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Vive la résistance!

It's No Smoking Day today.

I'll forgive you if you didn't know. Nationally it's been a non-event for years. It wasn't always like this, though.

When I started working for Forest I was told that No Smoking Day and the Budget were the two busiest days of the year, media wise, and I'd be run off my feet.

Nineteen years later I've been booked to do just two interviews – BBC Radio Oxford and BBC Radio Suffolk. I dare say other local radio stations will do the odd item and it will be featured in some regional newspapers, but the glory days are long gone.

What's done for No Smoking Day is a combination of things including another smoking cessation initiative – Stoptober.

Less than a decade ago No Smoking Day was a charity with a budget of £600k and its own chief executive. In 2011 it merged with another charity, the British Heart Foundation.

I’ve no idea who runs the event now, though. There’s no mention of it on the BHF website, which seems odd.

Cheerleaders include ASH, ASH Scotland and Fresh North East but even they seem a bit half-hearted about it.

Anyway, if you've heard this story before I apologise but the year I joined Forest I suggested we send a group of staff and supporters to Paris (which we dubbed the 'European capital of smoking') to escape the horrors of No Smoking Day in the UK.

In those days Eurostar trains had coaches where smoking was permitted. Naturally we occupied one and my colleague Juliette Torres found herself conducting a series of interviews with local radio stations before the train entered the tunnel.

Our intrepid group included Bob Shields, features editor of the Daily Record, who had flown down the night before to join us. Bob (pictured above at the old Eurostar terminal at Waterloo Station) was a smoker so he fitted right in.

When the train arrived in Paris (I stayed in London to handle other media enquiries) the group was met by our counterparts in France and taken for lunch in a restaurant allegedly used by the French Resistance in World War II.

After that the group broke up with some people visiting famous landmarks and others decamping to the nearest bar.

Somewhere there's a wonderful picture of Bob and Juliette, in silhouette, lighting cigarettes with the Eiffel Tower behind them.

Needless to say not everyone caught the train they were scheduled to return home on. The last to return got back long after midnight.

Bob, who was one of the last to return, flew back to Glasgow the following day and wrote an hilarious article that was published as a double page spread with some great pictures. (I forgot to mention he was accompanied to Paris by a photographer.)

He left the Daily Record in 2008 to run a pub in Ayr where he still writes a column for the local paper.

Below: Forest's Juliette Torres aboard Eurostar heading for Paris. On the left, sitting down, is our office manager Jenny Sharkey who left the following year to work for Theresa May, and still does!

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