A couple of weeks ago, following the publication of a Forest report about the use of public money to fund anti-smoking quangos and charities such ASH (and a subsequent piece by Rod Liddle in the Sunday Times), there was a mildly heated discussion about the issue HERE.
True to his word, one of the protagonists, Blad Tolstoy, has written a document that tackles "some common misconceptions about charities" including ASH, and an interesting document it is too. Click HERE.
That said, I really don't agree with Blad's criticism of the label "fake charity". I accept the argument that it won't "stand up to legal scrutiny" but it's a useful tool nevertheless because it differentiates between those charities that genuinely try to help people and those that seek to denormalise them, as ASH does.
Last week I was quoted in a retail trade magazine. "Tobacco control groups are no longer interested in educating people about the health risks of smoking," I said. "Their strategy is to denormalise and stigmatise adults who consume a legal product."
Today the tobacco control lobby is more interested in coercing people to quit smoking, with groups such as ASH using every "confidence trick" in the book to achieve their goal of a "smokefree" (sic) world.
Illiberal smoking bans, display bans, claims that smokers are harming (and even killing) those around them - this has nothing to do with health and everything to do with denormalising not only a legal product but the consumers of that product.
Thanks to charities like ASH, many people's social lives have been ruined, businesses have closed and jobs have been lost. I fail to see what's "charitable" about that and for that reason alone I am happy to call ASH a fake charity.
But there's another reason (and it has nothing to do with the millions of pounds of public money that ASH has received, which neatly avoids the need to do any traditional fundraising).
For years the tobacco control industry has been winning the war of words with unscientific yet emotive terms such as "passive smoking", "secondhand smoke" and so on. Language, as anyone knows, plays an important role in what I call PR and others call the battle for hearts and minds. If that means using some emotive terms of our own, then so be it.
Ultimately, though, the war on tobacco is a battle of ideas that won't be won or lost by debating or challenging ASH's charitable status. It's a side issue and a fairly unimportant one. I won't be losing any sleep over it and I suggest that you don't either.