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Thursday
Jun072018

Thunderbolt and lightning

I haven't been posting much recently because I've been very busy, as will become apparent over the next couple of weeks.

Today I'm in Brussels for an event to mark the first anniversary of the launch of Forest EU and the publication of a new report, 'Smoke and Mirrors – The Role of Anti-Tobacco Lobby Groups in Promoting Tobacco Control Policies in the EU', which you can download here.

'Smoke and Mirrors' is the work of our man in Brussels, Guillaume Perigois (above), who says:

The report identifies at least 24 different organisations operating in Brussels pushing for more pervasive anti-tobacco policies. These organisations are staffed with 94 lobbyists and have a self-declared lobbying budget of between €5 and €6 million as per the EU Transparency Register. Far from David vs Goliath, it’s Goliath vs Goliath.

The report also sets out how in 2016 €6 million of EU taxpayers’ money was channelled to these organisations by the European Commission to lobby in favour of policies which the Commission has put forward. For us, such funding amounts to Government lobbying Government and does not promote transparent policy making.

Both the report and tonight's event have been attracting quite a bit of media coverage (no small achievement in Brussels). Yesterday Politico reported:

TOBACCO SMOKERSRIGHTS GROUP GOES AFTER ANTI-TOBACCO NGOs: Forest EU, a group advocating for smokers’ rights in Brussels that is funded by the tobacco industry, is going after “the big four” NGOs that are promoting anti-tobacco policies. In a report to be launched Thursday, Forest EU names the Smoke Free Partnership, the European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention (ENSP), the Association of European Cancer Leagues and the European Public Health Alliance as the organizations relying heavily on EU funding to push “more invasive anti-tobacco policies.”

Forest EU criticizes the funding they receive from the Commission, saying the NGOs do not provide any health service to EU citizens (such as smoking cessation) and are focused instead on reinforcing whatever anti-tobacco policies the Commission comes up with. “The Commission should no longer be the primary funder of lobby groups and should instead focus on funding health outcomes and organizations whose focus is the delivery of health outcomes,” the report says.

This morning Politico carried this response from the Brussels-based tobacco control lobby:

TOBACCO NGOS RESPOND TO SMOKERSRIGHTS GROUP: The four anti-tobacco NGOs singled out in a report we published on Wednesday by the smokers’ rights group Forest EU reacted in a written statement to Morning Health Care.

“We’re delighted with the recognition from tobacco industry front-groups that health organisations are challenging them. It confirms that we’re having the positive impact that our members — health researchers, health workers and patient groups from across Europe — expect us to deliver,” the Smokefree Partnership, the European Network on Smoking Prevention, the Association of European Cancer Leagues and the European Public Health Alliance wrote.

Responding to Forest EU’s accusation that they don’t provide any health outcome, the four said they do work directly with smokers, ex-smokers and patients, including providing cessation support, through their members spread across Europe. The NGOs launched an accusation of their own, saying that Forest EU doesn’t really represent smokers’ rights, “but rather the wishes of their tobacco industry paymasters to keep people hooked."

They may say they're "delighted with the recognition" but the fact that they've issued a written statement suggests we may have ruffled a few feathers.

Meanwhile the following reports are in French or Flemish so I’m a bit in the dark but your language skills may be better than mine:

Rokers houden eigen rokersfeestje (Zita), Waar is dat feestje? In die rookwolk is dat feestje (De Standaard), Les fumeurs se rebiffent et défendent leurs droits (Metro), Rokers krijgen eigen feestje om rustig hun sigaret op te steken: "Volwassenen moeten zelf kunnen beslissen zat se doen of laten” (HLN), Une terrasse à Bruxelles pour défendre les droits des fumeurs: «Les adultes ont le droit de choisir» (L'Avenir.net).

I'm told that last headline reads: 'A terrace in Brussels to defend smokers' rights: "Adults have the right to choose"' while the Metro headline declares, 'Smokers fight back and defend their rights.'

'A terrace in Brussels' is a reference to our venue tonight which features an outdoor smoking terrace with tables, chairs, heaters and twinkling fairy lights.

This morning Guillaume was interviewed by Radio Télévision Belge Francophone (RTBF) which broadcasts to the French-speaking community in Belgium.

He has also been asked to appear on RTL, Belgium's leading French-speaking TV channel, at the weekend.

The weather forecast suggests that Brussels is going to be hit by a thunderstorm tonight – maybe even a thunderbolt or two – so if that's not an omen I don't know what is.

Update: The dark clouds swirling overhead threatened rain but, miraculously, it held off. Someone – perhaps God himself – was on our side.

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Reader Comments (1)

Simon, Excellent report! I believe this is just the kind of initiative and analysis that needs to be presented to expose the lies and manipulations employed by the tobacco control grifters.

Tobacco control has dominated the policy debate about smoking and brutally suppressed all dissent. They have also manipulated and fabricated the actual risk data related to smoking to exaggerate and inflate harm and justify the persecution of smokers. Hopefully the next step will be to expose their propaganda and 'junk science' for what it is.

In the interim, I hope this report makes its way to the desk of every MEP in Brussels and into the hands of all legislators in the UK and Ireland too! It is a shame similar efforts are lacking in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Friday, June 8, 2018 at 17:59 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

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