As readers know we hosted the first and possibly last Forest Balloon Debate last week.
The subject was 'The Most Pleasurable Nicotine Delivery Device in the World' and our contestants were Andrew Stewart (advocating the pipe), Chris Snowdon (snus), Ranald MacDonald (cigar), Mark Littlewood (heated tobacco), Angela Harbutt (cigarette) and Judy Gibson (e-cigarette).
See the video above or click here to watch it on YouTube.
Ranald, Chris, Mark and Angela are familiar to regular readers of this blog. Andy Stewart has smoked a pipe for 35 years (he began at 17) and is a member of the Pipe Club of London. Judy Gibson, a former smoker who now vapes, is steering coordinator of the International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organisations.
Each contestant was given three minutes to speak and those contributions are all featured in the video.
We didn't film the short Q&A that followed or the final round in which the three speakers with the most votes were given a further 60 seconds to plead their case. However as I reported last week the finalists were Chris Snowdon (snus), Ranald MacDonald (cigar) and Angela Harbutt (cigarette).
In the second and final audience vote Angela was a clear winner, attracting more than two-thirds of the vote from an audience of about 60 people.
Give or take a few ad libs (and an unintended but very funny malaprop) here's her winning speech:
Tonight we are arguing for 'The Most Pleasurable Nicotine Device in the World'.
Not the safest, cleanest, funkiest; not the cheapest – the most pleasurable. And on that measure there can surely be only one nicotine device in this race ... the elegant, slim, beautiful cigarette. No wonder several trillion cigarettes are smoked every year.
Let me take this away from nicotine just for a moment. As a driver, if I cared about safety I may make the case for a Volvo. If I was worried about the cleanest car I might choose a Prius.
But when it comes to pure unadulterated pleasure it's my Porsche that wins - the sumptuous leather, the thrill of the mid-engine thrum, the raw acceleration power under the pedal.
And when I'm out on the town on a Friday night, or even just putting my feet up at home, it's not the zero alcohol beer or the low calorie organic beetroot juice that gets my pulse racing. It's the pure effervescent joy of champagne that makes my heart sing.
And so with nicotine. I have tried all of the devices competing for your affection tonight - the safer alternatives on one side, and the niche products on the other.
Each has its merits and ultimately it's personal choice that should be king. But as we are in a balloon debate let me tell you why, for me, the cigarette is the real deal.
The snick of the lighter, the touch of the soft yielding filter on your lips, the crackle of the first inhale, the taste of the tobacco on your tongue and, joy of all joys, the immediate kick of the nicotine to the brain.
These are pleasures the imitators have yet to replicate. I'm sure they will one day but until they do please vote for the cigarette this evening.
Andrew Allison, who runs The Freedom Association's Freedom to Vape campaign, had his own take on why Angela (and combustible cigarettes) won:
In the end, cigarettes won. I suppose this was always going to happen at a Forest event, although cigars came a close second. However, the case for cigarettes was helped enormously by Angela Harbutt who gave the most seductive pitch you could ever want to hear that left most of the non-smokers in the audience wanting to light up!
See Fun in the Pleasure Zone (Freedom to Vape).
PS. I know I've spoiled the suspense by revealing the winner but do watch the video. It's very entertaining.
Update: Dick Puddlecote has posted a review of the balloon debate here. Worth reading, especially if you don't have time to watch the video.