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Saturday
Jun092018

Smoking in cars

According to today's Yorkshire Post:

Only one person in the whole of Yorkshire and the Humber was fined in the first two years after it became illegal to smoke in cars carrying a child, a new analysis has found.

An investigation by The Yorkshire Post also uncovered confusion among local authorities about just who is responsible for enforcing the legislation.

Crime reporter Georgina Morris asked Forest to comment so I said:

"The figures vindicate the argument that a ban on smoking in cars carrying children was unnecessary and would be impossible to enforce.

"The reality is that even before the ban very few adults were smoking in cars with children present. The overwhelming majority of smokers knew it was inconsiderate and had stopped doing it.

"The only impact the law has had is to stigmatise ordinary, decent people who don't need the government telling them how to behave in their own private space.

“Let this be a lesson to politicians and campaigners who want to extend the smoking ban to other areas. Allow smokers to use their common sense when lighting up and most will behave responsibly and with consideration for others.

"The last thing we need are more rules and regulations governing people's behaviour."

I was quoted in full. ASH also responded:

Chief executive Deborah Arnott said: “Compliance with the legislation on smoking in cars with children is dependent on the level of public support not enforcement action. And people are complying with this popular law which protects children from the harm caused by secondhand smoke."

She argued that there is now growing support for a ban on smoking in all cars, quoting a survey which found 62 per cent of adults in England backed the idea in 2016 compared to 45 per cent in 2009.

“Prohibiting smoking completely would make the law simpler to enforce as well as protecting all car occupants from the harmful toxins in tobacco smoke,” she added.

I'd like to see the survey she cites and the question that was asked.

In June 2016, on behalf of Forest, Populus interviewed 2,089 UK adults online and one of the questions was 'Do you think adults should or should not be allowed to smoke when alone in their own private vehicle?'

The response:

Should be allowed – 64 per cent
Should not be allowed – 30 per cent

Anyway the Yorkshire Post has posted online a fairly meaningless reader poll ('Would you support a ban on all smoking in all cars?') but I'm competitive enough that I want to win it so do pop over and cast your vote. The score, as I write, is Yes, 46 per cent; No, 54 per cent.

To vote click here and scroll down.

Saturday
Jun092018

The waiting game

Another honours list and still no recognition for the work of two of Britain's leading anti-smoking campaigners.

I first commented on this extraordinary oversight in December 2013:

Why no gongs for the likes of Deborah Arnott, CEO of ASH; Sheila Duffy, CEO of ASH Scotland; Fiona Andrews, director of Smokefree South West; or Andrea Crossfield, director of Tobacco Free Futures?

After all, it's titans of Tobacco Control like Deborah and Sheila who are often credited with introducing smoking bans and other measures that have saved tens of thousands of lives. Allegedly.

Surely they should receive recognition for their services to public health? But, no. The years tick by and Deborah remains plain Ms Arnott. Ditto Ms Duffy.

The following year Fiona Andrews (Smokefree South West) and Andrea Crossfield (Tobacco Free Futures) were indeed awarded MBEs ('Was it something I wrote?') but still nothing for Sheila or Deborah.

It was a similar story in 2015, 2016 and 2017 (Sheila and Deborah snubbed again).

There was however an OBE for Ailsa Rutter, director or Fresh North East (formerly Smokefree North East).

I'm genuinely perplexed. If Deborah's mini me is given an honour, why not the lady herself? And if Sheila Duffy's predecessor Maureen Moore can get an OBE, why not the current CEO?

The good news is that while Duffy has missed out (again) on one of Britain's top honours, her organisation hasn't gone empty-handed this week.

Tobacco control looks after its own.

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.

Friday
Jun012018

Staff divided on hospital smoking ban

The Royal United Bath Hospital is to ban smoking throughout its grounds by the end of the year.

Nothing unusual in that. But here's the interesting bit. According to a local report:

A survey showed that staff are divided on the issue.

49 per cent thought the RUH should go smoke free, while 49 per cent thought it should be permitted in some capacity.

Furthermore:

Some 90 per cent of smokers thought that smoking should be allowed.

Despite that the ban will go ahead, although managers are very open about the challenges they will face – notably enforcement and complaints from local residents:

James Scott, the trust’s chief executive, said: "This is a significant challenge for us and every hospital I've ever been in, including abroad.

"Don't think this is an NHS problem.

"We will be forcing smokers off-site - that's our patients and staff.

"The consequence is we will get more and more complaints from our neighbours.

"That's what's happened every time we've done this in the past.

"Legally, provided staff are outside our curtilage, they can smoke.

"There's nothing we can do about that, other than be aware about the increased risk of complaints.

Needless to say the issues of enforcement and annoying the neighbours could be easily avoided by creating a designated smoking area in the grounds of the hospital.

Instead they've chosen to pass the problem on to local residents who may find strangers loitering outside their homes at all times of the day and night.

The report adds that 'patients, visitors or residents have not yet been consulted but this is planned for later in the year'.

Am I missing something? Why consult patients, visitors and residents after the decision has already been made?

Either way the policy is doomed to fail. I know that, you know that and, judging by his comments, the chief executive of the Royal United Bath Hospital knows it too.

Thursday
May312018

Forest EU, one year on

A year ago today Forest EU was officially launched in Brussels.

Over 100 guests, including journalists, researchers, consultants, lobbyists and consumers, attended the launch event that took place in a bar a few metres from the European Parliament.

It was by general consensus a very successful evening, helped in part by the balmy weather that allowed guests to eat, drink and smoke on the terrace outside (see above).

Dan Donovan made a video of the occasion and elicited some interesting comments from guests:

"I'm made to feel like a leper because I choose to smoke," said one. "I know the risks but I also feel I shouldn't be made to feel ostracised."

"I'm not a smoker but I stand for smokers' rights because it's about freedom of choice and equality," said another.

A third commented, "Ever since I started smoking I've always felt bad about the fact that I'm a smoker. So for me, being in an environment where people are like, 'No, you should be allowed to smoke', it's very interesting. It's given me a different perspective on my habit as a smoker."

A fourth said, "Here we are all adults, we know the risks, and if I want to light a cigarette please let me do it."

My favourite comment however was this one:

"An organisation like this speaks for me, as a smoker."

Since then Forest EU has hosted a number of events in Brussels and Strasbourg. Speakers have included Prof Neil McKeganey (Centre for Substance Use Research and lead author of The Pleasure of Smoking report), Claire Fox (Institute of Ideas), and another professor, Sinclair Davidson (Institute of Policy Research).

Next week there will be another event to mark both the campaign's first anniversary and the publication of a new report that will put a spotlight on the well-funded tobacco control lobby that operates in Brussels.

Politico reports:

Lighting up: Forest EU, a smokers’ rights group, is hosting a “Down with the busybodies” party on June 7 to launch “Smoke and Mirrors,” which it describes as a map of “the anti-tobacco lobby groups in Brussels and their role in promoting stronger tobacco control policies.” Expect jazz and smoke on the terrace.

If you'd like to attend, click here. We'd be delighted to see you.

Thursday
May312018

PMI: charmingly predictable 

It's World No Tobacco Day today and what could be more charmingly predictable than this timely announcement by Philip Morris International.

Calling for World No Tobacco Day to be renamed 'World No Smoking Day', André Calantzopoulos, PMI's chief executive officer, said:

"Our short-term ambition is that one out of three of our consumers, 40 million men and women who smoke, will have switched to better alternatives by 2025. Ultimately, we want to be in a position to stop selling cigarettes entirely.

"However, we need the support of governments and the public health community to make this happen in as short a time as possible. I believe that instead of just designating one day as World No Tobacco Day, we should promote every day as World No Smoking Day."

What makes me chuckle is that someone in Lausanne must think they're being extremely clever.

Alternatively, stuck in their bubble (sorry, 'Cube'), perhaps they genuinely think every PMI customer wants to quit smoking or switch to one of their "alternative" non-combustible products.

The company's latest proposal may achieve a few more headlines but the novelty of these proclamations is beginning to wear thin. Remember this?

Philip Morris International, the world’s largest international tobacco company, could eventually stop selling cigarettes, its chief executive told the BBC on Wednesday, as it launched its alternative product IQOS in the UK market.

“I believe there will come a moment in time where I would say we have sufficient adoption of these alternative products ... to start envisaging, together with governments, a phase-out period for cigarettes,” Andre Calantzopoulos said in an interview on BBC Radio 4.

“I hope this time will come soon,” he added.

Philip Morris CEO looks towards phasing out cigarettes (Reuters, November 30, 2016)

Or this:

The world’s biggest tobacco company has for the first time asked to be taxed more by Chancellor Philip Hammond – to encourage smokers to switch to healther alternatives.

Philip Morris, which makes brands such as Marlboro, said it backed an increase in taxes on its cigarettes as part of its bid to move to a “smoke-free future”.

Tax us more, world's biggest cigarette maker tells Philip Hammond - to persuade smokers to use e-cigarettes (Daily Telegraph, March 2, 2017)

Or this:

One of the world’s biggest tobacco companies has launched the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, claiming that it wants to see a future in which people will stop smoking its cigarettes ...

In a public relations coup for PMI, the foundation will be headed by Derek Yach, a former senior figure at the World Health Organisation who was responsible for the launch of its global tobacco control treaty.

Tobacco company launches foundation to stub out smoking (Guardian, September 13, 2017).

And this:

One of the world’s biggest tobacco companies has said it is “trying to give up cigarettes”. Philip Morris, which makes Marlboros and a host of other brands, placed full-page adverts in UK national newspapers this week promoting its “ambition to stop selling cigarettes in the UK”.

The company's advert read: “Philip Morris is known for cigarettes. Every year, many smokers give them up. Now it's our turn."

“Our ambition is to stop selling cigarettes in the UK. It won't be easy. But we are determined to turn our vision into reality. There are 7.6 million adults in the UK who smoke. The best action they can take is to quit smoking,” it continued.

Philip Morris says it wants to stop selling cigarettes in latest advertising campaign (Independent, January 4, 2018).

The irony is that Marlboro Red, a PMI product, is one of only a handful of cigarette brands I have ever heard smokers talk about with something approaching reverence. (Another is Gauloises.)

Journalist Tom Utley, a winner of a Forest award in 2006, is a good example of this. Go back many years and you'll find that Tom's columns (even in the health conscious Daily Mail) are laced with references to 'the Marlboro Red in my mouth', 'without my daily fix of innumerable Marlboro Reds', 'with my taste for the bottle and Marlboro Reds' and, most damningly:

You will see me, in all weathers, banished to the pavement outside the pub, dragging on Marlboro Red after Marlboro Red, lighting the next one seconds after putting out the last.

Tom likes the brand so much he complained, in yet another column, when we forgot to send him the 200 Marlboro Red cigarettes we promised him in lieu of a trophy for his Forest award.

Meanwhile, only this week, another journalist told me, "Yes, I'm a committed Marlboro Red smoker ... wouldn't touch another fag."

I mention this because it strikes me that PMI's current position is a betrayal of every customer who continues to invest in Marlboro Red and other brands of cigarette.

To be clear, I don't have a problem with the company developing and promoting risk reduction products. That makes complete sense on so many levels.

But suggesting "we should promote every day as World No Smoking Day"?

Customers who enjoy smoking and don't want to quit have a right to expect support, not press releases designed to appease the anti-smoking industry.

In any case, the idea that PMI and tobacco control are going to walk off, arm-in-arm, into a smokeless future defies belief.

The WHO and most of the tobacco control movement want to crush the tobacco industry, and PMI with it.

Smoking cessation isn't the endgame. The endgame is a world free of all tobacco products and, ultimately, nicotine itself.

However much PMI flirts with tobacco control, that’s one marriage of convenience that will never happen.

Smokers, meanwhile, continue to get screwed.

Wednesday
May302018

Back in the GDPR

All that GDPR stuff was a bit of a pain, wasn't it?

I didn’t give it much thought until, earlier this month, I began to receive a trickle of emails (that became a flood) and realised I ought to review Forest's communications policy.

In practise our mailing list fell into three groups: those who had subscribed voluntarily via our existing website, those who had subscribed voluntarily via our old website and had had their data transferred to the 'new' website, and those who had been been added to our mailing list by virtue of attending one of our events.

We had subscribers in 33 countries. The UK led the way, obviously, but we also had a significant number in the USA. Curiously the overwhelming majority of our US subscribers were in California. I'm not sure why.

Anyway I took advice and the received wisdom was that we should err on the side of caution and invite all our subscribers (some of whom went back at least ten years) to re-consent to being on our mailing list. (Consent is key, apparently, and if you transfer or add data there's no proof of consent.)

So that's what we did. The numbers took a bit of a hit but I'm not unhappy with the result. The mailing list was long overdue a good spring clean and if the outcome is a smaller but more engaged group of subscribers I can't see we're any worse off.

My favourite GDPR email (by far) was sent by Josie Appleton, director of the Manifesto Club. Josie wrote:

Dear all,

This is just a note to let you know about privacy and our mailing list.

Our 'privacy policy' is pretty simple:

1. Our mailing list consists of people who have asked to be on our mailing list, in order to be informed of our work.

2. We only use this mailing list to inform people of our work. We do not share it with any third parties or use it for any other purposes.

3. If anyone no longer wants to be on our mailing list, they can click on the 'unsubscribe' button at the bottom of the email, and they will no longer be on our mailing list.

That's it!

All the best,

Josie Appleton

Perfect.

In light of Josie’s email, and subsequent reports that I've read online, I’ve come to the conclusion that there was no need to invite every subscriber to re-consent because, by virtue of the fact that many had subscribed voluntarily, we already had their consent.

Nevertheless we are where we are and our new sign up form now gives subscribers the option to receive newsletters from one or more of the following - Forest UK, Forest Ireland and Forest EU. All you have to do is click here and declare your preference.

If you haven't done so already you may wish to pop across and visit our website now.

Sunday
May272018

Keith Richards – live and unfiltered

Since reading Keith Richards' autobiography and seeing him interviewed by Andrew Marr, among others, I've become a huge fan of the great man.

So thanks to John Burton, one of Forest's non-executive directors (and a bit of an old rocker himself), for drawing my attention to this report in Metro, the free London newspaper:

Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards ... was seen having a crafty cigarette during the band’s show in London this week — aptly called their No Filter tour.

He was cheered by the crowd of 70,000 at The London Stadium in Stratford as he lit up, flouting the strict no smoking rule.

But Newham Council said it would not be taking any action because smoking was part of the act. ‘Smoking on stage is permitted “where the artistic integrity of a performance makes it appropriate for a person to smoke”, therefore no action will be taken,’ it added.

Delighted to see the council demonstrate some common sense on the issue but I wonder how much they were influenced, not by this unusual interpretation of the law, but by Keith Richards being rock royalty and 70,000 people cheering him on!

England, as we know, does indeed allow smoking on stage and film sets, but the practice is banned in Scotland and Wales so it will be interesting to see how the authorities react when the Stones play in Edinburgh (June 9) and Cardiff (June 15).

Before then however the band will play at Old Trafford, Manchester, on June 5. Will the local council adopt the sensible Newham approach or will officials use the occasion to promote the region's ambitious plan to 'make smoking history' and create a 'tobacco free Greater Manchester'?

I'll keep you posted.

See also Shock horror: iconic rock star allowed to smoke during BBC interview (Taking Liberties, September 2015).

Below: Keith Richards pictured in Julian Temple's brilliant documentary, Keith Richards: The Origin of the Species, broadcast on BBC Two in 2016. I wrote about it here.

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