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2018 in brief

And so another year is over.

Some predicted 2018 would be rather quiet on the smoking front. I begged to differ, and I think I was right.

The threat of further legislation may have receded in England (for the moment) but here are just some of the many smoking-related stories or initiatives Forest has responded to in England, Wales and Scotland in the last twelve months:

1. Warning that smoking on TV and in films is encouraging child take-up
2. Wales to ban smoking outside hospitals and schools in UK first
3. Scotland's new tobacco control plan tightens the net on smokers
4. Smokers could be banned from lighting up at bus and tram stops
5. Public Health England chief vows to get "ruthless" on smoking
6. Calls to ban smoking in outside dining areas
7. Cost of cigs soar to £10 a pack as Chancellor hikes tobacco tax
8. Hospital smokers shamed via loudspeaker
9. Plan to stamp out smoking in social housing
10. Smoking banned in Scottish prisons
11. City Council bans staff from smoking or vaping during work
12. Welsh town centre smoking ban proposed

Making smoking history

In 2018 Manchester launched a 'Making Smoking History' campaign that seeks to reduce the number of smokers in the city by a third in just three years. Similar 'smoke free' initiatives are being rolled out in Sheffield and Barnsley.

Meanwhile Dundee City Council became the first council in Britain to ban employees from smoking (and vaping) at any time during the working day, including lunch breaks, even if they are off council premises.

2018 was also the year Philip Morris International confirmed its anti-smoking agenda and Philip Morris UK launched a £2 million quit smoking campaign, the absurdly named 'Hold My Light'.

"There is no reason for anyone to smoke any more," MD Peter Nixon told the Independent in August.

According to the Mail on Sunday:

Philip Morris has spent over 15 years researching and developing smoke-free alternatives. The firm's efforts have escalated recently with a campaign launched over new year plastering full-page adverts in national newspapers promoting its 'ambition to stop selling cigarettes in the UK.'

Read my thoughts here (PMI's 2030 vision) and here (PMI: charmingly predictable).

Prison smoking bans

I've never believed that prisoners have a right to smoke in jail so why does it matter that smoking is now banned in every prison in England and Scotland?

It matters because when there are far bigger issues to address in Britain's jails, including reports of increasing violence and self harm among inmates, government and prison officers have chosen to focus on smoking, a legitimate habit, banning it not only in prison cells but also in every outside area including exercise yards.

To put this in perspective, prisons were exempt from the original smoking ban because they were considered a place of residence, like hotel bedrooms. Now that exemption has been swept away it will make it easier for the smoking ban to be extended to more residential accommodation including social housing.

The sight of prisons minister Rory Stewart, a man I generally admire, tweeting that he was "Delighted to confirm that we have just achieved one hundred per cent smoke free prisons", adding that “We were ahead of the Scots and we’ve done it!", has got to be one of the most depressing moments of the year.

Equally depressing was the sight of primary children being recruited to fight the war on smoking. According to one report:

Children from a primary school in Barnsley are urging parents to think twice before smoking around school grounds.

The 'peaceful protest' by pupils at Laithes Primary School is part of the 'Breathe 2025' campaign - and the council's vision to make the borough a smoke-free zone.

A clip subsequently appeared on Twitter in which a woman with a megaphone was seen coaching the children to chant "Keep our schools smoke free". Appalling.

Hospital smoking bans

The smoking bans introduced in Scotland in 2006, and England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2007, were designed primarily to protect bar workers from the alleged impact of 'passive' smoking, or so we were told.

A decade or so later smoking is increasingly being targeted with 'voluntary' bans in outdoor public places, despite the fact that there is no evidence that lighting up outside presents any risk to non-smokers.

Examples of this include hospital grounds. A hospital in Wakefield has gone even further and is trying to 'shame' smokers who light up outside the entrance. According to one report:

Staff, visitors and patients can activate the pre-recorded messages, which are then played through a speaker outside Pinderfields Hospital.

"Hi, I'm Georgia, would you mind not smoking outside? Someone's mummy or daddy could be having their treatment today," says one of the announcements.

Public Health England wants all NHS trusts to be 'smoke free' in 2019 so we're monitoring the situation very carefully. Watch this space.

Observation of the year

Talking of hospital smoking bans, this is what Observer columnist Barbara Ellen had to say about the Welsh Government’s plan to make it a criminal offence to smoke on hospital grounds:

While Britain still has smokers, is a designated smoking area outside a hospital such a terrible thing? It’s even arguable that smokers deserve a tiny break. The vast majority of smokers have complied with new laws with barely a peep – they’ve done as instructed, regarding smoking in public areas, trudging outside, to dolefully puff away in all weathers. The poor sods.

Now it seems they won’t even be able to smoke in a designated spot outside hospitals – the most stressful places on Earth. Evoking human rights may be stretching it (just a tad), but there’s no need for all compassion to go up in smoke.

See 'For pity’s sake, let people have a puff outside hospitals'.

Smoking on TV and in films

Largely unnoticed, the tobacco control lobby continued its quest for further restrictions on smoking on TV and in films:

In a strongly worded submission to the Select Committee on Science and Technology ASH and the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol studies warn that smoking on TV and in films encourages children to take up smoking. They point out that children in the UK are still exposed to significant amounts of smoking on screen and that it is the amount of smoking that is important, not whether it is glamourised or not.

Expect further lobbying in 2019.

Most bizarre anti-smoking proposal

It was reported in March that:

Smoking while walking would be banned in New York City if a new bill is passed into law. Councilman Peter Koo is introducing the legislation on Wednesday, in what he says is an attempt to keep secondhand smoke away from pedestrians.

The threat appears to have receded but keep an eye on the States, New York and California in particular, because that's where many of the craziest anti-smoking ideas are born and incubated.

Reasons to be cheerful

Thankfully it's not been all gloom and doom. The coalition government in Austria, for example, deserves an award for not implementing legislation that would have resulted in smoking being banned in all indoor public places.

As a result Austria remains one of the few countries in Europe where you can still eat, drink and smoke indoors in some cafes, bars and restaurants. I emphasise the word 'some' because it's not difficult to find no-smoking cafes and restaurants, so everyone has a choice (which is how it should be).

Meanwhile, in Jersey, following submissions by Forest and other groups, the St Helier Roads Committee rejected a proposal to ban smoking in al fresco dining areas.

Media, reports, events

In the UK Forest was quoted or featured over 1500 times online, in print or in broadcast interviews and news reports.

We were quoted by, among others, The Times, Telegraph, Guardian, Mail, Sun, Mirror, Star and Independent.

Among many broadcast interviews I spoke to Jeremy Vine (Radio 2), Nicky Campbell, Stephen Nolan and Nihal Arthanayake (all Five Live), and Matthew Wright (TalkRadio).

See 'Some thoughts on smoking, vaping and individual freedom'.

In Scotland the guests of honour at a Forest dinner to mark the publication of our report, 'The McNanny State', were the author, former MSP Brian Monteith, and writer and journalist Allan Massie who wrote the foreword.

In Birmingham we hosted two events at the Conservative party conference – a balloon debate ('The most pleasurable nicotine delivery device in the world') and a panel discussion ('Should smoking be consigned to history?').

The latter was chaired by Claire Fox (Academy of Ideas) and featured me, investment analyst Rae Maile, Chris Snowdon (IEA) and Mark MacGregor (Philip Morris UK).

Meanwhile a poll conducted by Populus for Forest in Scotland in June found that 'Most Scots think government policies to reduce smoking rates have gone too far or far enough'.

I could go on (I haven't even mentioned Forest Ireland or Forest EU) but I want to keep this brief so ...

Most read posts on this blog in 2018

How the UK is driving the global tobacco control industry
The enemy of my enemy is not my friend
Doctor Christian is no VApril fool
Hubris before a fall
VApril and the UKVIA Forum 2018
The consequences of a ban on smoking in outdoor dining areas
Plain packaging and all that jazz
Forest EU, one year on
Government versus the people
Time for a national debate about Scotland's nanny state
Farewell, Sunday Politics
Filth, squalor and violence but at least smoking is banned
Vaping and the several faces of ASH
Message to Keep Britain Tidy
Thoughts on smoking, vaping and middle-class snobbery
Iain Dale's diary
Philip Morris: why 'smoke-free' is the sensible way to go
Philip Morris responds to accusations of “staggering hypocrisy”
ASH: Insulting our intelligence
Golden Nanny Awards 2018

Last but not least

We were sad to report the death in March of Trevor Baylis, award-winning inventor, former Pipesmoker of the Year and a regular attendee at Forest events for more than a decade.

Trevor died aged 80 but he won't be forgotten. Here he is at the launch of the Save Our Pubs & Clubs campaign in 2009.

Another Forest supporter who passed away was Michael Peel – who I wrote about here. RIP.

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Reader Comments (2)

Keep up the good work. Thank you for all you do.

Monday, December 31, 2018 at 17:24 | Unregistered Commenterpat nurse

The antismoker persecution has little to do with health and is no more than publicly funded persecution. The FCTC and its parallel initiatives are corrupt and rely on exaggeration and suppress dissent and political speech.

A majority of the public actually supports separate smoking facilities indoor and out: this finding is never mentioned and in much of the media and tobacco control claims to be above public opinion. (They, however, aren't above seeking funding from Pharma interests that benefit from their draconian attack on liberty.)

A New Year's Resolution: "Fight antismoker tyranny and expose tobacco control lies."

Monday, December 31, 2018 at 20:30 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

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