Spreading the word
Wednesday, July 12, 2017 at 8:02
Simon Clark

Last night's event in Brussels went pretty well, I think.

A full house enjoyed a free burger, two complimentary bottles of beer and a short talk by Dr Neil McKeganey, director of the Centre for Substance Use Resesrch and lead author of The Pleasure of Smoking: The Views of Confirmed Smokers.

Venue was Be Burger, a restaurant close to the European Parliament. We booked the enclosed space (with sliding roof) to the rear of the restaurant, plus the covered smoking area, and invited guests to eat, drink and listen to what Neil had to say.

Credit to Neil, by the way. This is the second Forest event he's addressed this year (the first time was in London in February) because he's as keen as we are to spread the word about his research.

An extremely engaging speaker, he has the ability to convey a serious message in non-highbrow terms and with a sense of humour if not mischief.

The format (drink, supper, speaker) was an experiment. It wasn't perfect but it seemed to work. With a little polishing we may have stumbled upon something that could be rolled out elsewhere.

Inevitably there were some notable absentees because Neil's report hasn't been universally welcomed. "Smoking? A pleasure? You can't say that!"

Frankly I don't give a damn. Forest has never disputed the potential health risks but smoking does give pleasure to a substantial number of people and it shouldn't be taboo to say so.

I'll go further. To deny that smoking is enjoyable (even to some who consider it addictive) suggests a wilfully perverse head-in-the-sand mentality.

At a time when billions are being spent developing safer nicotine products you would think that research that also sought answers to the question 'Why aren't more smokers switching to vaping?' would be compulsory reading.

But no. The truth – that an overwhelming majority of confirmed smokers enjoy their habit and don't want to switch to a less harmful nicotine product – is too much for the prohibitionists to acknowledge.

Instead they resort to almost every conceivable tactic to ignore or bury the evidence. (The stories I could tell you!)

Suffice to say I am immensely proud that Forest funded Neil McKeganey's research and I will do everything I can to ensure it reaches a wide audience.

Next stop - New York!

Update: Just arrived in Ireland where I am visiting another outpost of the Forest empire.

The Burning Issues dinner we organised in Dublin last month (guest speaker: Claire Fox) was a huge success and we're hoping to build on it later in the year.

Details in due course. Watch this space.

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