e it from human memory. The problem is the arts are human memory and expression at its core. It seems to me "Smoke-Free Arts" are "Soul-Free Arts"...

I guess Picasso, Molière, Hockney, Rothko, Cézanne, Manet, Monet, Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Warhol are out for sure.

Perhaps Bob Dylan should have been denied his Nobel Prize too since he smokes. And forget Keith Richards and tear up Mark Twain.

The Irish will have to forgo James Joyce since he smoked...No Dubliners or Ulysses for the new generation; no Oscar Wilde either. The Italians will have to ditch Umberto Eco (and miss both his mysteries and commentaries on facism and mass elitism).

Orwell (at least he would recognize the totalitarian drive for newspeak) would be out as well, along with Sartre, Camus, J.R.R Tolkein, his smoking Hobbits, and his pal C.S. Lewis.

I guess we'll also have to pass up looking at classic films, so Sophia Loren is out, same with Charle Chaplin, Jackie Gleason, Lucille Ball or Graucho Marx. Oh yeah, no Sinatra or his Rat Pack cronies, Joe Jackson songs, or Monica Bellucci films while we're at it...

Erase Walt Disney and Al Pacino (at least their smoking images); blot out Ron Serling--and we're really in the "Twilight Zone" or is it "Tobacco Control Zone"?

Perhaps we should shred Churchill's works--both literature and paintings--and demand his estate return his Nobel Prize for literature since he was a smoker (they already airbrush his cigars out of photos after all). Same with all the images of the Beatles smoking...

Beyond that, didn't the Australian tobacco controllers attempt to ban Bizet) or at least his opera "Carmen" in Sydney because it took place in a tobacco factory?

Saturday, January 7, 2017 at 0:59 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

" ... a total of nine 'supporters' have donated just £730 ... in support of the campaign "

I wonder sometimes if these doggedly tenacious campaigners have yet worked out that maybe, just maybe, the vast majority of people are, quite simply, plain bored with this never-ending stream of anti-smoking "stuff." Even my never-smoking OH has now started rolling his eyes and saying things like "Oh, God - here we go again. They just can't help themselves, can they?" every time some little anti-smoking message gets shoehorned into some totally unrelated item or TV programme. And now that there are several new "vices" which are starting to get temptingly close to the crosshairs, maybe even some erstwhile anti-smoking enthusiasts are starting to look at rather more fertile hunting-grounds. After all, what fun is hunting down and persecuting 20-odd percent of the population, when you could be persecuting another group (drinkers, sugar-eaters, meat-eaters, the obese, salt-lovers etc) who probably number more like 80 or 90 percent?

Saturday, January 7, 2017 at 2:20 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

Could all this be a sign of desperation rather than a power display? After all, obesity is the new Pubic Health villain and thus more public funds are likely to go crusading against it than against the "old" smoking villain. Perhaps all this anti-smoking peanut gallery is worried of loosing their funds and influence. Admitting subjectivity, I sense that most non-smokers, at least in academic professional environments in English speaking countries, perceive that the war against smoking has been already won, while the war against obesity is just beginning. Anti-smokers fear being relegated. Shock Horror !!

Saturday, January 7, 2017 at 4:40 | Unregistered CommenterRoberto

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