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The year in pictures

Another busy year comes to an end. It's difficult to summarise 2017 in a few words so I've chosen a few of my favourite pictures instead.

In February we hosted a one-off event, 'The Pleasure Zone', in London.

The evening featured a drinks reception, a short presentation by Dr Neil McKeganey, lead author of The Pleasure of Smoking: The Views of Confirmed Smokers, and a balloon debate on the subject, 'The most pleasurable nicotine product in the world'.

Contestants included Ranald Macdonald (cigar), Mark Littlewood (heated tobacco), Chris Snowdon (snus), Angela Harbutt (cigarette) and Judy Gibson (e-cigarette). The debate was won by Angela, naturally, but Judy (above) made the biggest impression!

Forest EU was launched offically in Brussels on May 31, World No Tobacco Day.

The launch party was attended by over 100 guests at a venue a few hundred yards from the European Parliament. 

Since then we've hosted three more events in Brussels featuring Prof Neil McKeganey (Centre for Substance Use Research), Clare Fox (Institute of Ideas) and, most recently, Prof Sinclair Davidson (Institute of Public Affairs).

Each one has attracted a full house – not bad in such a hostile environment – so we must be doing something right.

Smoke on The Water, our annual boat party, has not always enjoyed the best weather but 2017 was a good year.

Approximately 200 guests attended this year's event, including parliamentary researchers and other members of the Westminster Village. The photo above was taken on the return leg from Canary Wharf to Festival Pier.

Photographer and musician Dan Donovan missed Smoke On The Water this year because he was in California fulfilling a dream.

This photo, taken at sunrise, is one of many superb pictures Dan took while he was recording tracks at the famous Rancho de la Luna studio in Joshua Tree, deep in the desert.

Ironically, a few weeks after he was there, our old friend Juliette Tworsey (another musician) moved to Joshua Tree with her partner Jules. The scenery looks incredible but I suspect it's a little hot for me.

This was arguably the most memorable image from the Forest Freedom Dinner at Boisdale of Canary Wharf.

Invited back by popular demand, speaker Rod Liddle (Spectator, Sunday Times, Sun) gave another tour de force, albeit one that was a little off message for some tastes!

The event, attended by 160 guests including peers, MPs and parliamentary researchers, also featured the presentation of four Voices of Freedom awards to Ella Whelan (Spiked), Elise Rasmussen (GTNF), Guillaume Perigois (Forest EU) and blogger Dick Puddlecote.

In August I embarked on an eight-day transatlantic cruise aboard Queen Mary 2.

We went with friends and subsequently spent four days in New York, including two nights in a hotel overlooking Ground Zero.

We were on the 52nd floor and while the view was undoubtedly spectacular I'm not great with heights so I wasn't unhappy to move to another hotel for our final two nights where our loft style room on the eleventh of 17 floors was far less intimidating.

A few weeks later I was back in New York for the Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum.

But first I spent a weekend in Greenwich, Connecticut, with my old friend Gary Ling who had been invited a high school reunion.

We flew to New York, rented an SUV and drove to Greenwich, which is where this picture was taken shortly after our arrival.

Forest has been organising party conference events since 2005.

This year we hosted a reception at the Conservative conference in Manchester. Venue was the rooftop lounge and terrace at Great John Street Hotel which we also used in 2015.

Almost 200 guests attended the event including Clare Ambrosino (chairman, Parliament Street, above) and Nigel Evans MP who gave a barnstorming speech on a range of issues including (eventually!) smoking.

They said it couldn't be done but we did it.

In November Forest hosted a dinner for 60 guests in Dublin. It was called the Farewell to Freedom Dinner and it was supported by a several groups including the Hibernia Forum, an economic think tank, and Students for Liberty Ireland.

It also featured the launch of the Golden Nanny Awards. Unexpectedly one of our nominees (Senator Catherine Noone) collected her 'Nanny-in-Chief' award in person and thereby stole the show. Her 'achievement' was reported by The Times (Ireland), Irish Times, Irish Independent and Irish Daily Star.

Finally, I can't publish a review of the year (even in pictures) without adding that in 2017 Forest was mentioned over 2,000 times by the print, online and broadcast media.

We were quoted in a wide range of smoking-related reports and occasionally generated our own stories as a result of polls and other research.

We were quoted by, among others, The Times, Telegraph, Guardian, Mail, Sun, Mirror, Star and Independent.

As well as the usual news programmes (national and local) we were also invited appear on TV programmes such as The Big Questions (BBC1), Sunday Morning Live (BBC1) and Good Morning Britain (ITV).

It's for others to decide Forest's value in a rapidly-changing environment but I'll leave you with this comment by Taco Tuinstra, editor of the global trade magazine Tobacco Reporter, in the current edition:

At a time when even tobacco companies seem to be turning against cigarettes, few people are willing to speak up for smokers. Fortunately there are organisations, such as Forest in the UK, who continue to stand up on their behalf, even when it is increasingly unpopular to do so.

The example set by Forest is inspiring. So, as we move into 2018, let’s spare a thought for beleaguered smokers everywhere. Not only do they deserve respect as fellow citizens; they also continue to generate the bulk of our business.

To read the full editorial, plus an interview with me, 'Rebel With A Cause' (!), click here.

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Reader Comments (8)

Keep up the good work.

Sunday, December 31, 2017 at 16:28 | Unregistered Commenterpat nurse

Many thanks for all your hard work on our behalf in 2017 Simon.
Best wishes for 2018 !

Sunday, December 31, 2017 at 16:34 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy Goodacre

Many thanks Simon for keeping the talk going for all pro smokers.
Happy New Year to you and all the team. Bless

Sunday, December 31, 2017 at 18:38 | Unregistered Commenterann

Many thanks for your advocacy and May 2018 light the lamp of freedom with burning cigars and cigarettes.

Sunday, December 31, 2017 at 20:59 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

Thanks for all your hard work in 2017, Simon. Keep up the good work! Happy New Year to you and all at Forest. Long may the Forest flag of freedom fly!

Monday, January 1, 2018 at 3:07 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

Happy new year Simon, thanks for speaking up for us smokers.

Monday, January 1, 2018 at 16:55 | Unregistered CommenterGary Rogers

Hope you have a happy and healthy 2018, Simon.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018 at 13:31 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Bagley

Happy New Year, and many thanks to you and your team, Simon
Just spent Christmas in Vietnam where I was able to enjoy many cigarettes in a wonderful environment with very happy, social people - both local and expat. Reminded me of what we used to have.
(PS I don't even drink now. So why bother going out in the UK just to be snubbed)

Tuesday, January 2, 2018 at 13:44 | Unregistered CommenterStu1

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