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Thursday
Nov132014

Forest's 35th anniversary party video

As promised, here's the video of our party at Boisdale last week.

Filmed by Dan Donovan it features soundbites from artist Anita Chowdry, Brian Binley (one of six MPs at the event) plus musicians Bob Loveday and Joe Jackson.

It also features snippets from our speakers: Brian Monteith (editor, The Free Society), Ranald Macdonald (MD of Boisdale) and Elise Rasmussen (publisher, Tobacco Reporter).

Click here or on the image above.

Update: We need more organisations like Forest, writes Brian Monteith (The Free Society)

Thursday
Nov132014

Nicotine: it's a lifelong expensive addiction, says Deborah

The second E-Cigarette Summit is taking place in London today.

Last year I went as an observer and wrote about it here: The E-Cigarette Summit (2013) – another view.

This time I'm following it on Twitter in the 'comfort' of my office.

I'm told there are more speakers this year but a striking number are the same as before and I'm not sure I want to listen to them yet again or watch ASH CEO Deborah Arnott bewitch some of the more credulous vapers into thinking she's their friend.

That was one of the things I took away from last year's event and from what I can tell she's at it again:

One thing I do agree with Deborah is on this:

In my non-expert opinion second generation e-cigs (including the ones that look like sonic screwdrivers) are unlikely ever to be more than a niche market.

If there is to be further growth in the e-cigarette market – far beyond where it is now – it will come (I think) from the next generation of cigalikes, or the ones after that, because Deborah is right – the current generation are simply not good enough for most smokers.

The question is, who has the money to research and develop an e-cigarette that satisfies millions of consumers? The answer, I humbly suggest, is Big Tobacco but the tobacco control industry is driven by an irrational hatred of the tobacco industry that is as counter-productive as it is absurd.

Also, if companies are to spend huge sums of money developing popular brands of e-cigarette, it makes no sense to impose disproportionate restrictions on how they are marketed. And yet, if you listened to Deborah this week, it seems that is exactly what ASH wants to do.

Here's the rub:

I understand that, speaking at the E-Cigarette Summit today, Deborah expressed her concern at any long-term use of nicotine, whatever the delivery system. In her eyes it's a lifelong expensive addiction (which may be true) but she doesn't get it, does she?

The point is it's none of her or anyone else's business how we spend our money and live our lives. Until she and her cronies in the public health industry understand that very simple fact they will never be a friend of the vaper because their goal is to wean everyone off a 'lifelong expensive addiction', whatever it takes.

Anyway I'm not missing the E-Cigarette Summit, probably because I'm a bit weary of conferences. It's quite rare to attend one and not be bored to tears.

That said, the first E-Cigarette Summit was quite entertaining, partly because there was a good range of speakers with a variety of 'expert' opinion.

It's neither an industry nor a tobacco control event, which is refreshing. Nevertheless like all conferences it's easy to be institutionalised over coffee and biscuits and leave thinking an adversary is now a friend.

Last year, for example, I was beguiled during a break by Stirling University's Linda Bauld and I now defy anyone (Chris Snowdon, Dick Puddlecote) to say a word against her.

Best not to go at all.

Ironically, while the growth of the e-cigarette market is said by some to have stalled, e-cig or nicotine delivery conferences are thriving.

Earlier this year ASH Scotland 'co-ordinated' the Scottish Tobacco Control Alliance Electronic Cigarette Summit

In June 200 delegates attended the first Global Forum on Nicotine in Warsaw; later this month London hosts the Next Generation Nicotine Delivery conference; and next month the e-cigarette industry hosts E-Cig London.

I've no idea how much E-Cig London costs to attend (I imagine prices will be high) but the cost of attending the Next Generation Nicotine Delivery conference ranges from £600 to an eye-watering £1800. In comparison the E-Cigarette Summit (£350 + VAT) was a snip at the price.

Anyway, I look forward to reading reports of today's event. I'll link to one or two later. Let's hope it wasn't too much of a love in!

Wednesday
Nov122014

A tale of two events: "decent humans" versus "whey-faced drones"

Postscript to last week's Forest party.

Dick Puddlecote and the Random Vaper have written two very similar accounts which is hardly surprising because they arrived together, hot foot from another (very different) event.

I urge you to read both articles because they are equally illuminating:

From the ridiculous to the sublime (Random Vaper)
A funny thing happened on the way to Boisdales (Dick Puddlecote)

In his post DP records the breathtakingly arrogant assertion by "whey-faced drones" that public health campaigners are driven by "moral" rather than "financial" reward:

Apparently, anti-smoking NGOs do it all for the love and don't get paid a penny (splutter), while those working in the tobacco industry earn a fortune and "have no morals whatsoever". None of them.

He later repeats this comment by the Random Vaper, aka Sarah J:

The comparison between the two events I attended yesterday could not be more extreme. At the first there were the ideological rantings of those who think it their place to control how we all live, what risks we take, how we balance risk against pleasure, and who are conceited enough to believe that their own war on the tobacco industry trumps all other interests. At the second were people who were happy to enjoy life to the full, and just want to be left alone to do so. I know whose company I prefer.

Fellow blogger Tom Paine, who was also at the Forest party, adds this comment to DP's post:

You shame me by continuing to expose yourself to the secondary smugness of these authoritarians, while I have retired from the fray to dedicate myself to pleasure. Keep up the good work Mr P. It was a pleasure to see you and have a chat in a room full of decent humans.

So on the one hand we have "authoritarians", "ideological rantings" and "whey-faced drones". On the other we have "decent humans" and "I know whose company I prefer".

There's a theme developing here but I'll leave the final comment to Brian Monteith, one of three speakers at the Forest party.

As he was leaving Brian told our roving cameraman:

[Tonight] was all about freedom, choice and enjoying yourselves. And of course the people who like to stop us, those public health commissars, they have no sense of fun. This was all about a fun evening and we all chose to have fun. It was brilliant.

I'll post a short video of the event tomorrow. As well as Brian's contribution it includes comments by Joe Jackson, Ranald Macdonald (MD of Boisdale), and Conservative MP Brian Binley.

Monday
Nov102014

Vaping and television advertising

I was interviewed last night by Sky News about e-cigarettes and advertising.

A reporter rang me shortly after eight and arrived (with a cameraman) at my house at 12.50am. Seriously.

Everyone else, including the dog, was asleep and the 20 second soundbite took 15 minutes, including set up time.

I've been filmed outside my house and in my office but this was the first time a cameraman has come into my home.

Naturally I've fantasised about this moment. I'd be sitting in a large leather armchair, in front of an enormous mahogany desk in a beautiful study full of books and precious ornaments.

Of course I don't possess any of those things so I was filmed against a plain wall with a single table lamp behind one shoulder.

Anyway the purpose of the piece was to talk about e-cigs and advertising because tonight sees the first ever TV ad featuring someone actually vaping.

Judging by their public utterances the tobacco control lobby, led by ASH, has adopted the 'precautionary principle' – its default position – and is arguing that the VIP e-cig ad is far too "sexy" (ie attractive) and could entice non-smokers including children to vape or, worse, smoke.

I gave Sky my response and the report (and video) can be found under the monumentally misleading headline 'Smoking to be seen on British TV for the first time in 49 years'.

It includes my soundbite (and table lamp). This is the full response:

"There's no reason for e-cigarettes to be over-regulated because there's no evidence they are harmful and little evidence non-smokers are using them.

"Overwhelmingly e-cigs are used by smokers who want to cut down or quit or by smokers who want to use an alternative source of nicotine in places where smoking is banned.

"The idea that advertising e-cigarettes re-normalises smoking or encourages non-smokers to smoke tobacco is another example of anti-smoking paranoia.

"E-cigs are a nicotine delivery product. Nicotine is no more harmful than caffeine. E-cigarettes have the potential to wean millions of smokers off cigarettes but for that to happen they have to be marketed in a way that makes them attractive to smokers.

"Instead some public health campaigners want to suffocate the product with unnecessary rules and regulations. Thankfully, with regard to advertising, the government has adopted a more sensible attitude which we applaud."

I was also on BBC Radio Scotland this morning with Sheila Duffy, CEO of ASH Scotland. You can listen here at 2hrs 41mins in.

I might add that the consumers featured in the Sky News report do themselves no favours with the industrial amount of vapour they emit through nose, mouth and goodness knows where else.

Today's a good day for vaping but images like that don't help.

Update: The BBC has quite an informative report here – First e-cigarette 'vaping' advert to be shown on TV.

See also: Sex and the e-cigarette (BBC News Magazine)

Last but not least, listen to ASH CEO Deborah Arnott on the Today programme with Lorien Jollye of the New Nicotine Alliance.

I can only guess what Deborah will be thinking about the verdict of her predecessor, Clive Bates, posted on Twitter:

Click here – you'll find the discussion at 01:22:00.

Saturday
Nov082014

"Up the rebels!"

Photos of Forest's 35th birthday party are now online.

The 200+ photographs were taken by Cecelina Tornberg. To view them visit this gallery. Click on slideshow to view them in order.

One of my favourite images is this one. (I don't know why):

I also like this one of Joe Jackson:

You can make up your own caption.

Mine is: "I'm an Eighties pop icon, get me out of here!" or "I can't wait to get back to Berlin!"

And here's Trevor Baylis, inventor of the clockwork radio:

Finally, here's our line up of MPs with me and Ranald Macdonald, MD of Boisdale. From left to right, Laurence Robertson, Brian Binley, David Nuttall, Ian Paisley and Nigel Evans:

Dan Donovan – whose video Buzzin Me was featured – is editing a video of the event. We'll post it on YouTube next week.

PS. One person who couldn't make it was journalist Peter Oborne (Watch out: the anti-smoking fanatics now want to regulate drinking) who nevertheless replied to our invitation with this short message:

"Have a great party. Up the rebels!"

I couldn't have put it better myself.

Friday
Nov072014

Plain packaging: now French tobacconists are in revolt

French government minister Christian Eckert got a rough ride in Paris on Thursday.

Invited to address the Congress of Tobacconists the junior Budget minister was welcomed by the sight of 500 delegates wearing white masks to represent their opposition to plain packaging.

According to one report (I paraphrase):

The minister had to face boos and whistles from tobacconists, now unmasked. At times the minister was inaudible.

Despite this hostile environment Eckert outlined government policy on tobacco including key measures such as plain packaging, which was loudly booed by the audience.

In contrast Pascal Montredon, president of the French tobacconist federation, got a standing ovation when he declared:

“Tobacconists love France. The French love their tobacconists. But does this government love the tobacconists?”

Below: French junior Budget minister Christian Eckert addresses the tobacconists' national congress in Paris on November 6:

Photos: Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images

Thursday
Nov062014

Action on Consumer Choice: another voice consumers can call their own

The party on Tuesday night was primarily to mark Forest's 35th anniversary.

Apart from a few nods in the direction of my predecessors however there was no time for nostalgia.

Forest@35 was about the future, hence the unveiling of our new campaign, Action on Consumer Choice.

It was what marketing people call a 'soft' launch. No hullabaloo, no million dollar promotion. We simply handed out flyers and announced the imminent launch of a dedicated website.

Quite underwhelming, really.

ACC will address issues concerning food, drink and smokeless tobacco so whether it's sugar, alcohol or e-cigarettes we intend to be on the case, fighting the nanny state on behalf of the consumer.

The promotional flyer reads:

The smokers' lobby group Forest was founded in 1979 by Battle of Britain fighter pilot Sir Christopher Foxley-Norris, a lifelong pipe smoker.

Increasingly the freedom to smoke in any public place has been eroded to the extent that public health campaigners are now calling for a ban on smoking in open air public parks. A once benign nanny state has become a bully state, coercing rather than educating adults to give up smoking.

Today the public health industry is targeting other products such as alcohol, sugary drinks and convenience food. Even e-cigarettes, a potential harm reduction product, are threatened with excessive restrictions including bans on vaping in public places.

For 35 years Forest has been the "voice and friend of the smoker". Action on Consumer Choice will embrace food, drink and smokeless tobacco including e-cigarettes and other nicotine delivery products.

Consumers who want choice, are prepared to defend personal responsibility and act with consideration for others now have another voice they can call their own.

With luck the campaign will develop legs (without impacting on Forest) but I've been here before so it would be rash to make predictions. Unlike fake charities like ASH we don't have a well of (public) money to dip in to when it suits us.

Give or take a few tweaks, this is what the ACC website will look like:

Meanwhile let me draw your attention to a post on the Forest website. It's the short speech given by Elise Rasmussen, publisher of Tobacco Reporter and director of Global Tobacco Network Forum (GTNF), at Boisdale on Tuesday.

I've known Elise for six years. We first met at another Forest event and I was delighted when she agreed to say a few words. She even flew home early from America to attend Tuesday's event.

Here's the full speech. Don't worry, it's quite short:

Tobacco publisher calls for more groups like Forest "to support smokers and vapers' rights"

Wednesday
Nov052014

Forest@35 – morning after the night before

That went pretty well.

Over 250 people registered to attend and despite the rain and the odd cancellation because of 'man flu' over 200 guests came to Forest's 35th anniversary party at Boisdale of Belgravia.

In other words, a full house.

Guests included at least six MPs. Brian Binley, Nigel Evans, Sir Greg Knight, David Nuttall, Ian Paisley and Laurence Robertson were the ones I saw and spoke to but there may have been more because twelve were on the registered guest list.

MPs' researchers were out in force and it was great to see representatives of various think tanks and pressure groups including the Adam Smith Institute, Institute of Economic Affairs, TaxPayers' Alliance, Parliament Street, The Bow Group and The Freedom Association.

Guido Fawkes (aka Paul Staines), "Britain's most popular political blogger", was there. Other bloggers included Dick Puddlecote, Chris Snowdon, Devil's Kitchen and Tom Paine (The Last Ditch).

Journalists included Tom Utley (Daily Mail) and Simon Hills (The Times), both of whom are old friends of Forest.

Simon has been writing for our Free Society website for six years (we're publishing a book of his articles shortly) and I first met Tom 13 years ago at an event hosted by the late Auberon Waugh and 'sponsored' by Forest in as far as we paid for the drinks.

Delighted too to see Joe Jackson, who flew in from Berlin. It's hard to read Joe sometimes but I think he enjoyed himself. He was still there when I left shortly after midnight!

In fact, six hours after the event began quite a few people seemed reluctant to go home, which was a good sign.

What I was most pleased about was the number of younger people, by which I mean people in their twenties and early thirties. I doubt many of them are smokers but they support our cause, which is encouraging.

Consequently the event highlighted the broad appeal of our message which, as someone tweeted this morning, is about one thing – choice.

Needless to say guests were far more interested in eating, drinking and smoking so we kept the speeches short. Brian Monteith (Forest's spokesman in Scotland before he became an MSP), Ranald Macdonald (owner of Boisdale) and Elise Rasmussen (publisher, Tobacco Reporter) had some nice things to say about Forest and I hope it wasn't too self-indulgent.

The heated smoking terrace was packed all night but those who chose to stay in the main restaurant had the benefit of being entertained by Hidden Charms, a young band I hope we hear a lot more from.

As always at Boisdale music was a feature of the event and in addition to the band we showed the Forest/King Kool video Buzzin Me. (Dan Donovan, who made the video, was also at Boisdale filming interviews for a short video of last night's event.)

Towards the close of the event we also played the Boisdale/Forest CD 'You Can't Do That! Songs For Swinging Smokers' recorded in 2007 and featuring the Boisdale Blue Rhythm Band.

I'll link to a gallery of photos later. Meanwhile here's a report in today's City AM:

Update: Just remembered - former LibDem MP Lembit Opik was there too.

Unusually for a Lib Dem Lembit is a genuine liberal. I didn't get a chance to speak to him but pictures of him at last night's event have been popping up on Twitter.

He appears to have had a good time!

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