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« Drugs: where do we draw the line? | Main | First, I need some sleep! »

Smoke-free England?

SFE-451-2.jpgYou know it's been a good event when Dr Eamonn Butler, director of the Adam Smith Institute, emails to say, "Jolliest party of the year! Thank you so much".

Last night close on 300 people squeezed into Boisdale Bar & Restaurant in London. Pausing only to pick up the first of several complementary complimentary drinks (vodka cocktail, glass of wine or beer), many headed straight for the cigar terrace (capacity: 45) which groaned under the weight of a hundred smokers.

Star guest was an old friend of Forest - David Hockney, Britain's greatest living artist. Just back from Baden Baden, the spa town in Germany which he visits every year, David told me that he came home with 6,000 cigarettes. "I never buy them in this country."

Hockney didn't hang around long - he's a bit deaf, and large, noisy crowds make it difficult for him to hear what people are saying - but while he was there he spoke to a number of people, including the Observer's Lynn Barber, another very welcome guest.

Others included Madsen Pirie and the aforementioned Eamonn Butler of the Adam Smith Institute; Matthew Elliott, director of The Taxpayers Alliance; Simon Richards, director of The Freedom Association; Claire Fox, director the Institute of Ideas and her colleague Tony Gilland; Rob Lyons, deputy editor of Spiked; Tom Utley of the Daily Mail; Telegraph leader writer Alex Singleton; Simon Hills of The Times; and Michael White, political editor of the Guardian.

Less well known (but no less welcome) was Sarah Bland and her husband Darren. Sarah is nine months' pregnant and even though the baby is due on Friday she still wanted to come and support our event. (You couldn't make it up.)

There was a warm welcome too for Dick Engel of the Dutch smokers' group Stichting Rokersbelangen. Dick is a former police officer (vice squad), a good man to have on our side. (His colleague Ton was supposed to come but missed the plane. I won't tell you what Dick said.)

Other long distance travellers included our own Brian Monteith (Edinburgh) and Neil Rafferty (the Borders), and Liz Barber (Stockton-on-Tees).

It was good to see (even briefly) some of the regulars on this blog: Dave Atherton, Joyce Stewart, Rose Whiteley, Dave Hook. (I don't know what happened to Peter Thurgood. If you're reading this, Peter, Joyce was looking for you.)

Friction TV came and filmed a series of "Smoking Breaks" for the Forest website (we will launch our own video player later in the year). I was interviewed by the Guardian and German radio.

Guest speakers were Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley (West Yorkshire); Nigel Farage, a 60-a-day smoker (did he really say that?) and leader of UKIP; and "rebel landlord" Hamish Howitt. Michael White describes their speeches HERE.

Most poignant sight of the evening had to be Ranald Macdonald, MD of Boisdale, gently asking guests in the (enclosed) Garden Restaurant to stub out their fags. "I felt really bad about it," he told me later, "but we could lose our license."

On the cigar terrace and out on the street, at the front of the building, nothing was going to stop guests lighting up. Smoke-free England? I don't think so.

Postscript: the picture above features Forest supporter Bob Loveday with a US duty free packet of cigarettes. Note the absence of any health warning. Bob is a long-serving member of Bob Geldof's band.

Reader Comments (30)

I'm glad to see and hear that some people stand by their own principles, defend their lifestyles and the freedom to choose.

June 25, 2008 at 21:10 | Unregistered CommenterBen Palmer

Another terrific party, Simon. Congratulations and thanks to you, Forest and Ranald. Just one very minor quibble - the drinks were, of course, complimentary, not complementary!

June 26, 2008 at 9:44 | Unregistered CommenterSimon Richards

I was there Simon, with my wife, Frances, and we certainly had a very good time, and I would like to thank both yourself and Ranald Macdonald for your hospitality and for giving us the chance to meet and exchange views, with other like minded people.

I spent some time chatting to Hamish Howitt, who is a very likeable man. I was very surprised to hear from him that he has given up smoking. I suppose with all the fines he's been saddled with, he probably can't afford to smoke any more?

Up on the cigar terrace, I also spent some time chatting to Simon Hills, who is associate editor of The Times Magazine and a regular contributor of articles on this site. I have met Simon at Boisdale's before, and he also, is such a likeable and unassuming person, whom I love chatting to and exchanging ideas with.

Towards the end of the evening, I was standing at the bar, very close to Nigel Farage, and my wife did ask me if I was going to speak to him at all. Why not, I thought, but then I quickly changed my mind, what on earth did I have to say to him? Although I like very much, the things he says, and especially the speech he made that evening, I could not bring myself to actually say to him that I wished him success, because I would consider that to be going against my Conservative principals. Maybe I was wrong, maybe I could have found some other common ground on which to speak to him about, but in the end I didn't, who knows, maybe he might have given me the cold shoulder anyway, we shall never know.

The one person whom I would really have loved to speak to, was David Hockney, but unfortunately, he left very early in the evening, and from what I saw, he didn't look to keen on holding court. He seemed to keep his head down as he made his way towards the exit. As Simon said, it was rather noisy there.

I am sorry I did not meet Joyce, but with approximately 300 people there, unless everyone had name tags around their necks, it would be impossible to know who was who. We could have been standing next to each other at some time for all I knew?

June 26, 2008 at 10:19 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

Perhaps the next time a meeting is held it would be more pertinent to hold this in a smoking freindly environment and venue, it is obvious that Boisdale was merely looking to the revenue income from such an event.

His retort that it could effect his licence was quite pertinent however as the government passed over the licencing to the local authorities, and made smoking in public places a civil offence to be administered by the the said local authorities. Very astute to say the least.

I would personally like to see the revenue raised from the smoking fraternity ( of which i am one) put into a seperate fund to everything else, it is my opinion that personal income tax would be raised quite considerably to offset this then the general public, most of whom think the law is an infringement on our civli liberties, would start to scream for heads to roll.

In every aspect of life there are people that do and there are those that dont and you could be talking about anything from eat sweets to drink coffe, the proplem is that the minority of mpeople that considered that persons smoking infringed their human rights neglected to think about the smokers being human and having rights aswell

June 26, 2008 at 11:24 | Unregistered CommenterIan Edwin Allen

Ian, I do think that is unfair on Ranald Macdonald, who is a genuinely committed opponent of the smoking ban.

In any case, the non-smoking environment was, as it happened, rather pleasant for the non-smokers there (of whom I was one), though, of course, I deplore the fact that the law prevents smokers from choosing to enjoy a smoke-filled environment if they so wish.

June 26, 2008 at 11:38 | Unregistered CommenterSimon Richards

I think we should stress that anyone who wanted to smoke could smoke - and did! Thanks to Ranald, who invested £40k on a brand new "cigar terrace" (complete with cane furniture, heaters and tartan blankets for those colder evenings), Boisdale is one of the most smoker-friendly venues in London or anywhere else (see THIS article in The Spectator).

June 26, 2008 at 12:11 | Unregistered CommenterSimon Clark

I totally agree about the Boisdale Simon, It was shuch I shame I could not make it.
It sounded like an excellent night and I would have enjoyed to meet the numerous people from this site and others who attended.
Ah well, better luck next time Pete lad.

June 26, 2008 at 12:22 | Unregistered CommenterPeter James

Well done on a successful evening.
Please accept my apologies for not attending.
Continued support, as ever.
Lew Bowker

June 26, 2008 at 12:42 | Unregistered CommenterLewis Bowker, Winnersh

I see Tom Utley of the Daily Mail there ,
I have been taking the mail for the last 4 months,yet have never seen an article about the smoking ban .

June 26, 2008 at 13:18 | Unregistered Commenterquizknight

I very much enjoyed smoking my pipe at the Boisdale on Tuesday and am grateful for the invitation.

I found a lot of quiet - and not so quiet - fury at this evil government over the smoking ban (and much else besides) as well as a lot of quiet resignation to this latest monstrous attack on our way of life.

What I find disappointing - to say the least -is that the many owners of pubs, breweries, restaurants, hotels, tobacco shops, bingo halls and clubs as well as individuals adversely affected by the smoking ban have failed somehow to get together to overturn this pernicious legislation.

Wouldn't a bribe work? Politicians are generally very fond of money.

The French have a much healthier attitude to rotten laws than we do. They simply ignore them.

June 26, 2008 at 13:45 | Unregistered CommenterNicholas

Sounds like this was a party not to been have missed - unfortunately I missed it (shame). I too would have liked to have met some of the guests there and also to match some of the faces to names of those prolific commentators on smoking control / libertarian issues.

I hope also that some good may have come from this meeting-of-minds in the future fight against what is rapidly becoming a world oppression of the smoker and those few who value their freedom.

June 26, 2008 at 14:19 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Bell

"Simon Clark, Forest's director, admitted that many smokers had adjusted to the ban, but a minority is still angry and frustrated."

I really think Forest should appoint someone in touch with the smokers of this country. The majority of smokers are still angry and frustrated, though do still venture to pubs, as the alternative is losing their social lives. The minority are still angry and frustrated, but don't go to pubs. Haven't met one smoker yet who thought anything good of the smoking ban.

And once again, what exactly has been achieved? Seems to me the message Forest are sending is: a few people are still annoyed, but we'll survive.

Hmmm how can i get on the Forest gravy train??

June 26, 2008 at 14:33 | Unregistered CommenterRob

Rob, someone else made a similar point on another thread. I haven't got time to respond to your post in detail (we are too busy organising a reception at the House of Commons) so I shall repeat what I wrote on the other thread:

You are quoting Michael White of the Guardian. Michael used the word "adjusted". The word I used was "adapted", but it's pretty much the same and it is true. In terms of compliance (for which there is clear evidence) the vast majority of smokers HAVE adapted to the ban (albeit under threat of fines and other penalties).

The bad news for government is that, far from giving up, as politicians hoped they would, the vast majority continue to smoke but in other places - outside, at home etc. And yes, in some cases "adapted" does mean not going to the pub any more. The point is, the vast majority are still smoking (ie they have adapted!!).

This doesn't mean that the majority like or support the ban. There is a big difference between "adapted" and "accepted" and I have never said that a majority of smokers have "accepted" the ban (although some have and it would be ludicrous to deny it). Unfortunately, some people come on this blog determined to read what they want to read, not what is actually said or written.

Finally, I note that Forest's fiercest critics never attend our events. They look on from afar, prefering to rely on hearsay and third party reports for their information.

We don't mind criticism, but criticism should be constructive. I don't see anything constructive in your post, Rob.

June 26, 2008 at 14:57 | Unregistered CommenterSimon Clark

To QuizKnight, Tom has written articles on smoking in The Daily Mail, here is an example.

"Why my smoking habit proves you can't believe a word the b******s tell you"

June 26, 2008 at 15:36 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

Well we attended the event, we ventured up from West Sussex, the Wimbledon rush on Hotel rooms meant we nearly didn't make it.
It was of course paradoxical that we had to put our smokes out down stairs, I wanted to be more rebellious, properly revolt. However I retired to the most excellent terrace and met some terrific people and laughed all night. Boisdale has become my firm favorite above all other London bars and I admire their spirit. Thank you to Forest and Boisdale.

June 26, 2008 at 15:56 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Crowne

It's good that the event went well and thanks for the report Simon.

I had an e-invitation but couldn't attend thanks (or NOT) to an urgent business matter on Tuesday, ironically to do with a local authority's bureaucracy. I'm not happy about that at all as it appears I missed a very enjoyable evening.

My apologies to Forest for not fulfilling the invite and also to Dave Atherton who gave me the information in the first place on the Freedom 2 Choose Forum.

I'll get to one of these Forest events one day! Keep 'em coming Simon, there is a mass of support for an amendment to the ban experiment, the more that are attracted to the cause the better.

June 26, 2008 at 18:25 | Unregistered CommenterMartin Cullip

Hello, I hope that the evening went well. We are sad that we could not make it. I hope that we will all continie to fight on wards and upwards. Blasting the blasted Government out as its a real Nanny State. Regards Amandah

June 26, 2008 at 18:50 | Unregistered Commenteramandah

Peter, Hamish had already given up smoking sometime before the ban, this is one of the strengths of his conviction, he is a non smoker who is passionately opposed to the blanket ban.

June 26, 2008 at 21:53 | Unregistered Commentertimbone

I think the negative comment about Boisdale is unfair, including, "Would be more pertinent to hold this in a smoking freindly (sic) environment"

I've attended two of these events now and witnessed on both occasions Boisdale's proprietor, Ranald Macdonald conversing with guests and enjoying a cigar or two on the smoking terrace which he has clearly invested time and money into. I would therefore conclude that the venue is most certainly smoker friendly!

I was in the "enclosed" (to use the terminology of the awful legislation!)garden terrace when guests started lighting up before the speeches. They were eventually politely asked to move to the roof terrace. There was no drama or unpleasantness. I'm afraid to say that I wasn't brave enough to some downstairs - I fear that the nanny state is turning me in to a creature of compliance!

Anyway, I look forward to the next event at Boisdale.

June 26, 2008 at 23:17 | Unregistered CommenterSteve H

Fabulous evening! Thank you so much. I have at last recovered from five days of partying, culminating in your wonderful reception at the Boisdale & despite being almost on my knees by that time I wouldn't have missed it for anything; Forest & the Boisdale put the fun back in life! To Peter Thurgood I would say : next time, do speak to Nigel Farage, in my experience you wouldn't get the cold shoulder - he's a charming & intelligent man who I'm sure would be delighted to be wished success - especially by a Tory! Thank you again to Simon, Ranald and the friendly staff for a smashing do - and strength to your respective elbows.

June 27, 2008 at 9:53 | Unregistered Commenterhklovejoy

I thoroughly enjoyed the event and it was good to see so many old faces and some newbies there as well.

As a non-smoker, I have nevertheless supported Forest for years, being an old pal of the late, and much missed, Chris R. Tame. He pointed out to me - in 1989, I think it was - that unless we tolerated things like smoking, the bansterbators would be after other habits as well. They never stop.

Good on Ranald for supporting this event. I go to Boisdale a fair amount and have always regarded the place as one of the better venues in the Smoke.

Keep up the fight.

June 27, 2008 at 11:18 | Unregistered CommenterJohnathan Pearce

Hello all,

I visited London to attend the party organized by Forrest's Simon Clark.
First let me say I was impressed by the way it was organized, the speakers and the number of people that showed up! Chapeau Simon!
In The Netherlands we will be confrontated with a smoking ban in bars and restaurants from the first of july this year.
Even tho we are going to court on that same day to try to get a view from a judge on the unfair new banning law, We have little hope we can do much to stop it
I have seen many bans coming in the last few years but I was astonished about the impact this latest ban has on people's private and social freedom.
I therefor think it's of the greatest importance actions are taken and not only on the national front.
I know British people are not in favor of all the things done in the EU but in this issue i would like to call out: "Smokers in all of Europe unit and fight!"
We need to get organized on an european level and help people in new EU countries how to fight their goverments. There we will have new chances to fight European laws and use all we have learned from our mistakes and from the moves of cunning politicians.
A big issue is that we still have a big discussion going on about:Passive Smoking" but i think an even bigger problem is "PASSIVE SMOKERS" .
What i mean to say is that people all over the world have been to passive when it comes to fighting smoke bans. In this way goverments are strangling us like boa constrictors, slowly but certain.
So i would like to appeal to all you british smokers: Support forrest! Get your friends to sign pols and speak out to anything that threatens our personal freedom!

Dick Engel
Spokesman for the Dutch Smokeright Group
STichting Rokersbelangen

June 27, 2008 at 12:00 | Unregistered CommenterDick Engel

You are absolutely correct in all you say Dick Engel. There are too many people on here, and other such sites, who seem to want to do nothing but moan and complain about the way things are done and run.

If they are so damn clever, let them set up their own websites and conduct the fight the way they think it should be done. They have an excellent platform here to make their voices and opinions heard, they should make the most of it, and stop bloodywell moaning.

June 27, 2008 at 13:06 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

P.S. to Dick Engel. Do you have an English version of your website?

June 27, 2008 at 13:24 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood


Many thanks for responding to my post... it was probably me who wrote the other post that you refer to!

Did you ask Michael to correct your quote? To be honest, whether it was "adapted" or "adjusted", your quote still lets smokers down. By saying "... but a minority are still angry and frustrated" you are implying that the majority of smokers are not angry and frustrated, which simply isn't the case, as i'm sure we all know. Whether they adapted or adjusted is merely a question of how law abiding they are, not how they feel about the smoking ban. I go to the pub less these days, but when i do, the majority of the time I obey the law. However, I still hate the ban with a passion, as I'm sure you can tell from my posts, and would overturn/amend it in a second if I could.

Following on (and I hope this is constructive), if you are quoted for newspapers etc, why even mention the fact that smokers are law abiding? We should be pointing out how much this law is despised, how unnecessary it is, how pubs and clubs throughout britain are in crisis because of the ban - if anything, stating that we've adapted supports the anti-smokers' false claims that the ban has been a success.

Forest is in a privileged position, in that it is the only pro-smoking organisation that the media will even acknowledge, and quotes like this one don't do justice to how most smokers feel about the ban.

You're right, I didn't attend the party. Aside from work commitments, i found it strange that any smoker would want to celebrate the anniversary of the smoking ban, especially in a non-smoking venue. That said, I'm desperate to get more involved, and would have loved to meet people as passionate about this issue, and smoking, as me.

How about a deal? I will (work permitting) attend the next Forest bash, if you can tell me what this party has achieved? The only press you got gave our cause a back-handed compliment ("and would have voted for them if pubs and clubs had been allowed a vote. I'd have been wrong to do so, but would have done it"). I haven't heard any MPs getting vocal about the smoking ban since the party.

I've drafted letters for Freedom2Choose to send to all MPs, i've written to both my MP and her rival. I've signed every petition going, and bored to tears just about everyone i meet with the truth about this smoking ban... What else can i do? Seriously, folks - tell me! I want to do more!!



P.S. Why aren't there Forest posters and flyers up in every pub and club in this country? I know they banned reward schemes in fag packets, but are you allowed to put cards promoting Forest inside them? Might be worth checking... anything to get more smokers involved!

June 27, 2008 at 14:44 | Unregistered CommenterRob

My sincere thanks to Simon and Ranald for hosting this enjoyable event and giving us all the opportunity to let some "movers and shakers" know that we're not giving up the fight!

June 27, 2008 at 15:00 | Unregistered CommenterRose Whiteley

Giving an inch to the media about acceptance of the ban is WRONG.

Giving the media ANY good news about the ban is WRONG. There isn't any.

Giving them any ammunition is WRONG.

It's the wrong approach to concede anything to the fanatics at all. If you do, and Forest you have, then, as I've said before, the battle is lost.

Preaching to the converted will not get us anywhere. The general public must know about the dismal abuse of so-called science. That has to be the top priority, and should be Forest's main aim 24/7.

June 27, 2008 at 17:35 | Unregistered CommenterZitori

Steve Hartwell
Toronto, Canada

The entire global news industry refuses to give smokers equal and fair treatment in the mainstream news.

I am searching for a respected Investigative Journalist who will expose that fact so that the entire world will know and cannot ignore
that the entire global news industry refuses to report that many researchers, scientists, and other professionals, as well as millions of tax paying smokers and non-smokers too, do NOT believe the anti-smoking Junk Science-for-a-buck about Second Hand Tobacco Smoke.

Because of the news industry we smokers are now believed to be mass murderers by SHS,

butt, denied due process of law, denied the opportunity to respond to those charges, denied our Freedom of Speech, denied legal and political, and other rights too.

The News Industry's refusal to give smokers fair and equal treatment is a violation of their Ethics and Principles of Journalism and News Reporting, and thereby a violation of the News Industry's Fiduciary Duty to the public.

As a direct result of that

we smokers are now being arrested for smoking, herded in to ghettos, and shot on sight.

All because the global news industry refuses to give us fair and equal treatment.

We cannot win until we 1st get fair and equal treatment in the mainstream news, because the mainstream news is still the best and only way to reach the majority public.

This requires an Investigative Journalist that the public will listen to and believe, who will write a Best Sellers' List book about it,
which includes how it is actually but a small part of the HUGE pandemic of Junk Science-for-a-buck fueled by Big Pharmaceutical companies,

as was written about by Richard Smith, former Editor of the British Medical Journal, in his book "The Trouble with Medical Journals (2006, ISBN 1-85315-673-6), in which he contends medical journals have become "creatures of the drug industry," rife with fraudulent research and packed with articles ghost written by pharmaceutical companies.

AND how it is all an exact following of Mein Kampf on a simultaneous global scale via the platform of Public Health,to bring about one world government-by-elite-cabal-of-coporations
with the rest of us as their serfs and obedient complient subjects.

I plead and beg Forest, and FORCES, and all the activists groups to put their main efforts in to getting said book written, and force the news industry to give us our fair and equal treatment in mainstream news, without which we have no hope to stop what's happening and the worse that is going to happen.

Steve Hartwell
Toronto, Canada

June 27, 2008 at 18:46 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Hartwell

I am trying to post again that link to the article written by Kerry Diotte in the Edmonton Sun.

June 27, 2008 at 18:51 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Hartwell

We might very well have been standing next to each other, Peter, as, later in the evening, I was speaking to Nigel Farage. He struck me as a very passionate and genuine person, a politician of conviction.

If only the hospitality industry had more people like Hamish Howitt and Nick Hogan who are prepared to put their money where their mouths are. The day after the party, Hamish was to appear, again, in court. Hell mend the others such as the owner of a pub in a mining village that I went into (as a last resort). He bemoaned the fact that, were it not for the fact that his wife worked, he would have already closed down (he since has). He said that he had welcomed the ban and had not tried, at all, to lobby fellow publicans or the trade association. His was the sort of pub that antis who comment in local rags online decry as the kind of pubs we don't need - the kind that only dirty losers who smoke frequent. My criticism is that he, and others who've gone to the wall, had such poor business acumen that they chose to believe that the majority of their customers would tolerate being treated like scum; or they just lay down and rolled over without a fight.

Boisdale is, of course, in a very different position. Nevertheless, Ranald Macdonald has gone above and beyond the call of duty in his creation of the cigar terrace. Perhaps it was the crush of the other ninety-nine bodies, but I wasn't at all aware that this was not an enclosed space!

Much criticism is levelled at FOREST whenever it organises events of this nature. There are reasons why I think it's undeserved (which I've stated elsewhere) but I can add another: for a few hours I went out to an "enclosed public space" and, in the company of people who accepted me as someone who smokes, and in civilised surroundings, enjoyed myself!

June 27, 2008 at 19:57 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

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