Police and criminals
Wednesday, May 31, 2017 at 8:21
Simon Clark

The official launch of Forest EU in Brussels tonight has ruffled a few feathers already.

Commenting on Twitter, one Belgian politician described us as "Les criminels des lobbys du tabac".

Another (a "chief family officer" and "visiting lecturer") added, "It isn't the cigarette that kills but the man who manipulates #NRAstyle."

Others have highlighted the fact that Forest is supported by tobacco companies, as if this is a great revelation.

They ignore the fact that – unlike the tobacco control lobby – we couldn't be more transparent about our funding. The Forest EU website even gives the exact figure our Brussels operation is getting from JTI in 2017.

Meanwhile Politico EU reports that:

Smokers’ campaigners sponsored by Japan Tobacco International will throw a pro-smoking party tonight in the European neighborhood at Staff 42. A live jazz band has been booked for the 200 expected guests and smoking will be allowed on the terrace.

Ignoring the "pro-smoking" bon mot, I've no idea where they got the 200 figure from. Not from us.

Capacity at Staff 42 is 120 (the number of people who have registered, coincidentally) but if we get 70 or 80 (including one or two journalists) I'll be very happy.

Btw, speakers tonight include Dick Engel, a former policeman from the Netherlands.

I first met Dick in 1999. We were at a conference in Seville and he was representing the Dutch smokers' rights group Stichting Rokersbelangen.

Forest and Stichting Rokersbelangen were members of a loose coalition of groups called Smokepeace that was founded in 1992 and disbanded in 2001 when funding stopped.

Only three of the twelve or so groups that were affiliated to Smokepeace still exist – Forest, Stichting Rokersbelangen and Club Fumadores in Spain.

While Dick is an ex-policeman (vice squad, to be exact) tonight's guests also include a current police detective (and smoker) who works in Brussels.

The question is, by fraternising with Forest, does that make them criminals too?

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