From Forest <[email protected]>
Subject Forest Newsletter – November 2020
Date November 13, 2020 12:04 PM
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The anti-smoking group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) claims that one million smokers have quit smoking in the UK since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

We'll have to wait until next year when the Office for National Statistics publishes the 2020 figures to know whether this is true or not. However, it wouldn't be the first time tobacco control campaigners have exaggerated the numbers to create a compelling narrative or headline.

If you have stopped smoking (and are reading this) we hope you will continue to support our work. As you know we are passionate about choice and personal responsibility and we will never stop fighting policies designed to coerce rather than educate and inform.

We are also vocal in our opposition to excessive regulations on reduced risk products such as e-cigarettes and heated tobacco so if you have switched to vaping we've still got your back!


War on smoking a "moral crusade"

[link removed] latest report, published in September, highlights the way local authorities are waging war on smokers.

'Smokefree Ideology: How local authorities are waging war on choice and personal freedom' by civil rights campaigner Josie Appleton is based on the responses to a Freedom of Information request sent to over 350 councils in England, Wales and Scotland.

The key findings include:
* 192 councils (68% of those that responded) have a policy restricting or banning smoking at work while almost a third now restrict smoking in open-air public spaces, including children’s play areas, parks, beaches, council campuses or open-air public events: some of these bans are enforced with fixed penalty notices

* 49 councils ban cigarette breaks entirely, even if workers clock off, while a further 87 councils require workers to clock off or to obtain permission from a manager

* In total, 113 councils currently ban smoking outside council buildings with some requiring employees to leave the site entirely or stand up to 50 metres from a council building to light up

One council even had a policy that stated that "any part of a private dwelling used solely for work purposes will be required to be smoke-free." Family members, it added, "should not be allowed to smoke in the home worker’s office."

This was reported exclusively by the Telegraph (Council banned staff from smoking at their desks at home ([link removed]) ) and picked up by The Sun (Labour-run council in west London bans staff from smoking at their desks while working from home ([link removed]) ).

The headlines clearly had an effect because it was later reported by the Financial Times that the council had subsequently sent an email to staff saying 'it was OK for employees to smoke if they were working at home'. Full story here ([link removed]) .

Josie Appleton, author of 'Smokefree Ideology', also wrote an excellent article for the online magazine Spiked (Now they want to ban smoking at home ([link removed]) ).

Another article (How local authorities are waging war on personal freedom ([link removed]) by Forest's Simon Clark) was published on the Conservative Home website.

Nanny state of the nation

If you missed our 'Nanny state of the nation' webinar featuring Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (former leader of the Green Party), Claire Fox (now Baroness Fox of Buckley), Tam Fry (National Obesity Forum) and former MEP Brian Monteith, you can watch it here ([link removed]) on YouTube.

If you haven't got time to watch the full 80-minute debate (chaired by Rob Lyons), do check out the short but passionate intervention by long-term smoker Pat Nurse (below). She didn't hold back! Click here ([link removed]) .


Cigarette butts and hospital smoking bans

Forest has been fighting hospital smoking bans for years so we were pleased to read that NHS trusts in Colchester and Ipswich are reinstalling smoking shelters and cigarette bins after complaints by local residents about butts littering nearby streets as a result of smokers being forced off hospital grounds.

Invited to discuss the issue with Hazel Cheeseman, director of policy at ASH, Forest director Simon Clark told BBC Essex presenter Tony Fisher: "You can't have it both ways. You can’t say on one hand we don’t want to normalise smoking so we are going to take away cigarette bins and then complain because people are dropping butts on the streets. In this particular case the hospitals have come to a reasonable compromise that should be applauded."

Less happily it was reported last month that smoking shelters have been removed from the grounds of South Tyneside District Hospital and Sunderland Royal Hospital. In response Forest said:

"What a pathetic thing to do. It's one thing to ask smokers not to smoke close to hospital entrances but to prohibit smoking anywhere on the grounds and to remove the one place where they can find shelter in bad weather is beyond belief. Whoever made this decision should be ashamed of themselves."

Full statement here ([link removed]) .

Elsewhere it was reported that hospitals in Leeds have banned smoking anywhere on site, a move described by Forest as "cruel and unnecessary".

Full story: 'Leeds hospitals ban smoking at all sites as campaigners hit back at 'cruel' decision ([link removed]) ' (Leeds Live)

Discussing cigarettes butts with TalkRADIO's Mike Parry


Wales targets smokers with more bans and restrictions

At the end of September it was announced that the Football Association of Wales (FAW) is to ban smoking on the sidelines at children's football matches. Forest's reaction was widely reported by, among others, ITV Wales ([link removed]) , BBC News ([link removed]) and the Guardian ([link removed]) . We also discussed the issue on BBC Radio Wales. You can read our full response here ([link removed]) .

Wales looks like being one of our main battlegrounds next year. As well as making it an offence to smoke in children's playgrounds (there is currently a voluntary ban in place), the Welsh Government is planning to extend the smoking ban to seating areas outside restaurants and cafes in city centres. We'll keep you posted.

PS. To be clear, we don't condone smoking in children's playgrounds but we do think a law is unnecessary and excessive and will be used as a stepping stone to further bans on smoking where children could be present.

Impact of high taxation on tobacco

The consequences of punitive taxation on tobacco are pretty obvious to most people so it didn't surprise us to read that almost 3.5 million illicit cigarettes were seized at Dublin Port recently.

According to RTE ([link removed]) , 'They were branded 'Winston' and have an estimated retail value of €2,415,000, which Revenue says represents a potential loss to the Exchequer of €1,890,600.'

This is just the tip of the iceberg, of course. Who knows how much revenue is lost to criminal gangs. Despite this governments in the UK and Ireland insist on imposing an annual tax escalator on tobacco, making illicit tobacco more and more attractive to criminals and, indeed, consumers.

Interestingly, a poll commissioned by Forest Ireland in September found that even non-smokers think buying black market cigarettes is "understandable".

Conducted before last month's Budget, and included in Forest's submission to finance minister Paschal Donohoe, the iReach survey found that:
* 70% of adults (including 67% of non-smokers) say purchasing cigarettes from the black market or other countries is 'understandable' given the high cost of legal tobacco in Ireland; only one in five (20%) found it 'not understandable'

* 65% think the current rate of tobacco duty – almost 80% on an average pack of cigarettes in Ireland – is ‘too high’, a ‘little high’ or ‘about right’; only one in four (25%) think tobacco duty is ‘too low’ or a 'little low'

Update: In the absence of an autumn Budget in the UK, which was cancelled owing to Covid, the government yesterday announced (very quietly) that tobacco duty will be increased ('uprated') from Monday 16th November. The changes will add 22p to the price of a pack of 20 cigarettes, 65p to a 30g pack of hand-rolling tobacco, 11p to a 10g pack of cigars, 15p to a 30g pack of pipe tobacco and 28p to tobacco for heating packs.


Forest hits out at call to tax e-liquids

A further increase on tobacco duty was not the only pre-Budget demand made by the public health lobby in Ireland. The Irish Heart Foundation also wanted the government to introduce a tax on e-liquids, a proposal criticised by Forest spokesman John Mallon who told The Times ([link removed]) :

“Over 200,000 people vape in Ireland. E-cigarettes have helped many of them quit smoking completely. Increasing the cost of vaping may discourage thousands more from switching to a reduced risk product that may improve their health.”

Forest Ireland also criticised calls to hike the tax on tobacco so a pack of cigarettes will cost €20 by 2025: "Increasing the cost of cigarettes disproportionately hurts those on low incomes. The tax on tobacco is already at punitive levels in Ireland. This is no time to further punish adults who enjoy smoking and don’t want to quit."

Finance minister Paschal Donohoe eventually increased the cost of a pack by 50c, less than demanded by tobacco control campaigners but still taking the cost of the most popular brands to €14 or more. Forest's reaction ("This is yet another kick in the teeth for consumers ...") was reported by the Irish Examiner ([link removed]) , Irish Sun, Irish Daily Mirror ([link removed]) and The Journal ([link removed]) . Full response here ([link removed]) .

-And finally ...-

Congratulations to Councillor Matthew Evans. A former mayor of Newport and a familiar face at Forest events, Matthew was awarded an MBE for political and public service in the Queen's Birthday Honours list announced last month. Here he is (second from left) with TV chef Antony Worrall Thompson (centre) and Forest's Simon Clark at our 40th anniversary dinner in London last year.

One of the speakers at that event was Claire Fox, director of the Academy of Ideas. Recently ennobled as Baroness Fox of Buckley, Claire is currently posting a weekly video on her website. 'Inside the Lords ([link removed]) ' is exactly what it says. If you're interested in the workings of parliament, the House of Lords in particular, it's well worth watching. In her maiden speech she even thanked staff for introducing her to the "smoking outpost"!

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