Monday, April 4, 2011


This sort of thing really winds me up. It's not as if we haven't got enough enemies that we have to start squabbling in public. I'll bet Debs Arnott and Martrin Dockrell at ASH are wetting themselves with laughter. They don't even have to earn the money we pay them to discredit us - we can do that all by ourselves.

This damn unbalanced, one-sided battle by little David smokers who can't even afford slingshots to bring down the Goliath of anti-smoker prejudice, is one of the most frustrating things in my life and I am sure many other smokers too in what has become something of a "Movement" however disorganised or disjointed it is.

We should not fight or wash our dirty laundry in public when we disagree. We could avoid this is in future if we get organised, hold regular meetings where we can bash out ideas, understand everyone's limits and view points, nominate our own individual qualities and specialisms and how to use them in unison, discuss how and where we can get funding from, and work together in a proactive way to make Govt listen to our side of the debate which is by no means over just because Debs and co say it is.

I first spoke to Simon Clark in 2001 when there was no such Movement - just me - a pissed off smoker who saw things heading into depressing territory and there was only Forest to turn to. I had an issue in my home town with a bigoted councillor. I honestly, but naively, thought that once he learned the truth about SHS, he would back down on not introducing ventilated facilities for smokers when his council imposed a pre-2007 smoking ban on a community venue that smokers had helped to pay for.

I found Simon's advice useful but I also felt that he didn't seem to believe that this kind of move was indicative of what was to come just six years later. Many other smokers did not at the time either. I even recall telling Simon back then that one day they'd be taking children from smokers.

I think Simon was sceptical and probably thought I was a nutter. I'll admit, this sort of fear seemed a bit paranoid at the time but as a lifelong smoker who has watched this one sided "debate" develop over 40 years, it seemed an obvious future move and we've seen it happen in denying smoker fosterers and adopters the chance to become parents. Can this set a precedent for biological smoker parents next? It is terrifying thought. This issue can hardly get any more serious. We cannot afford to be complacent and we can't afford to fall out over trivialities.

I recognise that what we have created over the last four and a half years is very special, exciting and it can be effective. There are some damn good people in our Movement, each with their own special skills and most do it in their own time at their own cost. What we are doing is vitally important. We have moral right on our side but I can also see all our hard work to date will fall apart if we continue to squabble about who gets paid and who doesn't, who should be doing what, but doesn't, and who we voted for, but shouldn't.

We need to get organised and we cannot expect Simon to do everything for us. As a lobbier to politicians, and a representative to industry such as tobacco, shops, pubs, clubs, and smokers, he juggles enough plates in the air and he is trying not drop a single one. Any loss of support from industry is more than we can afford and as smokers we must stick together and back our recognised representatives who should all work together.

F2C, F2C Scotland, and Smokers4Justice are examples of three great organisations but how often do they work with Forest in unison? I really don't know. I do know that we have some great individual warriors too including Smoking Hot whose fighting spirit and knowledge of buying abroad has been inspirational to me and others. Through both SH and Simon I have actually had something tangible to reach smokers who are not part of our Movement. Both were carried useful but different messages. Both hit a chord.

Through Simon have I come face to face with politicians I never would have met, through TICAP I've seen the global picture and heard experts on our side, and through F2C with the help of the Blogosphere, I have seen enough support gathered en masse to help those who fall foul of this spiteful law like Nick Hogan.

The row on Simon's blog developed into whether or not we should buy abroad which starves Govt funds of our tax to ASH and the whole denormalisation programme. I think we should if we can because I wonder how else we can make Govt take any of notice of us - but I'm also wary of withdrawing support from small shops who are in this with us. It is their business and their livelihoods that Govt is killing by it's desire to punish smokers and make us pay for our own hell.

I don't think Simon as Forest director should help us with this and we would be better off if he lobbies for a fairer tax with our friends in the Tobacco Retail Alliance for us and those who can't afford to go abroad. I wonder if we had some sort of alliance ourselves, people designated to work in certain areas, more effective joint working of all the individuals, groups, scientific and medical specialists in this Movement of ours, whether we would actually get anywhere in securing the future of truth, fairness, tolerance, justice, fair play and common sense that we all seem to want.

We all have our part to play and instead of criticising, perhaps encouragement would get us further.