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Cigarettes, vending machines and vaping - is Ireland having a collective meltdown?

John Mallon, Forest’s man in Ireland, has been on the road again.

Once a year John embarks upon a media tour around the country. It’s a good opportunity to visit and maintain contacts with radio stations outside Dublin.

Each tour has a theme. This year, knowing that health minister Simon Harris was about to announce plans to ban cigarette vending machines in a forthcoming health bill, we chose to focus on that.

As luck would have it, Harris made his announcement the day before John began his tour in Limerick where he was launching Forest Ireland’s ‘Butt Out’ campaign.

Initially this gave the tour a boost because the subject was seen as topical. Within 72 hours however interest in vending machines began to wane and we were struggling to book interviews for week two of the tour.

It didn’t help that the US vape scare was also in the news, added to which two domestic vaping stories hit the headlines.

The first appeared last Sunday when the Irish Sunday Mirror reported that:

A leading heart consultant called for a ban on vaping and warned: “It’s more dangerous than smoking and booze combined.”

President of the International Society For Vascular Surgery, Prof Sherif Sultan, described e-cigarettes as “the disaster of the century”.

He told the Irish Sunday Mirror: “We need to ban them immediately.”

The following day the president of the University of Limerick urge the government to ban vaping across all Irish educational institutions.

According to the Irish Independent:

Dr Des Fitzgerald, a professor of molecular medicine and former chief academic officer for the Ireland East Hospital Group, said vaping is now “a real health risk and is being directly implicated in health crises and even deaths among users.”

As a result of this story, an interview we had arranged with Cork’s 96FM became a discussion about vaping on campus rather than cigarette vending machines!

We managed to regain momentum by changing the theme of the tour, so instead of talking exclusively about one issue (vending machines) we sold it in broader terms, how it was ‘Time to give smokers a break’.

That seemed to do the trick. We didn’t hit all our target stations but, given the circumstances, the final list wasn’t bad.

Tues 17th - Limerick 95FM, Limerick Today
Wed 18th - Galway Bay FM - Keith Finnegan
Thurs 19th - Ocean FM, North West Today
Friday 20th - Midlands 103 - Midlands Today
Tues 24th - Cork 96FM, The Opinion Line
Thurs 26th - Radio Kerry, Talkabout
Friday 27th - Tipp FM, Fran Curry

As for vaping, I’m beginning to wonder whether Ireland is having some form of collective meltdown.

Yesterday former health minister James Reilly today weighed in to the debate by calling for a ban on flavoured e-cigarettes.

Dr Reilly has been on an anti-smoking crusade for several years now. Having introduced plain packaging when he was in government, he then urged the government to ban smoking in al fresco dining areas.

Now he’s targeting e-cigarettes.

And he’s not alone. The anti-vaping hysteria that has gripped parts of America now seems to be infecting Ireland too.

A poll asking ‘Should Ireland ban flavoured vapes?’ is currently showing 50% in favour, 45% against, and 5% don’t know.

To vote click here.

Below: John Mallon on Ocean FM


Lost in translation

Reports say Russia is banning smoking on apartment balconies.

It’s actually part of new fire regulations. According to the BBC:

Under the new rules, "open fire" is prohibited on apartment balconies, as well as in the living areas of dormitories and hotels.

Lighting matches and smoking are both classed as open fire, officials say. Barbecuing kebabs and lighting candles will also be banned, reports say.

It’s smokers however who will feel the impact most:

Russian cities mostly consist of high-rises, and balconies are where people usually smoke when they are at home. Few will be willing to get dressed and take the lift downstairs just for a quick smoke.

The BBC quotes the head of the All-Russian Movement for Smokers' Rights, Andrey Loskutov:

“They've banned it everywhere they could. Now they remembered they forgot about balconies," he told Interfax news agency.

Andrey Loskutov. The name rang a bell. And then, prompted by Chris Snowdon, I remembered.

I met Andrey in Zurich in July 2014. The meeting was instigated by an intermediary who wrote:

The proposal is for a smokers' rights conference two weeks in advance of the next COP meeting [in Moscow]. Preliminary dates are 9/10 October. The goal is to have international speakers from Austria, Denmark, the US, Ukraine and more. The objective will be to launch an official paper/document about smokers unions around the world.  

As I wrote here, Andrey doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak Russian so we were joined by a translator.

Also at the meeting was an Austrian who had flown in from Vienna. ‘I was beginning,’ I wrote, ‘to feel like a character in a John le Carré novel.’

I had been briefed that Andrey was the founder of a consumer organisation in Russia called the All-Russian Movement for Smokers' Rights, also translated as Smokers Union (literally, a ‘movement’). Founded in 2012, it grew out of a cigar club.

Andrey had plans, I was told, for an international smokers’ rights conference to be held in Moscow shortly before the sixth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP6) to the WHO FCTC, and he wanted me to be the main speaker.

My notes at the time read:

Andrey is very charming but he was unable to provide much information about his plans. We had a good translator so nothing was lost in translation! He said he had invited participants from a number of countries – including China – but I understood that they were all from cigar groups.

Andrey himself was keen to embrace cigarette smokers but [the Austrian] made it clear he did not want to support cigarette smokers. He wanted to defend cigar smoking and to do that he felt cigar smokers should be differentiated from cigarette smokers. 

I said I understood his position but said that Forest could not take a similar position. We support and defend all tobacco smokers.

To cut a long story short, the date of the event was changed to September 30, 2014, which meant I couldn’t go because it clashed with events Forest was hosting at the Conservative party conference and the Global Tobacco Network Forum in West Virginia that began a day or so later.

Originally billed (without my knowledge!) as one of the three conference organisers, I was disappointed because it would have been good to meet smokers’ rights activists from other countries.

I would have also liked the opportunity to go to Moscow in less stressful circumstances than my only previous visit in 1981 - ‘What did you do in the (Cold) War?’.

Nevertheless I did get some feedback, and I posted one or two details here (Russian smokers behind international movement for smokers’ right).

You can read a Russian journalist’s report about the event here (the original, in Russian, can be found online here), and there are photos of the conference here (scroll down).

Sadly, I heard nothing more of Andrey’s plans for a worldwide smokers’ rights movement, and nothing more of Andrey until yesterday.

In hindsight I do regret a lost opportunity. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts and a willingness to cooperate, something must have got lost in translation.


‘Murderers!’ they wrote – how not to win friends and influence people

I haven’t written about the ‘US vape scare’ until now.

One, I’ve been busy on other things and, two, there’s been no shortage of people commenting, or adding their tuppence ha’penny, on both sides of the Atlantic.

I have however done one or two interviews on the subject and issued a statement on behalf of Forest.

On Monday, for example, I was on a new digital radio station, Voice of Islam UK. They wanted to have a discussion about the ‘harmful effects of smoking and the dangers of vaping and e-cigarettes as an alternative.’

They also wanted my thoughts on ‘recent events in the US’ by which they meant the deaths of eight (now nine) people and the 500+ cases of illness in 38 states, allegedly as a result of vaping (but more on that in a minute).

Yesterday, I recorded a short piece for BBC Radio Essex on the same topic. During a three-minute interview I told them:

“There is a moral panic about vaping in America that is out of all proportion to the actual risk.

“Consumers need choice and evidence suggests that, in terms of risk, vaping is a significantly less harmful option to smoking so anything that reduces choice is bad news for those who want to quit smoking and potentially improve their health.”

I'm not sure whether they used any of it, but I caught the 7.00am news bulletin which included this brief summary:

The pro-smoking [sic] group Forest thinks Donald Trump is over-reacting by calling for a ban on flavoured vaping products in the US.

For those who haven’t been following the story, the cause of the nine deaths would appear to be consumers using unregulated THC – a component of cannabis – in e-cigarettes which they probably purchased on the black market.

The reason for the 500+ cases of illness is less clear but there is currently no evidence that they were caused by products purchased from legitimate sources.

Furthermore, according to PMI, the FDA has not advised consumers to stop using legal forms of e-cigarettes and vaping liquids.

That’s the ‘good’ news.

Unfortunately, around the same time that the deaths from apparently rogue (and illicit) sources were being reported, figures were published that showed vaping rates among high school students were continuing to rise in America.

It was this - not the deaths or the mysterious illnesses - that prompted Donald Trump to call for a ban on flavoured e-cigarettes a couple of weeks ago.

Several states, including New York, announced immediate plans to prohibit flavoured e-cigarettes. This followed the announcement, in June, that San Francisco is to ban the sale of all e-cigarette products.

Forest was invited by a couple of media outlets, including Sky News, to comment and we issued this statement:

“In the land of the free, consumer choice should be paramount. Prohibition never works and a ban on flavoured e-cigarettes will merely drive consumers, including children, to the unregulated black market.

“It would be a grossly disproportionate reaction because most of the current evidence suggests that vaping poses a significantly smaller risk than smoking. 

“No-one wants to see children smoking or vaping but to ban flavoured e-cigarettes, which is one of the most attractive aspects of vaping, would discourage millions of smokers, young and old, from switching to a reduced risk product.

“In public health terms, that would be absolutely criminal.”

On reflection the use of the word ‘criminal’ was a bit over the top but it was nothing compared to some of the comments I have read on social media.

To be clear, calls to ban e-cigarettes, flavoured or otherwise, are ridiculous but calling prohibitionists “murderers” and arguing that a ban will "sentence" vapers back to smoking suggests that some people have lost the plot.

The argument seems to go like this:

E-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes, flavoured e-cigarettes encourage smokers to switch, switching to e-cigarettes saves lives therefore a ban on flavoured e-cigarettes will cost lives, ergo those responsible are “murderers”.

A further argument is:

E-cigarettes have helped smokers quit. Ban flavoured vapes and those who have switched to life-saving e-cigarettes may go back to deadly cigarettes, ergo those responsible (politicians and public health officials) are “murderers”.

This is insane.

Being accused of killing people is something tobacco company executives have lived with for decades, but here's the thing.

No-one is a “murderer”. No-one has been "sentenced". Smokers aren't victims. They know the risks. They choose to smoke. No-one holds a gun to their head and says, “Smoke.”

Some people may become addicted to nicotine and find it hard to quit, but the idea that it’s impossible to stop without third party intervention is a fallacy promoted by the tobacco control industry to keep itself in business and maintain the fiction that for most people smoking is an addiction not a choice.

Sadly, instead of taking responsibility for their habit (or ‘addiction’), some vaping activists are accusing politicians and tobacco control of being “murderers” for taking away a reduced risk product that has helped them quit and might help others quit too.

I repeat, I’m fiercely opposed to bans on any kind of nicotine product but the idea that prohibiting flavoured e-cigarettes will condemn smokers to death feeds three misleading narratives.

The first is that most smokers would switch to e-cigarettes if only they were properly informed and given access to reduced risk products.

Hard though it is for the more evangelical vaping advocates to understand, many smokers have tried vaping and they have chosen not to switch because, for them, e-cigarettes aren’t as enjoyable as traditional cigarettes.

The second narrative is that smokers (and vapers) are victims of their habit and are not in control of their choices.

It is therefore assumed - wrongly in my view - that a ban on flavoured e-cigarettes will lead to a large number of papers going back to smoking.

What does that say about vapers? It says that even those who have quit smoking completely are so weak-willed or addicted to nicotine that any sort of ban will send them running back to combustible tobacco.

Will it? Having given up smoking - most likely on health grounds - and switched to vaping, why would you go back to a product you believe is dramatically more harmful and likely to kill you?

The third narrative is this: if you go back to smoking as a result of a ban on e-cigarettes, flavoured or otherwise, it is not your fault, it’s all the fault of those pesky prohibitionists.

Vapers and vaping advocates, stop playing the victim card! It’s great that e-cigarettes exist to help smokers quit (although it would be better still if they were accepted as a legitimate recreational product in their own right).

But if risk reduction options are prohibited, and you genuinely want to quit smoking, don’t use that as an excuse to keep smoking. If you want to quit, quit.

The choice is yours and it’s no one else’s fault if you continue to smoke or, having switched to vaping, revert to smoking.

To be fair, vapers are not alone in playing the victim or ‘murder’ card. (According to climate change campaigners, our species is being 'murdered' by a greedy economic elite.)

But I would advise against it because it's unlikely to win many friends or influence people, whether they be politicians, public health officials or the general public.

I know because I've often been accused of being an accomplice to the murder of smokers. Has it ever changed my position? Far from it. I dig in!

Meanwhile, I’m sure I’m not the only person to be a little weary of the argument that, if we ban e-cigarettes, why don’t we ban cigarettes as well?

I’ve seen that argument several times on social media and the person making it is usually a vaper or the owner of a vape business.

Look, two wrongs don’t make a right. Neither product should be banned. Fight for choice.

Sadly, that is where smokers’ rights campaigners part company with our vaping counterparts. I’ll fight all day for your right to vape but I see no evidence that vaping organisations will support smokers against the punitive regulations being imposed on the use of combustible products.

This is probably why. Speaking on a panel at the Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum in Washington DC yesterday, a leading tobacco control 'expert', David Sweanor, declared that smoking is a “crazy” system for delivering nicotine when there are less harmful alternatives.

“Get rid of the smoke and get rid of the problem,” he said. (I’m quoting from the official conference account on Twitter.)

If I had been there I would have challenged him as follows:

The pursuit of pleasure isn’t always rational. Many smokers have tried less harmful alternatives but don’t enjoy them as much as smoking.

The challenge is to develop reduced risk products that appeal to many more smokers. Either way, we must respect people’s decision to smoke.

I would also have challenged him on the use of the words 'get rid'. That sounds unnecessarily provocative to me, like 'eradicate' or 'eliminate'.

Speaking of which, the CEO of Juul, Kevin Burns, has stepped down and has been replaced by a former tobacco executive, KC Crosthwaite.

Perhaps Juul will now abandon its vainglorious mission of ‘eliminating’ combustible cigarettes and will adopt the more reasonable and practical aim of extending choice to informed consumers.

Now that would be good news.


Comedy returns to the Tory fringe

Just booked my ticket for Comedy Unleashed at the Comedy Store in Manchester on Monday.

In 2011 and 2013 Forest hosted two comedy events at the same venue.

The Comedy Store booked the acts after I explained that we wanted comedians with a libertarian or anti-nanny state bias.

For our headline act I really wanted the Australian comedian Stephen Hughes who I had seen doing a very funny routine about health and safety.

In another clip found on YouTube (no longer available, oddly), he was equally funny (and scathing) about the perceived threat of passive smoking.

Hughes wasn’t available unfortunately so The Comedy Store suggested two other comedians and an MC, with each one doing 20 minutes.

The MC was Manchester comedian and DJ Justin Moorhouse and the other acts were Ian Stone and Canadian Tom Stade.

Moorhouse got laughs just by expressing his incredulity that he was performing at an event on the Conservative fringe. He also had several well-earned digs at some Tory boys in the audience.

But the star of the show was Stade who the week previously had appeared on Live at the Apollo.

Of the three, Stade was the only one whose act genuinely qualified as ‘libertarian’, and he certainly pushed the boundaries.

I was laughing but feeling a little nervous even before several members of the audience walked out.

I wrote about the event here.

‘Afterwards,’ I wrote, ‘several people came up and congratulated Forest for being "brave" to host such an event. (Until then I was quite relaxed but that had me worried!)’

The best response came from a former councillor who tweeted:

Forest fringe at the Comedy Store is possibly the best ever in my 14 years at conference. Smokers showing antis how to do it.

Paul Scully, for it was he, is now MP for Sutton and Cheam and deputy chairman of the Conservative party!

I therefore considered the event a success, although I was a bit disappointed at the numbers (130), and two years later, when the Conservatives returned to Manchester, we decided to do it again.

This time Stephen Hughes was available and the Comedy Store booked him as the headline act, along with two comedians I had never heard of, either before or since.

To make it more attractive we combined Stand Up for Liberty with two preceding events, also at the Comedy Store.

The first was A Beer and a Fag with Farage, an ‘in conversation’ type event also featuring the IEA’s Mark Littlewood.

That was followed by a drinks reception and then it was time for the show.

I can’t remember how many came - I think we got around 200 and the comedy was probably overshadowed by the ‘Farage effect’ - but I’m glad we did it (and Stephen Hughes was brilliant).

Our final comedy event (Stand Up for Freedom) took place in Birmingham in 2014 when a packed hotel room was entertained by Comedy Store ‘veteran’ Alistair Barrie and ‘support act’ James Delingpole who was billed a ‘guest speaker’.

All three comedy events were a big hit with audiences but, after the third one, we did question their worth beyond giving people a good time and maintaining Forest’s profile at party conference.

All this, of course, was before the rise of allegedly ‘Tory’ or right of centre comedians such as Geoff Norcott, Simon Evans and others, so apart from Stephen Hughes sending up anti-smoking activists and public health officials, there was no real ‘message’ in the comedy.

(Then again, is there a message in Norcott and Evans’ comedy? Probably not.)

Anyway, five years after Stand Up for Freedom, comedy is returning to the Tory fringe via Comedy Unleashed, ‘the home of free-thinking comedy’.

The Manchester event follows an identical event at the Labour conference in Brighton.

To be honest, I was a little surprised - when I booked my ticket yesterday - that it wasn’t already sold out.

The auditorium at the Comedy Store in Manchester has a capacity of 300 and it’s a relatively short walk from the conference centre, but as we discovered in 2011 and again in 2013 it was quite a hard sell, even with Nigel Farage and Stephen Hughes on board.

I hope nevertheless that it’s a success. I’ll let you know.

Below: Response to our 2014 comedy night, Stand Up for Freedom


Going Underground

Representatives of the leading tobacco companies, including Philip Morris International, are gathering in Washington DC this week for the annual Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum.

Meanwhile, back in London, a sharp-eyed commuter saw this advertisement on an Underground train.

‘Why do you smoke?’ it asks. Without waiting for an answer it declares, in big bold letters:


Look closely and you’ll also see, at the bottom of the ad:

Production by Change Incorporated (VICE) for its Quit Cigarettes initiative. Philip Morris International funds this initiative but has no editorial input, so may not share the views expressed.

Pull the other one. The relentless anti-smoking messages spewing from the Change Incorporated website are entirely in keeping with PMI’s current strategy.

Likewise the message in this ad (‘Why do you smoke? Your reasons aren’t good enough’) is remarkably similar to a comment by Peter Nixon, MD of Philip Morris UK, first made in the Independent in August 2018 and repeated earlier this year.

Appearing live on Good Morning Britain (ITV), Nixon declared, “There's no reason why people should smoke anymore.”

What I and others find so offensive is the way Change Incorporated targets every aspect of smoking, not just health. The aim, it seems, is to belittle both the habit and the smoker in the hope they will quit - or be ‘encouraged’ to quit by friends and family.

I wrote about the initiative in July (‘My brush with Vice and its help to quit smoking project, Change Incorporated’) highlighting some of the articles. At that point they included:

It Broke My Heart to Watch Them Die
Are Festivals Doing Enough to Phase Out Smoking?
Can You Really Cough Up Your Lungs?
How Smoking Increases Chances of Genital Warts
This Is How Smoking Makes Your Penis Shrink
How Smoking is Ruining Your Sex Life
Is Smoking a Deal-Breaker on Tinder?

Current headlines include:

How Cigarettes Blight British Seaside Towns
Why It’s Time to Ban Smoking in Airports For Good

Ironically there’s even an article with the headline, ‘Are You Being Bullied Into Smoking Cigarettes?

A more pertinent question might be, ‘Are You Being Bullied Into Quitting Cigarettes?’ because for many people the answer is an emphatic ‘yes’.

I’ve seen worse (‘If You Smoke, You Stink’ comes to mind) but ads such as the one on the Tube would certainly be on my list of exhibits.

Note the bullying, hectoring tone:


Philip Morris will no doubt continue to assert the ‘editorial independence’ of Change Incorporated but let’s be honest.

When Change Incorporated (VICE) pitched the initiative to them, the company must have had a pretty good idea of what they would be getting in exchange for a reported $5 million.

I dare say there are Philip Morris executives who think campaigns like this are pretty cool and edgy. I’m not the target audience so they may be right.

What I do know is that campaigns that deliberately undermine your core product, and treat loyal consumers as if they are idiots, are unlikely to end well.

It also begs the question: is there another example of a company that has done so much to try to alienate its customers?

PS. Readers may recall that I was contacted several months ago by a ‘casting director’ who said she was ‘working on a series of short films for Change Incorporated ... which follows the journey of comedians who want to quit smoking’.

(See My brush with VICE and its help to quit smoking project.)

She wondered if someone from Forest ‘might be interested in chatting with one of our comedians (on film) about your views around smoking?’

A few days later, having expressed interest, I got a call from someone else who was working on the same project. I explained Forest’s position (ie we defend adults who smoke) and mentioned some of the reservations I had about the Change Incorporated project.

Needless to say, I heard nothing more. Then, a couple of weeks ago, we received a further, unconnected, email:

Hello, I hope this finds you well. I am a Casting Producer working with [name of independent production company]. I am contacting you regarding some filming for Change Incorporated, a new, purpose-driven media company owned by VICE.

We are casting for 3 x expert panelists to take part in a filmed, ‘pub-style’ debate, discussing government plans to make Britain Smoke Free by 2030. This will be a filmed 2-3 hour debate, with questions and discussion, hosted by TV presenter Cherry Healey. 

The debate is taking place in London on Weds 2nd Oct, to coincide with Stoptober. It will be an evening event with invitees of up to 30-50 people. 

We are looking for a panel of industry experts who can talk about the government paper with gravitas, e.g smoking cessation and healthcare experts.

Main debate/discussion themes:
1. How do we make Britain Smoke Free by 2030
2. How could a no-deal Brexit harm this objective?

Each panelist will be paid a fee of £500-750 for their contribution. 

The final film will be approx. 3-5 minutes and the content will sit on the Change Incorporated website. Change Incorporated aims to create measurable social change on some of society’s biggest issues that are important to VICE’s audience and the first mission is to get the UK to Quit Cigarettes. 

Quit Cigarettes is an initiative created by Change Incorporated (VICE) and funded by Philip Morris International. Whilst the mission itself is funded, VICE maintains editorial control. 

I hope that this is of interest - please do let me know your thoughts.

So far I haven’t replied and they haven’t followed it up.

Update: Another Tube advertisement for the PMI-funded campaign.


The Boys’ Brigade and me

When I was six or seven, and living in Maidenhead in Berkshire, I joined the after school Cubs’ group.

I can remember, to this day, the thrill of being taken by my parents to buy the-then Cub outfit - navy blue sweater, green cap, pale blue neckerchief and brown leather woggle.

I can even visualise the small outfitters at the end of Maidenhead High Street where we bought them from.

That aside, I remember very little about my time in the Cubs apart from one Cub camp when we slept in large tents erected on the school sports field which was actually several miles away in Bray.

Three years later, when I was ten, my family moved to Scotland. There was neither a Cubs nor a Scouts group in our village so the following year I joined the Boys’ Brigade instead.

I had never previously heard of the Boys Brigade. I joined for one reason only. My secondary school didn’t play football (the choice was rugby or hockey) but the local BB had a football team that played against other BB groups in a BB league.

The group met on Friday nights in an old church hall at the top of our road. To my surprise, we spent a substantial part of the evening marching.

On one occasion we joined other BB groups and marched through St Andrews behind a pipe band.

We also practised things like first aid and took part in competitions where we humiliated ourselves by failing to recognise that the ‘victim’ had a broken leg and our job was to put a splint on it, something we had never practised, so we put a bandage on the ‘wound’ instead.

Worse, when I instructed one of my team - in front of the judges - to “Call an ambulance”, he replied, “Nah, do it yourself.” We came last out of six teams.

Memories of my one BB camp, when we joined up with other BB groups in some remote part of Scotland, haunt me still. I can sum it up in four words: midges, wasps, boot polish.

The football, thankfully, made up for it.

I mention this because when I visited my mother last week (see previous post) she gave me a few things she had found in a cupboard.

They included various items of my old BB uniform including belt and sash (!) plus several other bits of memorabilia including badges for various activities and four annual membership cards that confirm I joined in 1970 and left in 1974.

During that time I see that I was promoted from ‘Private’ to the giddy heights of ‘Lance Corporal’.

The most interesting item is a small booklet - dated August 1969 - entitled ‘The Boys’ Brigade Handbook for Boys’.

One section in particular stands out. Under ‘Standards of Living’ it reads:

The BB is judged by the outside public by what they see of its members.

The untidy Boy, slouching down the street with a cigarette drooping from his mouth, does more harm to the BB image than many realise.

Every Boy should set himself the highest standard of physical fitness, and seek all opportunity to improve this.

Standards of living in such matters as smoking, drinking, gambling and language are largely matters for individual decision. The maxim of every BB Boy should be “If in doubt, don’t!”

BB Boys should not allow the smoking habit to grip them; should remember the dangers of alcohol and of gambling, as evidenced in all courts of every land; should determine that their conversation will at all times be clean and wholesome.

Cleanliness of living, in all its aspects, can only result in a better life for the individual and through him, a better community and a better country.

Bearing in mind I was eleven when I was given this, I am a little surprised that smoking, alcohol and gambling are cited.

At the same time I can’t help rejoicing in the declaration that ‘Standards of living in such matters as smoking, drinking, gambling and language are largely matters for individual decision.’

Who knew the staunchly Protestant Boys’ Brigade was so libertarian?!

Below: From The Boys’ Brigade Handbook for Boys’ (1969 edition)!


Neighbourhood watch

I was in Manchester on Thursday confirming arrangements for Forest’s fringe event at the Conservative conference on October 1.

I left my house in Cambridgeshire at 4.30am and arrived at the venue at eight o’clock, two hours before my scheduled meeting.

That worked out rather well, as it happens, because it gave me a couple of hours to make some final edits to a booklet we are publishing on the same day as the event.

I drove home via Derbyshire so I could visit my mother who lives in a village called Thorpe, just inside the Peak District near Ashbourne.

It was probably the penultimate time I will visit Thorpe because after 40 years living there she is moving to Chester.

I didn’t grow up in Thorpe so I don’t regard it as home but I do enjoy visiting. (My parents moved there in 1979 when I was a student in Aberdeen.)

Thorpe is more of a hamlet than a village. It’s close to Dovedale, a well-known beauty spot that attracts large numbers of visitors, especially on bank holidays, but because the village is set back from the road that leads to Dovedale it is effectively by-passed so very few people - apart from a handful of ramblers - pass through it.

At one end of the village the road stops and there is wooden gate. Beyond the gate is a valley and at the bottom of the valley is a farm and a stone bridge that crosses the River Dove.

Coldwall Bridge dates back to 1726. The bridge and the path that leads down to it has always interested me because they were once part of the coach-road that ran from Ashbourne to Cheadle.

There’s still a milestone next to the bridge that reads ‘Cheadle 11 miles’ and it’s a wonderful reminder of the days of the horse-drawn stagecoach.

Early stagecoaches were crude and uncomfortable and travelled, on average, no more five miles per hour. Improvements in design and better roads led to the ‘golden age of the stagecoach’ at the beginning of the nineteenth century, but even then the average speed was no more than 12mph.

The arrival of the train was the beginning of the end for the stagecoach and the advent of the motorcar finally marked the demise of many coach-roads that were deemed unsuitable for the new mode of transport.

Coldwall Bridge, for example, is reported to have fallen ‘into disuse at the start of the motoring age, the gradients proving too steep for the cars of that era.’

(Funnily enough, I remember my father telling me that even in the Fifties he had to plot his route in advance to avoid steep hills because his two-seater sports car was too underpowered to climb them.)

Anyway, when I left Thorpe early yesterday morning the sun was shining so I drove to the end of the village to take some photos of the valley.

You can’t see Coldwall Bridge in the picture above but you can see the old coach road snaking up the hill beyond.

It’s one of my favourite views and I shall miss it when my mother moves.

What I won’t miss is the return walk from Coldwall Bridge. As I’ve got older and increasingly unfit I’ve got more out of breath every time I do it.

Today it’s enough to walk to the gate at the end of the village, take a few steps along the old coach road at the top of the hill, and admire the view below.

PS. As I parked my car outside one of the houses near the gate, I was aware that I was being watched by a stern-looking lady - in her seventies, perhaps.

She had parked her own vehicle, a green Land-Rover Defender, by the side of the road 100 yards from the gate and I had to squeeze past, avoiding her Land-Rover on one side, and a jagged stone wall on the other.

When I returned to my car I realised there was no room to turn round so I reversed, very slowly, edging past the Land-Rover (and the stone wall), until I could do a full three-point turn.

Waiting for me, as I turned the car, was the stern-looking woman.

“Why did you take that photo?” she asked accusingly.

Taken aback but trying to keep things friendly, I explained that my mother was moving shortly and I wanted to take a picture of one of my favourite views.

It’s a small village so she knew immediately who I was referring to but that didn’t improve her mood.

“You should practise reversing more often,” she said.

Ouch. Talk about neighbourhood watch!


Impact of tobacco laws divides opinion

As part of Forest's submission to the consultation on the impact of tobacco control laws (2010-2016) we commissioned a poll.

The survey of 2,057 adults was conducted by Populus on 11-12 September. Here are the questions and the responses:

1. Do you think the ban on the display of tobacco in small and large shops has helped to reduce the number of children and young people smoking?

30% said, ‘Yes, I think it has’
33% said, ‘No, I don’t think it has’
37% said, ‘I don’t know if it has or has not’

2. Do you think the ban on the display of tobacco in small and large shops has encouraged and supported adult smokers to quit?

24% said, ‘Yes, I think it has’
45% said, ‘No, I don’t think it has’
31% said, ‘I don’t know if it has or has not’

3. Do you think the ban on the display of tobacco in specialist tobacconists has helped to reduce the number of children and young people smoking?

24% said, ‘Yes, I think it has’
36% said, ‘No, I don’t think it has’
40% said, ‘I don’t know if it has or has not’

4. Do you think the ban on the display of tobacco in specialist tobacconists has encouraged and supported adult smokers to quit smoking?

20% said, ‘Yes, I think it has’
45% said, ‘No, I don’t think it has’
35% said, ‘I don’t know if it has or has not’

5. In your opinion, is restricting the display of prices of tobacco products in shops an effective way to protect children and young people from taking up smoking and support those who wish to quit?

31% said, ‘Yes, I think it is effective’
39% said, ‘No, I don’t think it is effective’
30% said, ‘I don’t know if it is effective or not effective’

6. In your opinion, has the ban on smoking in cars carrying children helped prevent people from smoking in vehicles with children?

51% said, ‘Yes, I think it has’
22% said, ‘No, I don’t think it has’
27% said, ‘I don’t know if it has or has not’

You can read our press release here – Public split on effectiveness of tobacco control laws. It quotes me as follows:

“Regulations such as the display ban don’t stop children smoking. Instead they infantilise adults and drive smokers to the black market.

“Although smokers adapt to new regulations they resent being discriminated against. Tobacco is a legal product and smoking is a legitimate habit.

“Instead of targeting tobacco and smokers with further regulations, the government should incentivise smokers to switch to risk reduction products like e-cigarettes.

“Smokers need to feel empowered to quit or switch, not denormalised or coerced.”

Thanks to everyone who completed the government's online survey (from which we copied most of the questions for our own poll word for word).

The consultation closed last night.