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« Forest petition - 36 hours left to sign | Main | RIP Iain Dale's Diary »

ASH spokeswoman accuses tobacco industry of "terror campaign"

As I reported earlier Dizzy had this story on his blog this morning. It got lost a bit in my earlier post so I am highlighting it again, having now listened to the interview with Cecilia Farren of ASH on the Today programme.

Responding to Wiel Maessen, organiser of the small bar owners' campaign that successfully challenged the smoking ban in the Netherlands, Farren told presenter James Naughtie:

"It's a very backward step. For me, on the side of keeping smokefree law is public opinion, public health, workers health, equality of access. There's just so many reasons and on the other side it's just long campaigning by the tobacco industry, frightening businesses. It's an absolute terror campaign and I think you've got to have backbone to stand up to them or actually back down in front of their campaign."

Three years ago Farren tried to "name and shame" me at a tobacco control conference in Edinburgh, a story I recorded HERE. She embarrassed fellow tobacco control campaigners that day and listening to her now I'm sure she's embarrassed a few more.

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  • Response
    Of course, being part of ASH, she is on the moral high ground here. Because frightening businesses is a tactic that ASH find appalling! They would never even consider such a method suitable for their own ends.

Reader Comments (23)

I am also fed up as being dismissed as somehow connected with "The Tobacco Industry" as a normal mum and grandma. I only moved into politics because of this issue, the affect it has had on my every day life, and the 40 year campaign that has only ever featured one side of the debate while stifling the other.

The reason I campaign for my right to be simply left alone is because of the inequality I have felt during the last decade, particularly, as the smoke free war on law abiding smokers has got nastier and more personal with Govt backing. I've watched the propaganda develop over 40 years and the sentiment "enough is enough" says it for me.

It seems smokers are targets for humiliation by the anti-smoking industry to make the general, uninformed, public hate them. All of this is simply because smokers, especially lifelong smokers, just won't quit no matter what health threats and scaremongering are thrown at them.

Thanks to blogs and the internet generally, and the way it allows the little man affected by big corporations and powerful funded lobby groups like ASH to debate and research, the truth about tobacco is beginning to be known. ASH and their self interest partners don't like that because it does not fit their own ideology of a smoke free world at any price.

They push the boundaries of what can and cannot be done and said about smokers further all the time with all kinds of mythical "public health" threats like third hand smoke, while creating more ways of killing business, creating inequality and blaming this mythical "Tobacco Industry" for it.

If only Big Tobacco would step in and help the smoker. How little ASH really knows. If our fledgling movement had just a fraction of their money for research and law suits, the Govt would see that ASH is a bunch of hysterics who would claim anything to further their cause. That the Govt is taking sides in this issue is pure lunacy. It will end up a laughing stock. It will lose them support. It already has.

Backing a group that accuses ordinary law abiding consumers, and many of them Conservative voters, of "terror" will lose them support and not win them any new friends.

December 14, 2010 at 22:01 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Ooh dear, but there DOES seem to be a lot of toy-throwing from the Pram Children these days! Why isn't the HSE doing something about it? Someone could get hurt...

December 14, 2010 at 22:19 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

I hope it's not condemnation by association Simon. I own a pair of dark sunglasses and actually wore them in public once or twice during the summer. If that's not bad enough, I was stopped by the Gardai one morning and it was discovered that my car tax was two days overdue. I'm a known "Munster" supporter, brought a load of tobacco back from Spain last year (with the receipt from the shop), and just to complete the picture, I was caught on CCTV at a protest march against the recent cutbacks. You can see why the old trout might have her suspicions about you.

December 14, 2010 at 22:52 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Mallon

As always, Tobacco Control is busy describing itself with its accusations. After all, hasn't the Irish Government found a solid, proven link between tobacco smuggling in Ireland (thanks to ASH's pushing for abnormally high pricing) and the proceeds of said smuggling going to terrorist groups? And real terrorists - the ones with bombs and guns, not he ones with a lighter and some dried leaves.

Then she mentions public opinion is behind it? Funny - apart from the Yougov polls (overseen by ASH Trustee Kellner) every poll I've ever seen has a consistent 70 ish per cent against it (or at the very least wanting smoking rooms etc). A figure that has remained unchanged since before the ban to now, three years later. Just look at the Your Freedom Site - repealing the ban was the number one suggestion on the whole site with, yes, about 65% support.

She mentions public access. How about the elderly and disabled who can no longer visit these venues as they are incapable of getting up and down all night? What about the people who no longer go out as they are no longer made to feel welcome there - not exactly improving access, is it? Then again, neither is shutting down 10% of the places because no-one wants to go there any more, either. Now no-one has access to those tens of thousand of pubs.

She mentions public health. Funny - none of the figures I have seen show any difference in death rates, cardio vascular disease etc at all. Oh yes, Pell predicted massive changes but now the real hospital admissions are available we see no change. In fact, heart attack admission went UP last year reversing a 30 year downward trend. I won't say there is a causal link (even though they would) but it seems there is little evidence there.

In fact, as usual , ASH are wrong on every level. The only terrorism I see here is a deliberate campaign of "denormalisation" of the general public (a word I am astonished that they actually use in Parliament even!) and the deliberate raising of anxiety and promotion of social division through increasingly heavy-handed measures and downright lies about what harm one person is supposedly causing another (all based on zero scientific eveidence).

Just unbelievable....

December 14, 2010 at 23:42 | Unregistered CommenterMr A

It matters little if tobacco control has a hissy fit, what we need is more politicians willing to highlight the needs of the people rather than sucking up to their political bosses.
Thank god we've got a few in parliament with b*lls who don't accept the political/sociological/law degree indoctrination that others spew out.
Lets get into the uni tuition debacle and demand a nil cost university course for those who gain a first in a new course of 'Compromise, Admitting they don't know everything and Respecting Everyone'. = CARE
The public are not the enemy but we soon will be due to the abundance of 'we're superior male bovine poo fertiliser'.

December 15, 2010 at 0:01 | Unregistered CommenterChrisB

Aw, c’mon! Give poor old ASH and their friends a bit of sympathy will you? There they sit, with their main function now completed (fronting the smoking ban for a Government that hoped it would get away with the “public opinion” excuse); savage funding cuts hanging over their heads (never asked for a Lottery grant before last year, did they? Didn’t need one!); public interest in all things health – and particularly smoking – related now utterly exhausted; non-smokers’ opinions about the ban itself beginning to change now that the unpleasant reality is upon us all; the brakes off the media (a bit) vis-à-vis only reporting totally anti-smoking stories; and internet revelations galore about all those naughty fibs and lies and stories they and their chums put out and all those stats that they so cleverly massaged up, and up, and up ……

They’ve tried some pretty desperate avenues over recent months in an attempt to re-ignite anti-smoking hysteria, but each attempt has seemed increasingly shrill and, quite frankly, comical; each has also fallen on pretty much deaf ears as far as the media and the public are concerned. Third-hand smoke? I don’t know anyone, apart from you lot on here, who’ve even heard of it, let alone know what it purports to be. Smoke seeping through entire apartment blocks? A (non-smoking) builder friend of mine laughed out loud when I mentioned that and genuinely thought I was winding him up. Climate change? Yes, they started – just started – to blame us for that, but then climate change is already regarded as no more than an excuse to tax us more and reduce our quality of life by most people, so they were flogging a dead horse with a dead horse on that one and abandoned it PDQ. Now they’ve started bandying around the “t” word. Christ, they must be truly desperate if they think the public can’t tell the difference between someone who straps bombs round his waist and gets on a train and sets them off and someone who just wants to be able to light up a cigarette without getting fined or slung off the premises.

One wonders how much further they can try and stretch the public’s credibility. What, in all honesty, is there is left for them to blame smokers for now? The Iraq/Afghanistan conflicts? The global conspiracy for a New World Order? An alien invasion of the Earth? Some of their recent claims have been so tenuous and so stretched that I only half think I’m joking here ……..

December 15, 2010 at 1:29 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

Here's her GASP website

Gasp in admiration at her glittering career in which she's pulled an "outrageous" stunt at a restaurant that - gasp- not only didn't have a non-smoking area but offered free cigars at the end of the meal.....

Gasp in wonder at her bestselling products such as a little squeezy ball...

Gasp (and sing Hallelujah) at her moment of epiphany when she decided to give up smoking because....her boyfriend didn't like the smell.......

What a smug, self-serving weeble she is.

December 15, 2010 at 7:31 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

Found this blog on TC:

Haven't read any of the articles yet but even a glance at their introductions reveals TC's paranoia about the tobacco industry, with one accusing tobacco reps of disguising themselves to infiltrate the conference!

There's also an interview with Mz Farren who is praised for her "persistence and enthusiasm" which I'm sure is TC-speak for zealotry and authoritarianism.

December 15, 2010 at 9:48 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

There is no doubt that the increasing number of pro choice advocates who have read up on the subject and see how we are being misled by the anti smoking industry have got under the skin of Farren, Arnott et al. The broadening of the base, especially intellectually and politically has compromised them.

I would also like to say all you posters on newspaper websites are effective too. It was from there that Roy Castle smoked cigars has finally come into the main stream media public domain. Well done.

December 15, 2010 at 9:49 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

Thanks for the link to the "Gasp" site Joyce. I found it difficult, no, that should read "impossible", to believe what I was reading on there.

How on earth can this person justify working for a supposed charity, i.e. ASH, when she owns a private company that is benefiting from her supposed charity work. In my book, and I am sure in the Charity Commissions book, that constitutes a Conflict of Interests.

After I ploughed through her wordy, vomit inducing self appraisal, which anyone over the age of twelve could challenge for lack of any real factual evidence, in less than two minutes. I decided to look at some of the items she is offering for sale.

One that caught my eye, was this

It is called a "TobacAlert" and is described as "an easy to use, fast and accurate urine test strip. It can detect if a child or adult has been smoking or has been exposed to second hand smoke, will detect the use of cigarettes, pipes, cigars, chewing tobacco . Three Clear Results; Smoking - passive - negative"

I found this really frightening. It is not against the law (at this moment in time) to smoke or chew tobacco, so who could this ghastly item be aimed at? Does Ms Farren know something that the rest of the free world doesn't?

December 15, 2010 at 10:26 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

Yes Peter - they know criminalisation of smokers with Govt backing is next with the support of "public opinion" as defined by ASH et al.

Don't forget that the equation of smokers as terrorists is also one of their strategies. That's why ASH NZ designed the horrendous poster of two cigarettes burning in the shape of the twin towers as a way of putting into the public's mind the view that smokers are worst than those who brought down the WTC and have killed more "innocents" than those terrorists who did that.

Yes, Misty, to normal people like yourself and your friend it is hilarious - or would be if health professionals did not believe it.

During a routine medical at my GP's practice, I refused to tell a nurse whether I smoked or didn't, drank or didn't, and explained my pro-choice stance and that I wouldn't tell her of any of my lifestyle habits and that included whether I climbed mountains or rode horses, or ate more cream cakes than advisable. I also pointed out this poster and said how outrageous it was. The nurse said it was a great poster and she believed, as many other people would, that it was telling a truthful message.

That was about three years ago. I haven't been to the doctor's since and don't intend to. Having been faced with such obvious anti-smoker bigotry, I would rather die at home of something that could be cured than have to face such people again.

As for this GASP person - it's pretty obvious her income and wealth depends on harassing law abiding consumers of a legal product.

December 15, 2010 at 14:47 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Simon says that three years ago Ms Farren tried to "name and shame" him at a tobacco control conference in Edinburgh. She certainly named him, to his delight, to all the other delegates, but the actual shaming, seemed to bounce back onto her, more than him.

Having said that, and knowing what we know now of Ms Farren, I think the time has come for a little more shaming of this "delightful" lady. It isn't difficult, as Ms Farren supplies us with all the ammunition needed to shame her to hell and back.

On Ms Farren's self publicising self appraisal, she quotes that she realised from her own reaction in America that people's attitudes to smoking can be changed simply by promoting non-smokers' rights to breathe clean air.

With that one simple statement, i.e. "non-smokers' rights to breathe clean air" Ms Farren has managed to carve out what looks like a very lucrative business for herself.

But, of course, under British law, and as far as I can tell, International law in general, there is no such right allocated to any individual or group. There is the Clean Air Act, which mainly covers factories who produce enormous amounts of pollution into the atmosphere, but it certainly doesn't cover any of the normal every-day irritants which are abundant in our atmosphere and environment.

If Ms Farren's statement was true, then why, I wonder, has she never taken her quest for "clean air" further than tobacco smoke? Why hasn't she called for a stop on all mechanised vehicles, bonfires, BBQs, open kitchen ranges, fireworks, fly-sprays, air-fresheners, cleaning sprays, plug-in odourisers, butane gas, etc., etc..

Could the real answer be that she knows she is on a big money earner with her anti-tobacco business, which the public as a whole are pretty ignorant about, when it comes to having any real knowledge of exactly what is, and what isn't harmful to them?

It is all very well selling the gullible public, a strip that tell them if they have any traces of tobacco smoke in them, be it first or second-hand, but what Ms Farren's wonderful contraption doesn't tell the poor fools who buy it, is the one simple fact that they should be told, and that is; Is there any proven scientific fact to show that breathing in a minuscule amount of second-hand tobacco smoke is any more harmful to them, than any of the vast amounts of other irritants, some of which I have mentioned above, that are in the air we breath every day.

The Advertising Standards need to be alerted to Ms Farren's descriptions of her products, which are not exactly forthcoming with the truth. I have reported her to the Charity Commission for her conflict of interests in running a commercial enterprise, which benefits from her position with the charity ASH.

December 15, 2010 at 15:16 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

Good for you Peter!

As for other irritants, well, you only have to read the Daily Mail list of things that give you cancer to know that in this modern world that there is no way any of us could avoid getting cancer - smokers, non-smokers, or never smokers unless we don't breathe, don't eat and don't drink at all --- and then I'm sure we'd die of something else. Death is a fact of life.

December 15, 2010 at 15:25 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Pat beat me to it, Peter - good for you.

I looked at her NicAlert (urine) product which seems to also measure cotinine levels but includes nicotine from NRT (which, surprise, surprise, she claims to promote on her site although I can't see any). Leg-iron on his blog a short while ago linked to a site on which anti-smokers were bewildered to find they'd failed such a test (no-one enlightened them).

Her "Passive Smoking and Children" book (£20.00) summarises data from "hundreds of existing studies" - are there HUNDREDS of studies?

Wonder if her books sell on Amazon - interesting to read the customer reviews....

December 15, 2010 at 15:54 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

This woman is listed on ASH UK's website as their South West contact. ASH UK is a registered charity. It is making knowingly false statements claiming that we who campaign against the smoking ban are financed by tobacco companies. Email the Charity Commission. If they get more than a handful of complaints, they will be obliged to take some action. This action will reach the press.

December 15, 2010 at 16:09 | Unregistered Commenterjon

I've now listened to the R4 interview. She doesn't claim that ordinary campaigners are funded by the tobacco industry, nor that ordinary campaigners are terrorists. She claims a Dutch MP was paid by the tobacco industry, which is waging a terror campaign. I should have read Simon's quote rather than click on the link to the exaggerating blog article.

December 15, 2010 at 16:41 | Unregistered Commenterjon

I wonder how the tobacco industry wages its campaign of terror, "frightening businesses" - perhaps by pointing out the inescapable fact that businesses suffer at the hands of a comprehensive ban, a fact that doesn't require the intervention of the industry to point out?

TC's tactic of terrifying the public into believeing that a wisp of cigarette smoke will kill them, demanding that smokers be treated as outcasts and that business owners behave as unpaid policemen is, on the other hand, perfectly moderate and reasonable.

December 15, 2010 at 17:03 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

In terms of the wider anti-smoking industry - I beg to differ because of the way they promote smokers as terrorists with that poster!

December 15, 2010 at 17:04 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Jon, you say "Email the Charity Commission. If they get more than a handful of complaints, they will be obliged to take some action. This action will reach the press"

Can you please hold off from doing this Jon, as I have made an official complaint to the Charity Commission, and received a reply saying that they take up to 10 days to look into such a complaint, but they have assured me that it will be looked into.

I do not think a string of email complaints at this point will help my case, I think they might see it as an organised campaign of harassment against ASH and this woman, which could have alternative effects on my issue with them

December 15, 2010 at 17:14 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood


Good luck and well done.

I have been joining the party this week and having an ongoing dialogue with an MP and have the also corresponded with a prominent anti smoking campaigner with a very interesting reply.

More to come form me.

December 15, 2010 at 21:39 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

Peter T -

Good tactical sense on your part, there. Well done ! And DO please keep us posted.

BTW, the Devil NEVER had All The Best Tunes, either - contrary to popular belief. Pure propaganda (unless the Beatles, Mozart, and Cole Porter were practising Satanists) !

December 16, 2010 at 13:40 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

I agree with you Martin, regarding your comment "the Devil NEVER had All The Best Tunes, either - contrary to popular belief. Pure propaganda (unless the Beatles, Mozart, and Cole Porter were practising Satanists)"

And to prove that point, I have included a tribute to my hero
, which includes many thoughts which I endorse 100% and ends with my Christmas wishes to everyone on here.

December 16, 2010 at 14:13 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

Peter T -

Thanks for that - and WHAT a waste of Human Potential ! However, for MY money, one of the best tunes EVER written - period, and not just by Lennon - was 'In My Life'. To be able to write such a song in one's twenties suggests something more than 'mere' talent. Gold doesn't get any purer. Yes, what a terrible, terrible waste..........................

December 16, 2010 at 15:15 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

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