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« When is an invitation not an invitation? | Main | Don't do this, don't do that »

EU couldn't make it up

euflag100.jpgHilarious! That's the only word for it (although I can think of a few others). I don't, as a rule, use this blog to report private meetings and conversations, but here's what happened when I attended yesterday's meeting (in Brussels) of "EU experts, civil society and social partners to support the Commission's Impact Assessment on the forthcoming initiative on smoke-free environments":

I sensed, as soon as I entered the room and introduced myself ("Hello, I'm Simon Clark - from the smokers' lobby group Forest"), that there could be trouble. The guy from Pfizer (yes, the pharmaceutical company) didn't look pleased, and there were mutterings from some of the other delegates. (There were around 20 in all.)

No surprise then, when, as soon as the meeting began, and we had all formally identified ourselves, two or three hands shot up. As I suspected, some of my fellow delegates were none too happy that a representative of Forest was in the room. If I didn't leave, said one, she would. Others nodded their heads in agreement.

The facilitator (chairwoman) looked at me. "Sorry," I said, "I'm not trying to be difficult because I know some of you have come a long way for this meeting, but Forest represents adults who choose to smoke and tolerant non-smokers like me. The consumer is entitled to be represented in the political process. So, on a point of principle, I'm not going to leave."

And that was how it stood until the facilitator suggested a compromise - of sorts. I could stay for the presentation and return to have my say at the end of the meeting. For the duration of the "facilitated discussion", however, I would have to leave the room. (For some reason the other delegates didn't want me to hear what they had to say. So much for transparent, open government! What do these people have to hide?)

I agreed. I suppose I could have stood my ground and refused to go, but to what purpose? The meeting would have broken up and they would have reconvened at a later date in my absence. In this situation it's best to make your point and leave them to it.

Anyway, the principal reason I was there was not to hear what they had to say (interesting though it may have been) but to communicate Forest's position. And that, in the end, is what I was able to do - helped, I have to say, by the facilitator who, faced with a tricky situation, did her best to keep all parties (including me) happy.

And so, at the end of the meeting, after the other delegates had left, I was invited back in and given 15 minutes to answer questions and make our views abundantly clear. Amusingly, even this session didn't go entirely smoothly. At one point, having pointed out the flaws in the "evidence" on passive smoking, I was asked to apologise (seriously!) by a woman who said she was an epidemiologist with a degree at Harvard. (So what? as Ed Balls might say.) Apparently my comments had upset her, poor soul. (Don't worry, I didn't apologise.)

Needless to say there was no written list of participants (I wonder why not?!), so I had to make my own. Make of it what you will, but the companies and organisations present (or invited) included:

Pfizer, Novartis, Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline (all pharmaceutical companies), Eurofound (European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions), InwatEurope (International Network of Women against Tobacco), International Health and Social Affairs Office, NHS Health Scotland, Business Europe, EUN, HOTREC (representing hotels, restaurants and cafes in Europe), AESGP (Association of the European Self-Medication Industry), SFP (Smoke-Free Partnership) and EHN (European Heart Network).

Disappointingly, but not surprisingly, even the hospitality guy failed to support my presence at the meeting so I tackled him afterwards. We represent your customers, I said. Why didn't you say something? "I felt uncomfortable but it wasn't my meeting," he bleated. Pathetic. Sometimes, I told him, you have to have the courage to stand up and be counted. Hospitality? With "friends" like that who needs enemies.

Reader Comments (28)

Well done Simon !
If you dont try you don't receive.
The whole charade stinks worse than any tobacco smell.

March 20, 2008 at 9:26 | Unregistered CommenterPeter


But so is this. Yesterday, 19th March, someone posted the following piece, entitled "Tomorrow's News" Have a look here:

March 20, 2008 at 9:27 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

The large presence of Big Pharm. and the fact that they DO NOT like to be / WONT be challenged, says it all doesn't it.
They seem to get very upset don't they. Why would they if they were confident in their current situation. The truth is they know that their success is built on nonsense, and they also know that this could come crashing down around them. Well done Simon for not being intimidated by the quite extraordinary arrogance of the anti-smoking crusaders.

March 20, 2008 at 12:24 | Unregistered CommenterZitori

How absolutely typical, they dont want others to hear what they are saying nevermind they have not been voted in by anyone but want to rule others lives. Its an absolute disgrace, but also absolutely typical of a breed that want to rule others, from a secret society. Disgusted.

March 20, 2008 at 12:48 | Unregistered CommenterDonnie

It is absolutely disgraceful that in a so-called democracy agencies which have the power to influence the lives of others can get away with this behaviour. To whom are these people accountable? What are the terms of their remit? Where are the checks and balances to prevent their abuse of power? What procedures are in place to monitor their activities? Where are the minutes of the meeting held?

March 20, 2008 at 13:24 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

These ghastly people, Joyce, are accountable to no one. There are no checks and balances to prevent anything they do, and nobody officially monitors their activities.

How on earth can any sane person justify our membership of such an organisation?

Can anyone name even one benefit which we, as a nation, gain from being a member of the EU?
The world is a vast place, with trading possibilities world wide, especially in the emerging countries such as China and the Far East, yet Europe tells us that we should trade with only member states. What sort of democracy is that? And worse still, what sort of business acumen does a Government possess, who orders such inward looking idiocy?

Hitler, was one of the first people to talk about a United Europe, he was also one of the first to implement a smoking ban. Coincidences or maybe ongoing plans, now being put into action once again?

March 20, 2008 at 14:31 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

It sounds as though you're only allowed in if you are singing from the same hymn sheet.

Antis really are a particular breed aren't they? They always seem to get what they want by threatening to throw all their toys out of the pram.

The great puzzle to me, having heard the wonderful Lord Stoddart et all debate with such maturity and wisdom in the House of Lords on the issue, is... How do the antis get away with such juvenile behaviour? What happened to you is the equivalent of saying "If he's going to play, I'm taking my ball home".

Simon, I am so glad, and so proud of you for insisting on our right to be represented, and for not being intimidated by these people. Well done!

We need to be represented at every level of the debate, and so far, have been completely overlooked. I hope you will insist yourself upon such meetings at every opportunity (you might need to clone yourself first - or start a Forest Reps Army! I'm sure there are a lot of them!)

March 20, 2008 at 14:44 | Unregistered CommenterStruggling Spirit

This is absolutely disgraceful, and far from a laughing matter.

Simon, were you invited to this meeting?

If so you really must make a formal complaint to the EU Commission and/or Parliament. Make as much noise about it as you can - including threats to sound off in the press as much as you can.

Really, it is bad enough that these creeps want to discuss their evil deeds in private, but to exclude someone who has travelled a long way to attend the meeting is beyond outrageous.

Roll on the bloody revolution!

I have already started to learn to knit.

I just hope we can get the tumbrils - and Madame Guillotine - ready in time!

March 20, 2008 at 17:01 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Bond

I have to say I am reaching despair. If this is the unelected agenda in the EU, Simon where can we go next? It must be time we put away the writing paper and started demonstrating and being more aggressive in our campaign. Simon, you should of invited me, I would of told them what side their bread is buttered.

March 20, 2008 at 17:08 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

What a disgrace. Well done Simon for handling the situation so well.

March 20, 2008 at 18:24 | Unregistered CommenterRose Whiteley

God, they really don't care, do they?

"Because we can".

Have informed press.

March 20, 2008 at 20:08 | Unregistered CommenterBasil Brown

Simon. Is it possible to meet up with or contact the hospitality chap and ask him for his comments on the meeting?

March 20, 2008 at 20:23 | Unregistered Commenterchas

As much as I detest violence (unless directed at Patricia Hewitt), I'm beginning to see why certain people prefer the Gun to the Ballot Box:
with the Gun, at least, you have a CHOICE (of whom to shoot)........................

March 20, 2008 at 21:22 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

Not much of a secret meeting Simon.. the whole report was well and truely disected before it was presented on Wednesday

Note Forces had the truth on thir site on Tuesday 18th March

March 20, 2008 at 22:38 | Unregistered CommenterBill Gibson

Too bad you couldn't plant a bug before being ushered out.

March 22, 2008 at 0:13 | Unregistered CommenterP Gatti

This is my first visit to this site, I'm British but because I married an American 23 years ago have been living in the States, I fully intend on returning to the UK in another couple of years, I started reading the UK newspapers over the past couple of months to catch up on what's been happening while I've been gone, I can only say I am HORRIFIED at how my Country has been given away to foreigners, the traitorous actions of the labour party over the past 11 years is unbelievable, the allowing into our Country of people who so obviously mean us harm. We have been sold out to the highest bidder. Now, I was interested to read about the meeting you attended and the list of Companies in attendance, I wanted to point out that it's a well known fact in the States that those same drug companies run everything here, from the Government down, Dr's are supposed to push the drugs they are told to push to the patients, any Dr that doesn't is forced out. I was hoping that I could come 'home' to escape the corruption here in the States but I guess I was being niave assuming it hadn't reached Britain.

March 24, 2008 at 15:31 | Unregistered CommenterBarb Miller

The meeting that Simon speaks was indeed designed to only have one view. Readers should note that UKIP attended part of the meeting, but that in effect was by accident. The Commission invited MEP's to the meeting, however the way they did it was shall we say just a little deceitful. The invites were sent out on the 19th, but not to the MEP's offices but to their homes. The majority of course were in the Parliament. Fortunately a UKIP MEP was at home and contacted UKIP in Europe. This is a clear example if one were needed as to what is to happen if the reform treaty is ratified. I welcome Simon Clarks attendance. I will certainly be asking our MEP's in Europe to demand a transcript of what was supposed to be an open meeting.

Robert Feal-Martinez
UKIP PPC South Swindon

March 25, 2008 at 7:20 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Feal-Martinez

Deceitful swines the lot of 'em! I don't smoke, and I've nothing against people who do.
It all comes down to that little thing known as.... gues what.... PERSONAL CHOICE.

Take that away from us & it really is game over. The sooner we sack these un-elected unaccountable interfering tosspots the better!

As for our own nanny state government, who are all too happy bowing down to these cretins whilst urinating away our billons of ££££'s to them, can't wait 'til they are all kicked out of office.

Then we can flog 'em live on national telly for treason!

Good on you Simon Clark for highlighting this mind blowing show of arrogance.

March 25, 2008 at 18:30 | Unregistered CommenterGraeme Parrington


The venal nu-labots are plotting to scrap the Treason laws. Wonder why? Ministers are "looking at the proposals with interest".

Telegraph blog

March 26, 2008 at 19:06 | Unregistered CommenterBasil Brown

I am not a smoker and don't like being in heavily smokey pubs but I will defend your right to be in a meeting in which you had an interest. They had absolutely no right to ask you to leave. Outrageous. This is about as far from democracy as you can get without flying a swastika unless they had the blue and gold one on display.

March 31, 2008 at 14:55 | Unregistered CommenterPeter S

Like many Laws being passed today, the attack on peoples habits, culture, freedoms and rights is all part of "coercing the people into a new mindset of obedience". This is one of the key aims of the quasi political "Charity" called "Common Purpose" whose declared targets are to do away with democracy and replace it with appointed leaders who they have brainwashed and the people will have no say.

This bogus charity has already heavily infiltrated Government, the Police and Judiciary, Local Councils from whom it misappropriates funds, Schools, to indoctrinate the young.

All these Laws about Race, Sexual orientation. terrorism etc, are for that purpose, do not be deluded into thinking the Government cares one jot about those minorities rights, they are introducing such Laws to destroy Rights and Freedoms of the people.

Please see for fuller details.

People must be aware it is their democracy that they want to destroy and to fight back and the best way is to change voting habits and vote tactically to erase the traitors from our Parliament.

April 5, 2008 at 16:03 | Unregistered CommenterGarry

"The first modern, nationwide tobacco ban was imposed by the Nazi Party in every German university, post office, military hospital and Nazi Party office, under the auspices of Karl Astel's Institute for Tobacco Hazards Research, created in 1941 under direct orders from Adolf Hitler himself. Major anti-tobacco campaigns were widely broadcast by the Nazis until the demise of the regime in 1945."


May 30, 2008 at 3:38 | Unregistered CommenterHelene

Shouldn't there be a secretary to write down everything that was said? Shouldn't those documents be available for people to read?

May 30, 2008 at 3:49 | Unregistered CommenterHelene

Simon, what did you expect from the EU? Honest debate, open 'government?' That very nice Mr Mandelson has told us all we are living in the "post democratic society" Until we leave the EU we will have to deal with these corrupt, unelected 'officials' running every aspect of our lives.

July 8, 2008 at 9:24 | Unregistered Commenternumber 6

Well done! I am a non smoker as my family have always been, I do not recommend smoking but I do not object to anyone smoking in my presence. Personal liberty is at stake, none of us are going to live beyond 105 yet it would seem many think they will live forever as long as they do not get a whiff of the weed!!! Absolute unthinking idiots.
We need more liberty not less!!
And we need less bureaucracy and taxes not more!

August 2, 2008 at 23:26 | Unregistered CommenterR McAuley

it is fascism

October 14, 2008 at 12:14 | Unregistered Commenterterry sullivan

Well done Helene (May 30) for the quote about Hitler's Smoking Ban - only, I wonder about the last phrase: "until the demise of the regime in 1945"... who says it demised?

December 7, 2008 at 15:55 | Unregistered CommenterStephen

you had a right to speech and the right to be present! If you cant have a debate, then decisions cannot always be correctly made. I hate the way politicans can irrationally know whats best, and then have the power to make changes that are not based on science.

However, the latest research does say that health risks are increased even when the smallest amount of tabacoo is consumed, and a pub enviroment being smokey would undoubtlably cause deaths and poor health:

"Most experts believe that moderate, occasional exposure to secondhand smoke presents a small but measurable cancer risk to nonsmokers. The overall risk depends on the effective dose received over time. The risk level is higher if non-smokers spend many hours in an environment where cigarette smoke is widespread, such as a business where many employees or patrons are smoking throughout the day, or a residential care facility where residents smoke freely"

June 4, 2009 at 16:11 | Unregistered Commenterg

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