News & Comment
Forest and Save Our Pubs & Clubs featured in BMJ's 'Lobby Watch'
Sat 22nd October, 2011
The latest issue of the British Medical Journal has a feature about the Save Our Pubs & Clubs campaign run by Forest.
The BMJ reports that:
The Save Our Pubs & Clubs campaign wants to see an amendment to the public smoking ban, which it says has led to hundreds of pubs and clubs going out of business since 2007. It would like the United Kingdom to be brought into line with other European countries where smoking is still allowed in some licensed premises or in "comfortable" outdoor smoking rooms.
The television chef and pub owner Antony Worrall Thompson is the campaign's patron. Supporters include the Working Men's Club and Institute Union, 251 pubs and clubs, the artist David Hockney, and the musician Joe Jackson.
MPs who have pledged their support include Brian Binley (Conservative, Northampton South), Philip Davies (Conservative, Shipley), John Hemming (Liberal Democrat, Birmingham Yardley), Simon Kirby (Conservative, Brighton Kemptown), Greg Knight (Conservative, East Yorkshire), and David Nuttall (Conservative, Bury North).
A total of 66 MPs supported Mr Nuttall's 10 minute rule bill to amend the smoking ban, debated in the House of Commons a year ago. And 36 MPs have signed Mr Binley's early day motion calling for a review of the smoking ban.
Who's backing it?
The campaign is run by the pro-smoking lobby group Forest (the Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco). Most of its money is donated by UK based tobacco companies.
Forest's director, Simon Clark, told the Scottish parliament's Health and Sport Committee in 2009 that Forest received about £250,000 (€285,000; $395,000) a year from three tobacco companies (JTI, British American Tobacco, and Imperial Tobacco Group.
Individual smokers known as Friends of Forest contribute donations ranging from £10 to £2000 to register their support, says the organisation. However, it is not a membership group run by a committee. Instead its role is to lobby politicians and the media.
The "best smoking area" category at this year's Great British Pub awards event was jointly sponsored by Save Our Pubs & Clubs and JTI, the world's third largest tobacco company.
So it's just a "front" organisation for the tobacco industry?
Forest says that it lost funding from a tobacco company for pursuing a campaign against HM Customs and Excise in 2001. It insists that it represents the consumer, not the tobacco industry. It speaks its mind as it sees fit and guards its independence jealously, whatever the cost, it says.
However, Mr Clark also told the Scottish parliament that without donations from tobacco companies it would be very difficult for Forest to exist.
Forest is currently campaigning to stop the smoking ban being extended to parks, beaches, and other outdoor areas. It is also fighting the "denormalisation" of smoking, the use of "junk science by the tobacco control industry", and discrimination against smokers, particularly in the workplace.
Does Forest have any more offshoots?
Yes, the Free Society. This is billed as an initiative set up to fight "big government" attacks on personal lifestyle choices on a broad front that includes tobacco, alcohol, and food.
The war on tobacco has moved from education to censorship and coercion, says the society. Today the "war on tobacco" has been joined by the "war on obesity" and the "war on binge drinking", it says.
"Genuine libertarians stick together and defend people's right to do things they themselves are not that keen on. If you enjoy a drink but don't smoke, you should still oppose the war on tobacco; if you smoke but don't drink, you should oppose excessive regulation of alcohol, and so on," it says.
Other areas of interest to the Free Society include motoring, in particular the excessive use of speed cameras and speed limits on motorways; closed circuit television cameras; compulsory identity cards; free speech; and global warming.
The Free Society co-hosts events with like minded libertarian groups such as the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Adam Smith Institute, the Democracy Institute, the Manifesto Club, Liberal Vision, and Privacy International.
Source: British Medical Journal (22 October 2011)