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=FOREST NEWSLETTER – AUGUST 2021=
Our last newsletter preceded several tobacco-related stories in July, the most prominent of which was the announcement by Philip Morris that it wants to stop selling cigarettes in the UK within a decade.
The company also called on the UK government to ban all cigarettes by 2030 including, presumably, those of rival manufacturers.
Forest's response, reported here (PMI urges UK to end cigarette sales ([link removed]) ), read:
“We welcome PMI’s commitment to reduced-risk products. However, there are millions of adults who enjoy smoking cigarettes and don’t want to quit and that choice must be respected.
“If Philip Morris wants to leave smoking behind, good luck to them, but banning cigarettes won’t stop people smoking. It will simply drive the product into the hands of criminal gangs who will happily sell illicit and counterfeit cigarettes to anyone who wants them, including children.
“We support the carrot not the stick approach to smoking cessation. Trying to force smokers to quit by banning cigarettes is illiberal and a fool’s errand that will end badly.”
Our reaction (Ban on cigarettes "a fool's errand" says Forest ([link removed]) ) was also reported by BBC News (Marlboro maker Philip Morris could stop selling cigarettes in UK ([link removed]) ).
Invited to discuss the issue with presenter Julia Hartley-Brewer on TalkRadio ([link removed]) , Forest director Simon Clark added:
"It's worth pointing out that Philip Morris’s share of the UK cigarette market is less than ten per cent – which puts the company in fourth place behind its main competitors – so banning cigarettes would have far less impact on Philip Morris than the competition."
Meanwhile, following reports in June that at least one council wants to go 'smoke free' by 2025, the Government is said to be considering raising the age of sale of tobacco to 21. The Mirror's 'exclusive' report ([link removed]) was accompanied by a response from Forest that you can read in the next item below.
To put these and other recent stories ([link removed]) in perspective, the Government is due to publish its new tobacco control plan later this year and much of what you've read or heard in recent months is designed to put pressure on ministers to introduce a range of measures that will allegedly help them achieve the Government's goal of a 'smoke free' England by 2030.
Forest will of course continue to fight any policy that we consider to be unreasonably coercive or detrimental to consumer choice and with that in mind here's some recent media activity.
Forest reacts to call to raise age of sale to 21
An 'exclusive' report in the Mirror last month claimed that the Government is considering raising the age of sale of tobacco to 21.
The measure is one of several policies being promoted by the tobacco control industry led by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).
Forest's response was featured in the print edition of the paper in a head-to-head item with ASH CEO Deborah Arnott. It's not online but it read:
"If you can have sex at 16 and drive a car at 17, you should be allowed to buy tobacco at 18.
"In the eyes of the law, you’re an adult at 18. Treating young adults like children insults their intelligence.
"You certainly don’t have to be 21 to know that smoking is potentially harmful.
"But raising the age of sale won’t stop young people smoking. It will simply drive tobacco underground.
"Far from protecting younger consumers, it will expose more to illicit and counterfeit tobacco, origin unknown."
GB News and the "libertarian" case for smoking
Since its launch in June GB News has reached out several times to Forest and we were delighted to make our debut on the fledgling channel when director Simon Clark took part in a debate about smoking chaired by presenter Mark Dolan ([link removed]) (below).
Subsequently we were asked to put the "libertarian" case for smoking in another interview with presenters Darren McCaffrey and Nana Akua.
GB News has its critics but it's good to see a news channel giving a platform to both sides of the debate, which hasn't always been the case with smoking and other tobacco-related issues.
Other media appearances in recent weeks included a further interview on TalkRadio, this time with Trisha Goddard (below).
Forest's Simon Clark was invited to discuss a report that legislation banning smoking in cars when children are present has led to a fall in hospital admissions in Scotland for asthma in children aged under five.
In fact, as Clark explains here ([link removed]) , the study found 'there was no benefit among the overall group or for children aged 5-15 years' and there were only SIX fewer hospital admissions a year in the under five age group in the two years following the introduction of the ban.
Despite that the study was reported widely with headlines such as 'Asthma hospital cases in Scotland fall following car smoke ban' (Scotsman); 'Asthma attacks dropped after car smoking ban according to Glasgow University study' (The Herald); 'Child asthma hospital admissions fell following car smoking ban, study finds' (Independent); 'Ban on smoking in cars with kids has ‘significant’ impact on asthma, study shows' (Press & Journal), and 'Car smoke ban kept toddlers out of A&E' (The Times).
Forest wouldn't encourage anyone to smoke in a car carrying children because, if nothing else, it's inconsiderate to the children involved who are unlikely to have much say in the matter. Nevertheless our argument that legislation was unnecessary and would make little direct difference still stands and is supported, it seems, by this study if not the spin.
Media analytics company Commetric has ranked recent media voices in the tobacco debate 'by influence score'. Forest director Simon Clark ranks below Deborah Arnott, CEO of ASH, but above Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty!
Click here ([link removed]) or see the table below.
You'll have read or heard conflicting stories about smoking and Covid-19. We don't profess to be experts but one of the more interesting studies has been the extended living evidence review that began in March 2020 and culminated with the publication last week of version 12 ([link removed]) .
Like version 11 (and almost every version before that), the authors concluded:
"Compared with never smokers, current smokers appear to be at reduced risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection and increased risk of greater in-hospital disease severity."
Like most of its predecessors the latest and probably final version of the study failed to get a single mention in any mainstream publication. Likewise it was largely ignored by the tobacco control industry for reasons that aren't hard to guess – it doesn't fit their narrative.
Of course there are going to be qualifications with any study like this but hats off to the authors for undertaking such painstaking work. Worth reading if you have a moment.
See also: End of the road for living evidence review on smoking and Covid-19 ([link removed]) (Taking Liberties)
And finally ... consumer voices unleashed!
If you joined us for the most recent Forest webinar – 'Consumer Voices Uncut' – in July we hope you enjoyed the discussion. But don't worry if you missed it because you can watch it in full on our YouTube channel. Click here ([link removed]) .
Thanks to our panel:
Mark Littlewood, director general, Institute of Economic Affairs
Pat Nurse, retired journalist and teacher
Henry Hill, news editor, Conservative Home
Anita Chowdry, visual artist
Andy Morrison, IT consultant
Emily Wieja, website content manager
Thanks too to everyone who has supported our online meetings since they began during the first lockdown last year. In addition to the guests above panellists and speakers have included:
Andrew Allison, campaigns director, The Freedom Association
Patrick Basham, Democracy Institute
Natalie Bennett (Baroness Bennett of Castle Manor), former leader, Green Party of England
Dan Donovan, photographer and musician
Joe Dunne, spokesperson, Respect Vapers
John Dunne, UK Vaping Industry Association
Claire Fox (Baroness Fox of Buckley, Academy of Ideas
Tam Fry, spokesman, National Obesity Forum
Judy Gibson, vaping advocate
Madeline Grant, columnist, The Telegraph
Jacob Grier, author, 'Rediscovering Tobacco'
Simon Hills, former associate editor, The Times Magazine
Ranald Macdonald, MD, Boisdale Restaurants
Rae Maile, tobacco investment analyst
Brian Monteith, former MSP and MEP
Iain O'Doherty, journalist, Irish Independent
Mark Oates, director, We Vape and the Snus Users Association
Daniel Pryor, head of programmes, Adam Smith Institute
Elise Rasmussen, Tobacco Reporter
Chris Snowdon, Institute of Economic Affairs
Antony Worrall Thompson, celebrity chef
We are currently taking a break from online events but we intend to return with more later in the year. Meanwhile, if you missed them, click on the links below. Only one webinar was recorded in 2020 so the list is not comprehensive but do have a browse:
Nanny State of the Nation ([link removed]) (August 2020)
Smokefree: A Better Britain? ([link removed]) (March 2021)
Why Should Smokers Switch To Vaping? ([link removed]) (May 2021)
Consumer Voices Uncut ([link removed]) (July 2021)
The Smoking Room with Ranald Macdonald ([link removed]) (March 2021)
The Smoking Room with Antony Worrall Thompson ([link removed]) (April 2021)
The Smoking Room with Jacob Grier ([link removed]) (May 2021)
The Smoking Room with Simon Hills ([link removed]) (June 2021)
See also: Forest Newsletter – July 2021 ([link removed])
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