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Guest post: John Mallon on tour

John Mallon (above), Forest's spokesman in Ireland, has just finished his latest media tour.

Inspired by the The Pleasure of Smoking: The Views of Confirmed Smokers, the study by the Centre for Substance Use Research, the theme was 'Smoking: Pleasure or Addiction?'.

Sometimes of course events take over and an interview swings in a different direction. That was certainly the case when John appeared on Ireland AM (TV3), Ireland's version of Good Morning Britain, but more often than not we were able to set the agenda.

Local radio is very important in Ireland, hence these tours which John has been doing since 2011. Here's the full list of interviews he conducted between 3-17 April followed by a guest post on the subject:

Monday 3rd April - Galway
Galway Bay FM - Keith Finnegan Show
Galway Independent

Tuesday 4th April - Kerry/Tralee
Radio Kerry - Talk About with Deirdre Walsh
The Kerryman newspaper

Friday 7th April - Waterford
WLR FM - Deise Today
Beat 102/103FM - news report
Tipp FM - telephone interview

Monday 10th April - Athlone/Tullamore/Naas
Midlands 103FM - Midlands Today

Tuesday 11th April - Dublin
TV3 - Ireland AM
Newstalk - Pat Kenny Show

Thursday 13th April - Kilkenny
KCLR Radio

Tuesday 17th April - Cork
Red FM - Neil Prendeville Show


Forest Ireland remains the sole voice of protest for smokers in Ireland so it is incumbent on us to make that voice heard as much as we can. For that reason we try to mount an annual tour of radio stations around the country.

The theme this time was 'Smoking: Pleasure or Addiction?' which was inspired by 'The Pleasure of Smoking: The Views of Confirmed Smokers', an excellent study conducted by the Centre for Substance Use Research in Glasgow and funded by Forest UK.

The findings were sufficiently interesting to justify a tour based on that report alone. After all, tobacco control campaigners love to argue that smokers hate smoking and 70 per cent want to quit. Well, 95 per cent of the 600 smokers who took part in the CSUR study said they smoked for "pleasure" and 77 per cent had no intention of quitting. That alone has profound implications for the Irish Government's target of a "tobacco-free Ireland" within ten years.

This year we began in Galway before heading for Limerick. Sadly Limerick couldn't accommodate us on the day so we continued to Tralee and then Waterford before moving on to Tullamore, Dublin, Kilkenny and, finally, my home city of Cork.

I appeared live on the Keith Finnegan Show on Galway FM and was also interviewed by the Galway Independent. I found Keith very down to earth and practical as well as welcoming. Deirdre on Radio Kerry is always a pleasure to speak to. She makes her guests relax and feel at home. Tadgh at the Kerryman newspaper was intense and serious and took studious notes. Eamon Keane at WLR in Waterford asked some hard questions but was fair and disinclined to judge the issue with observations of his own.

It's always refreshing to be interviewed by an impartial presenter. Speaking of which, Fran Curry on Tipp FM in Clonmel added humour to the debate as he and I speculated on which of us would end up paying the hospital bills of the other!

Will Faulkner on Midlands FM in Tullamore is an insightful guy who had the awareness that at least a quarter of his listeners were smokers and he was open-minded as a result.

Dublin began with an interview on Ireland AM TV3 at some ungodly hour of the morning. Joining me on the couch was none other than Dr Patrick Doorley, chairman of ASH Ireland. Although I've crossed swords with him over the phone I've never have the pleasure of shaking his hand, something I put to rights in the make-up room.

"Dr Doorley, I believe," said I, marching over with my hand out. This miserable looking suit is the chief voice of tobacco control in Ireland today.

I knew the chief presenter, Mark Cagney, from years ago and he gave me a huge welcome. When we went on set however it became clear that Mark's side-kick, Sinéad Desmond, would be doing the interview.

The previous day the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) had announced to a breathless nation that there are now more ex-smokers than smokers in Ireland. She started with me and Forest's reaction to the HSE figures. Then Doorley had his say and trotted out the usual spin.

Then it was back to me which gave me the chance to highlight aspects of The Pleasure of Smoking report. Doorley got the last word, rubbishing the study as lightweight and contrived. Interestingly I offered him the hard copy I had with me but he said he had already studied it.

A tetchy interview with LMFM Louth followed. Once again I was debating with the good doctor. At one point while Doorley was making a point, he went into a prolonged coughing fit, something the listener might have expected from me instead. Naturally I had the good manners to remain silent.

After that I had to leg it to Newstalk, Ireland's leading independent national radio station, for an appointment on The Pat Kenny Show. Of all the presenters I have encountered over the years Pat is the most polished and professional of all. He has an analytical brain and is one of those people who makes you the absolute centre of his attention while you are with him. If you're honest and open with him Pat will guide you along but wo' betide the bullshitter. He has no patience with that.

The one and only time I was previously invited on KCLR in Kilkenny I was bullied and almost hounded out of the studio by a very, ahem, unsympathetic presenter. She's now retired and the new man in the chair is John Masterson.

John and I had ten minutes shooting the breeze before we went on air. During this intermission he told me that although he didn't smoke himself he had no objection to others enjoying it. Thus lulled into a false sense of security I was unprepared for his combative style. He gave me a hard time but did finish by observing that, "Well, I don't know how you do it, John, but I'm looking at a fine big healthy man opposite me." You never know what to expect, do you?

Though I wanted to keep The Pleasure of Smoking study as the focal point of each interview other issues inevitably came up including plain packaging, social exclusion and e-cigarettes. (As someone who smokes and vapes I have first hand experience of the merits of both.)

All in all I didn't sense quite the same hostility towards smokers that I have experienced in the past. Of course it's harder than ever to get a smoking room in a hotel, although I did manage it. But I used an e-cig where cigarettes were unwelcome and it occurred to me more than once that it's not illegal to puff on one in a studio either.

If I'd done that in Kilkenny I bet John Masterson would have required smelling salts to come round.

PS. My favourite pint of a week is on Sunday, 12.30 to 2.30pm, in my local. I usually meet up with a guy called Noel, a smoker and a big shot in the insurance industry. Noel and his mates love to hear me on radio and he told me last week that he'd heard me on a replay of Pat Kenny. He'd also heard bits of it on trailers promoting Newstalk.

Even better, Noel was listening to Pat Kenny interview some environmental public health guy and Kenny began a question with, "I had John Mallon from Forest in with me earlier and he said ..." Noel couldn't remember anything else no matter how much I pressed him but it's nice to have one of the nation's leading broadcasters quoting us, is it not?

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Reader Comments (5)

Well done John. You do a great job in a hostile environment, and I'm sure you make people think twice when yet another tranche of propaganda from Tobacco Control hits the MSM.

It's a sorry situation when there's only you in Ireland and Simon in UK who gets any airtime to try to disabuse the public of the lies and exaggerations from the serried ranks of well funded organisations who are calling the shots and directing the narrative right now. And they like to portray themselves as the plucky David up against the Goliath of Big Tobacco! Ha! Nothing could be further from the truth.

Friday, April 21, 2017 at 16:07 | Unregistered Commenternisakiman

The hostile reception to an alternative view is an indication of tobacco control's monopoly on the media and the impact of their relentless propaganda. This hostile environment makes the contribution to free thought by Mr Mallon especially important.

It is essential that the relentless lies put forward by tobacco control be countered at every avenue. I hope this recent campaign will be reinforced with future initiatives and supported by allied efforts. Forest UK, Forest Ireland, and Forest EU must support each other to counter tobacco control's suppression of dissent.

Keep up the good work Mr Mallon. Same to you Simon!

Friday, April 21, 2017 at 21:03 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

Good to read from John's report that it seems that, at least in part, some of media may be thawing a little bit towards smokers and less inclined to be seen as absolute adherents of the nannies in Public Health. Maybe, Public Health have put too many other indulgencies (drinking, sugar, meat etc) into the crosshairs rather too soon and the oft-quoted (and equally often vehemently-denied) "slippery slope" is now starting to be seen as a rather nasty inevitable consequence of their supporting Tobacco Control so enthusiastically over the years.

If they'd have been sensible, of course, Public Health would have put the muzzle back on the Rottweilers of Tobacco Control and done absolutely nothing more in respect of smoking, and nothing even remotely resembling what they've already done to smoking to any other "vice" for at least another 10 years, which would have been enough time for a new generation of journalists and broadcasters not to make the connection.

As it is, they've been too impatient, and they've started down said "slope" well within journalistic memory. Which is a pretty bad move on their behalf, but good news for the rest of us, because increasing numbers of people are now seeing that what we all said would happen - "thin end of the wedge" and all that - was absolutely spot on.

Sunday, April 23, 2017 at 1:59 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

Thanks for your comments folks.

Nisakiman: Somebody has to front for smokers but the sentiments Forest vocalizes are pretty much a cross section of views we hear from supporters, of which there may be one million in Ireland.

Vinny: Forest funding amounts to about one-tenth of what one single anti-tobacco group get each year and there are about ten of them against us. As a result, our media gets a lot of advertising revenue from anti-tobacco in many shapes and forms, leaving the media generally ill-disposed to Forest.

Misty: In my experience journalistic memory doesn't stretch back further than last week. Many of them are amazed when I remind them that our Police Force refused to enforce the ban in the workplace back in 2004 and that is still the case today. Many hotel receptionists are similarly amazed when I explain that as part of the ban, hotels were exempted to permit smoking in their bedrooms if they so wished. Most receptionists presumed it is against the law.

Sunday, April 23, 2017 at 10:58 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Mallon

"Most receptionists presumed it is against the law."-JM

I am constantly amazed by the number of people here in the UK who assume all the Anti-smoker measures of the last decade or so were introduced by, nay forced cruelly upon us freedom loving Brits, by the Evil Empire Of The EU.
Some get quite upset when I point out that all the Anti-smoker laws were passed into law by our own sovereign independent Parliament/law makers, nothing to do with Brussels making our laws for us, and that some other EU countries are far more relaxed still. I believe Germany only banned bill board advertising of cigarettes last year or so?

People see the panzer steel blast doors guarding our children from the merest glimpse (and thereafter life long addiction) of a plain pack and think- not surprisingly-such idiocy can only have been forced upon us by the sort of people who worry about the curvature of bananas.

Monday, April 24, 2017 at 14:49 | Unregistered CommenterThe Blocked Dwarf

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