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Forest condemned by Cambridge Students’ Union Ethical Affairs Officer!

This should be fun.

Next month I’ve been invited to address members of the Cambridge University Conservative Association (CUCA) on the subject of Forest and the nanny state.

Venue is a whisky and cigar shop founded in 1874 so it should be a good evening but others are less enthused. In fact, the Students’ Union Ethical Affairs Officer (!) has released a poorly written statement denouncing the event:

"Whilst there is nothing we can do to prevent this association between CUCA and Forest, we are surprised to hear of its existence. The arguments for tobacco control are coherent, powerful and backed up intensely by research, encouraging CUSU to be in support of it. For the environmental, social and moral good of the society our students live in, we condemn Forest's work, making us thoroughly disappointed by this event.”

The student newspaper Varsity asked me to respond to that and some questions of their own including 'What are the motivations behind the meeting with Cambridge students?' and 'What message would you like members of CUCA to take away with them from the event?'

I responded with this statement:

"Forest neither promotes nor encourages smoking. We support freedom of choice and personal responsibility, which is quite different.

"Tobacco is a legal product enjoyed by millions of adults. The health risks are well-known and we support all reasonable measures designed to discourage children from smoking.

"Once you're 18 however you are an adult and old enough to make informed choices about all sorts of things, including smoking and drinking.

"The idea that students should join a moral crusade against smoking is a chilling reminder of the evangelical temperance movement of the early 20th century. Do we really want to go back to that?

"I was delighted to accept CUCA's invitation to talk about Forest's work, not least because it sounds like an enjoyable evening. Smoking and the nanny state are issues that divide opinion so I'm looking forward to a lively discussion.

"Forest is non-party political so if the Labour Club or Liberal Association want to invite us to address them too they only have to ask!

"Our message to members of CUCA and other political groups is simple. Health is important but so too are pleasure, freedom of choice and personal responsibility. Respect other people's choices, even if you don't agree with them.

"Most important, join Forest in our fight against the intolerant, narrow-minded puritans who want to stifle debate on this and other lifestyle issues. You're at Cambridge, for God's sake. Listen to all sides of the argument and make up your own minds."

See CUCA set to host tobacco-funded lobbyists (Varsity).

Update: CUCA has added this statement to their Facebook page:

CUCA’s event with Forest is not about promoting smoking or calling for a change to tobacco laws. Indeed, some of our committee members are actually in favour of proactive tobacco regulations. Rather, it is about faciliating the exchange of ideas and allowing our members the opportunity to engage productively with differing viewpoints and come to their own conclusions. If CUSU’s implication was that we should not host Forest, then we do not hesitate to say that this is counter to our tradition of open debate.

Well said.

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Reader Comments (5)

It's a university, Captain; but not as we know it.

Friday, January 26, 2018 at 11:59 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Bagley

Chillingly Orwellian.

Friday, January 26, 2018 at 18:29 | Unregistered Commentergray cooper

Too bad the Students Union Ethical Affairs Officer ignores the ethic breaches found in tobacco control. Their ethical breeches range from relentless propaganda, manipulating facts and studies by ignoring data that reaches other conclusions and actively suppressing dissent. Let's not forget that many public health organs actively seek funding from Pharma interests creating severe conflicts of interests. This is not to mention actively persecuting those that make free choices.

Friday, January 26, 2018 at 18:55 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

Quite timely, in view of today’s “demands” from yet another charidee (possibly, like ASH, partly funded by the taxpayer? Not sure – but it might be worth checking) for warning labels and other useful (i.e. anti-drinking) “information” to be applied to alcoholic beverages. A nice, recent example of the slippery slope (you know, the one that the anti-smokers said there was no danger of) very obviously sliding in precisely the direction that people like yourself have been pointing out from the get-go of the anti-smoking movement that it would. If they can do it to smokers and tobacco and get away with it (which they have), they can do it to anyone else they choose. All those good little non-smoking students objecting to your attendance should ponder on that next time they order a takeaway pizza and sit down to enjoy it with some friends and a few beers ...

Saturday, January 27, 2018 at 2:49 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

This is the generation groomed to hate and fear smoking and smokers. I wouldn't expect anything other from those taught what to think and not how to think.

Saturday, January 27, 2018 at 13:04 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

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