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Nicotine Wars: The fight for choice

Last night’s Eat, Drink, Smoke, Vape event in Manchester went pretty well, I think.

In between the eating, drinking, smoking and vaping I managed to squeeze in a short speech to mark the publication of ‘Nicotine Wars: The Fight for Choice’.

I’ll write more about Rob Lyons’ report later, but here’s what I had to say last night:

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us here tonight.

As some of you know, Forest was founded 40 years ago. I need hardly remind you of the significance of 1979 because, as well as being the year that Forest was set up by Sir Christopher Foxley-Norris, a former Battle of Britain fighter pilot, it was also the year that Margaret Thatcher was elected prime minister.

[Loud cheers!]

Here are some other notable events in 1979:

  • Former Liberal Party leader and MP Jeremy Thorpe went on trial at the Old Bailey charged with attempted murder.
  • The first direct elections to the European Parliament took place. In Britain the turnout was a whopping 32%.
  • The new Conservative government's first budget saw chancellor Geoffrey Howe cut the standard tax rate by 3p and slash the top rate from 83% to 60%.
  • The government also announced £4 billion pounds worth of public spending cuts.
  • Last but not least, smoking was banned in main post offices throughout the country.

Anyway, for the last 40 years Forest has defended the rights of adults who wish to smoke knowing full well the health risks associated with smoking.

Today however the landscape has changed. Over the last decade a range of reduced risk products - notably e-cigarettes and, more recently, heated tobacco - has emerged.

Today there are approx 7.5m smokers in the UK, and 3.6m vapers, a little under half of whom still smoke. We support and defend their choice, whether it’s to smoke or vape.

We also embrace all reduced risk products.

From the beginning, Forest has never been ‘pro-smoking’. Our mission is to promote choice and personal responsibility and that will never change.

Tonight, as part of that ongoing campaign, we are launching our latest publication. It’s called Nicotine Wars: The Fight for Choice, and it explores the changing face of nicotine consumption in the 21st century as an increasing number of smokers transition from combustible tobacco to reduced risk products.

The author, Rob Lyons, is science and technology director at the Academy of Ideas and a columnist for the online magazine Spiked.

Rob can’t be here tonight so let me read a few words from my Foreword:

As the name, Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco, suggests, our primary aim is to defend the interests of adults who enjoy smoking tobacco. In practice however we don’t discriminate between different nicotine products nor do we discriminate between smokers and vapers, many of whom are dual users.

When we’re asked to defend vaping, or criticise regulations designed to restrict unreasonably the sale and use of e-cigarettes, we speak out. Our message is clear: choice and personal responsibility are paramount. As long as you don’t harm others, your lifestyle – including your choice of nicotine product – is nobody’s business but your own.

The crucial thing is to offer smokers a choice of traditional tobacco products and reduced risk devices, inform and update them with the latest evidence about the risks and benefits, and empower them to make their own informed choices. In short, let the people – not politicians or over-zealous public health campaigners – decide. Most important, respect their choice, even if you don’t approve of that choice.

Ladies and gentleman, please take a copy of the booklet with you. Alternatively, you can download a copy from the Forest website.

Enjoy the rest of the evening. Thank you for coming, and please continue to support the fight for choice.

Photo, courtesy Daniel Mcilhiney, taken last night

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