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Friday
Mar032017

Groupthink and the bully state

It was Ranald MacDonald, MD of Boisdale Restaurants, who coined the phrase 'the bully state' in relation to lifestyle freedoms.

I remember the moment. It was shortly after breakfast, in September 2006. Ranald, Claire Fox and I were sitting outside our hotel in Bournemouth discussing the events of the previous night.

'Politics and Prohibition', a drinks reception organised by Forest, had been a huge success, one of the best events we've done, attracting 400 guests to the main ballroom at the Royal Bath Hotel.

It was the last occasion people were allowed to smoke indoors at a party conference event so we wanted to do something special.

Claire was one of the speakers, struggling to make herself heard above the noise. When Ranald took to the stage he immediately lit a large cigar and began his 'speech'.

Within half a minute actors dressed as policemen had pushed their way through the crowd, climbed on stage and 'arrested' him for "inciting people to enjoy themselves".

The rest of the performance (which included a song and dance routine) was a blur but it finished with hundreds of people singing 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life' as Ranald was led away in handcuffs.

The following morning, as we nursed a variety of hangovers, it felt a bit surreal. Inevitably the subject of the nanny state came up and after a few minutes Ranald declared, "It's not a nanny state, it's a bully state."

Three years later, in an attempt to embed the term in the public mind, we published a book – by former Forest spokesman Brian Monteith – about the mounting attacks on individual freedoms and called it The Bully State.

Today, as next week's Budget will demonstrate, the bully state is alive and well, although tobacco duty is only one example of how the state is trying to force smokers to quit.

The policy of increasing taxation is being driven by well paid politicians and tobacco control campaigners whose lack of empathy for those who enjoy smoking and are less well off never ceases to amaze.

However we're not alone in feeling uncomfortable about this ongoing assault on the poor. Even members of the public health community are beginning to express concern.

Lisa McNally is a bubbly and committed public health consultant who has always struck me as a fundamentally decent and engaging person. On Wednesday however she made a BIG mistake. She upset ASH.

Describing the thrust of ASH's latest briefing document – 'Ditch or Switch: Give Yourself a Pay Rise!' – as 'insensitive', she tweeted, 'I'm worried this message lacks empathy with the severe deprivation that so many ppl are experiencing.'

'Public Health,' she added, 'must not be about the affluent telling the poor how to improve their lot.'

According to a further tweet this led to an 'angry call' from Deborah Arnott, CEO of ASH, who allegedly told McNally her comment was 'unhelpful'.

We'll never know exactly what was said between the two, or the tone, but following Arnott's call McNally tweeted that she felt 'a bit' intimidated.

And that's the problem with tobacco control. If you don't embrace their groupthink philosophy you get told off or worse.

But the tweets I found even more interesting were posted by Tom Pruen, chief scientific officer for the Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association (ECITA).

Responding to McNally's 'angry call' tweet, vaping advocate Pruen wrote, 'I suggest doing this through a medium other than twitter. Baiting the powerful is only fun when its BT.'

Translation: it's OK to bait the tobacco industry but not tobacco control, especially Deborah Arnott and ASH.

When McNally replied that she was 'not having fun ... I am fairly furious! I won't stay quiet ...' Pruen warned:

'Fair enough. It's obvious that you're right, but rocking the boat still has its risks.'

Translation: don't upset tobacco control – it won't end well!

A tweet or two later he added, 'It's certainly the case that making enemies more powerful than you is rarely career enhancing' to which McNally replied, 'Are you saying that criticising ASH may harm my career?'

Here are some of those tweets in full. You couldn't make them up.

H/T to Fergus Mason for bringing them to my attention.

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Reader Comments (5)

In the interest of context, my part in this exchange should really include this tweet...
https://twitter.com/crossbow2112/status/836888958734852096

Although, I must say that I do find it amusing that you've presented this as some sort of surprise. I'd have thought it tallied quite well with your own views, but maybe that is just more cynicism on my part?

Friday, March 3, 2017 at 15:03 | Unregistered CommenterTom Pruen

Its very concerning that nasty Nanny State people like Arnott et al with their jobs funded by us are still trying to bully people into giving up smoking. They have all theirs bans, so called plain packaging etc, the ear of cowardly politicians, prohibitive taxation etc. Its never enough is it ! Time to say enough is enough, we will take no more bullying from these extremely repulsive zealots.

Friday, March 3, 2017 at 16:26 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy Goodacre

'Public Health,' she added, 'must not be about the affluent telling the poor how to improve their lot.'

That is exactly what they do.

And vapers like Pruen are not friends. they are just another arm of tobacco control trying to force smokers to switch.

How many smokers' careers have been ruined because they won't quit?

Maybe Lisa should ask that.

Thanks to Public Health and its supporters, it is quite acceptable to discriminate against smoker employees today and that also means sacking them just because they are smokers even if they don't smoke at work.

Friday, March 3, 2017 at 16:30 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

"Baiting the powerful is only fun when its BT"

Maybe so but what really matters to them is not baiting but bullying. And bullying the powerful is not really an option so they get their kicks from bullying the weak. The weaker the better.

Contrast the tobacco companies whose shares are the stars of the stock market, with poor people whose communities and families have been destroyed by these bullies and who have been forced to buy their smokes on the black market.

It has often been said that the measure of a civilisation is in the way the weakest are treated. And the weakest are those who are unwell. Think Hospital bans and worst of all, full on Prohibition for psychiatric patients.

The multi billion dollar anti-smoking, smoker hating, tobacco control industry has done incalculable harm and must be shut down as soon as possible.

Friday, March 3, 2017 at 16:58 | Unregistered CommenterTony

Ms. McNally might want to look into the history of Enstrom and Kabat's interaction with Tobacco Control to see what happens when you dare to go against the party line.

Fanatics don't take questioning lightly.

- MJM

Saturday, March 4, 2017 at 10:42 | Unregistered CommenterMichael J McFadden

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