From Forest <[email protected]>
Subject Forest Newsletter – Summer 2020
Date August 3, 2020 4:58 PM
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Our very best wishes to all our subscribers, especially those who may have been affected directly by Covid-19, either through illness or loss of work.

Let's start with the good news.

An attempt last month by a group of anti-smoking peers to hijack a Government Bill designed to help the hospitality industry recover from the coronavirus lockdown was thankfully defeated, albeit at the cost of a 'compromise' amendment.

The outcome could however have been very much worse. With the "assistance" of ASH, Lib Dem peer Baroness Northover tabled a late amendment to the Business & Planning Bill that would have further prohibited smoking in public places by denying a licence to any new outdoor eating and drinking area that wasn't 'smoke free'.

Things moved quickly after that with the Local Government Association jumping on the bandwagon and throwing its weight behind a ban, as reported by the Guardian on 18 July: English councils call for smoking ban outside pubs and cafes ([link removed]) .

Forest's reaction to the LGA's intervention was reported by the Guardian and many other papers: 'Insane' smoking ban OUTSIDE pubs and cafes is the 'last thing the industry needs' ([link removed]) .

Other critics included Forest patron Antony Worrall Thompson and Ranald Macdonald, MD of Boisdale Restaurants. AWT told the Telegraph (Local Government Association supports 'backdoor' attempt to ban smoking outdoors ([link removed]) ):

"Why on earth would the Lords and the LGA want to discourage a substantial number of people from returning to pubs, cafes and restaurants? For smokers it is one of the few remaining pleasures, sitting al fresco, minding their own business, enjoying a glass of wine or a pint of beer."

To which Ranald added:

"Whatever happened to freedom of choice? This proposed ban will simply mean that people will smoke and drink at home – something they have become quite used to of late."

See also: Smoking ban 'opportunistic', says group ([link removed]) (Shropshire Star)
Smoking restrictions 'last thing pub trade needs' ([link removed]) (Morning Advertiser)

Faced with potential defeat in the Lords on 20 July the Government came back with its own amendment and proposals (New plans to ensure pubs, restaurants and cafes offer both smoking and non-smoking outdoor options ([link removed]) ) and when Labour failed to support the Northover amendment she eventually withdrew it.

You can read the Hansard transcript of the Lords debate here ([link removed]) . It includes several references to Forest including this comment by another Lib Dem peer, Lord Clement-Jones, who appears to think we have rather more influence than is actually the case!

"I remember only too well that Forest was the principal opponent obstructing my tobacco advertising and sponsorship Bill [in 2001], and I am sorry that it has been given any credence by this Government."

Anyway, the final outcome can be spun one of two ways, as these headlines demonstrate:

Government asks pubs to ensure non-smokers catered for ([link removed]) (Morning Advertiser)

Bid to ban smoking outside pubs fails in House of Lords ([link removed]) (Press Association)

Either way, at least we can be pleased that the Government came out publicly in favour of choice for smokers as well as non-smokers and refused to back a measure that would have banned smoking in every new al fresco eating and drinking area.

However it was Daily Mail columnist Tom Utley who best summed up ([link removed]) the threat we continue to face: "Bit by bit, our freedom to live as we choose is eaten away by politicians who assure us they are thinking only of our own good."

He's not wrong.

-Smoking, pubs and a "patriotic duty"-

Since lockdown Forest has hosted a number of webinars on a variety of subjects with a range of speakers including Chris Snowdon (Institute of Economic Affairs), former MEP Brian Monteith, restaurateur Ranald Macdonald, Mark Oates (founder, UK Snus Users Association), Gawain Towler ("the best press chief in Westminster") and many more.

Last month, following Boris Johnson's claim that it was a "patriotic duty" to support the pub when pubs reopened, we addressed the issue with a number of speakers including the Telegraph's Madeline Grant, smoker and blogger Frank Davis and academic Dr Jim Butcher.

We were also pleased to welcome former landlord Nick Hogan who now works for Chris Clarkson MP. Nick is (in)famous for being the first person to be jailed in connection with the smoking ban in England. (You can read about his release, which Forest played a small part in, here ([link removed]) .)

However the most poignant comment of the evening came from one of our other attendees. Speaking on behalf of thousands of smokers who stopped going to the pub after the introduction of the smoking ban, Bernie Carroll commented, "We've been in lockdown since 2007."

It certainly feels that way to many older smokers.

-Joe Jackson on smoking and pubs -

Someone who is still furious about the smoking ban is musician and Forest supporter Joe Jackson (pictured above at our 35th anniversary party at Boisdale of Belgravia in 2014)

However, in response to the question, 'Is it a "patriotic duty" to support the pub?', Joe told readers of Simon Clark's Taking Liberties blog ([link removed]) :

"This is an agonising question for me. To the smokers saying, if I'm not wanted, I'm not going, 'I feel your pain!' I stayed away from pubs almost entirely for years after the ban. More recently though, I've had to ask myself: do I really want them all to die? And do I never want to go to a pub and enjoy a pint, ever again?

"My answer now is no. Instead I've figured out which pubs are still really making an effort and that includes for smokers. Often they're run by smokers and provide the best facilities they can. I want to encourage them and I believe they get the message. They also allow vaping inside which I find makes a big difference, though I still prefer real tobacco and understand others who aren't interested in vaping. The situation stinks and plenty of people know it. No one has come up with a way to actually change it, though. I think it will happen, but in some way we can't see right now, and may never live to see.

"Meanwhile I think we all have to deal with it in the way we feel most comfortable with. For me that means going to a select handful of pubs because I can still enjoy them on the whole, and don't want them to disappear. They know I'm a smoker, and they know many others are staying away. I wish the pub trade had done more to stop the ban, but I'm not sure it would have made much difference, and I can't take it out on the individual publicans who still give a damn and are doing the best they can. Though if vaping is banned inside and smoking outside, I may well once again wish them all to hell ..."

-Webinar: The nanny state we're in -

Don't miss our next Zoom meeting when we shall be discussing the onward march of the nanny state with two guest speakers on opposite sides of the debate.

One is Claire Fox, director of the Academy of Ideas and a former MEP, who has just been awarded a well-deserved peerage (see next item).

The other is Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle, best known perhaps as a former leader of Green Party (2012-2016).

The subject is 'The Nanny State We're In' and it was inspired by two things – the so-called 'roadmap' towards a 'smoke free' England and the Government's recently announced measures to reduce obesity.

Date: Monday 10th August
Time: 6.00-7.00pm

Full details will be emailed to subscribers tomorrow but if you want to register your interest NOW email [email protected] (mailto:[email protected]) .

-Peer pressure-

And talking of Ms Fox, huge congratulations to Claire (above) who is to join the House of Lords as an unaffiliated peer. Claire has been a great friend of Forest for almost 20 years. She was a guest speaker ([link removed]) at our 40th anniversary dinner last year and she has spoken at many other Forest events including meetings and dinners in London, Bournemouth, Birmingham, Dublin and Brussels (above).

Forest director Simon Clark writes ([link removed]) : "Claire’s biggest achievement, in my view, is not only being one of the most principled people I know (and, no, I don’t agree with her on everything) but on raising the tone of the debate whenever she speaks, whether it be a keynote address or a panel discussion.

"Yes, she will argue her corner forcefully and with considerable passion, but as long as I have known her she always listens to - and usually respects - the other side."

As it happens, the day before Claire's peerage was announced last Friday, she agreed to be one of the speakers on our next Zoom meeting (see previous item). Full details tomorrow but if you want to register your interest now email [email protected] (mailto:[email protected]) . Not to be missed.

-Wales eyes permanent outdoor smoking bans-

Moves to permanently ban smoking outside cafes and restaurants in Wales are already under way and last month anti-smoking campaigners in the Principality used the publicity surrounding the attempted hijacking of the Business & Planning Bill (above) to promote their own prohibitionist agenda.

Recyling a statement issued several weeks earlier by Wales' health minister Vaughan Gething in which he said he was committed to "progress work" on the ban in the next Senedd term, ASH Wales commented:

"As lockdown restrictions are lifted and customers, including families with young children, return to the outdoor areas of pubs, cafes and restaurants, it is more important than ever to ensure that staff and customers are protected from breathing in second hand smoke which we know carries significant health risks."

The story was widely reported in Wales and Forest was quoted by BBC Wales ([link removed]) , ITV Wales ([link removed]) , Wales Online ([link removed]) and the Daily Post ([link removed]) . Our director Simon Clark also appeared via Skype on Wales at Six (ITV), below.


-Cigarette sales and plain packaging-

According to ASH one million smokers have quit smoking since Covid-19 hit the UK. It seems unlikely but the 2020 figures from the Office for National Statistics – which won't be published until July 2021 – should be interesting.

Meanwhile, the Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath has claimed that plain packaging was one of two reasons for a significant decrease in cigarette sales after the policy was introduced in May 2017.

Forest director Simon Clark disputed the claim, telling the Guardian (UK tobacco sales fell faster after plain packaging rules came into force ([link removed]) ):

"According to ONS figures, the smoking rate fell significantly more in the years before the introduction of plain packaging than in the period since.

“Smoking rates have been in decline for decades, regardless of measures like smoking bans or plain packaging, and it’s mostly to do with education or, more recently, smokers switching to e-cigarettes.

“Many adults will continue to smoke because they enjoy it. Grandstanding policies like plain packaging have minimal impact because what matters is the product not the packaging.”

The Mail also ran the story, with Forest's response, here:

Cigarette sales have plunged by 20 MILLION a month after plain packaging and tougher taxes were introduced three years ago ([link removed]) (13 July).

-Forest criticises Scotland's chief medical officer -

ASH and the LGA aren't the only people who have tried to used Covid-19 as an excuse to target smoking. In Scotland last month acting chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith sent a memo to retailers asking them to put up notices warning people not to light up or vape outside shops.

Despite admitting there is "no scientific evidence" to suggest that the virus can be spread through smoke or vape drift, Dr Smith said the issue had been raised as a "public concern over and above the fact that many find the passive inhaling of tobacco or vape drift unpleasant."

According to the Herald (Scottish health chief urges retailers to stop shoppers smoking and vaping in outdoor queues over 'unproven' Covid fears ([link removed]) ):

The CMO was criticised by the smokers' group Forest for "fuelling" the unwarranted fears about smoking and vaping.

Simon Clark, director of the group said: "Most smokers are considerate and use their common sense when lighting up outside shops or in queues. They don't need more nagging notices telling them how to behave.

"It may be mildly annoying to some people, but not only is there is no evidence linking tobacco smoke or e-cigarette vapour with the spread of Covid-19, there is no evidence that smoking or vaping in the open air poses any significant threat to other people's health.

"Instead of fuelling unwarranted fears about smokers and vapers, the CMO should focus on tackling a genuine public health emergency, the ongoing coronavirus crisis."

-And finally ...-

Forest director Simon Clark during a Skype interview with Adam Boulton on Sky News last month ... as seen in the Telegraph newsroom.

"Bit by bit, our freedom to live as we choose is eaten away by politicians who assure us they are thinking only of our own good." Tom Utley, Daily Mail, 17 July 2020
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