Woke up this morning to find the following story all over the media: "Ash calls for 5% increase in tobacco tax" (BBC News), "Call for 5% rise in tobacco tax" (Press Association), "Anti-smoking group urges 5% rise tobacco tax" (ITN News).
All these stories read like an ASH press release. There is not a single comment opposing the idea of a tax increase on tobacco (large or otherwise). Click on the image above to see the ITN report. It's a classic piece of propaganda.
Goerbals Goebbels would be proud.
You would think, at the very least, that someone would have spoken to the Tobacco Manufacturers Association (if not Forest) because the TMA does a lot of lobbying on this issue.
So, this morning, between eight and nine, while you were asleep or munching on your Weetabix, muggins here has been ringing around the BBC, the Press Association etc to complain (in the nicest possible way) about what I can only call the institutionalised bias that is once again evident in the smoking debate.
Of course it's too late for this story but this sort of thing makes me so cross it actually makes me even more determined never to give up.
For the benefit of any journalist or politician reading this (no, I haven't completely lost my mind - Vince Cable is one of Forest's followers on Twitter!), here is my response to ASH's call for a five per cent hike in tobacco taxation:
"The only people who will benefit from raising tobacco taxation are the criminal gangs who will smuggle millions of cheap cigarettes into the country from Eastern Europe and elsewhere.
"These cigarettes, some of them counterfeit, will go on the black market where they will be sold in pubs and on street corners, often to children.
"As a result of smuggling the Treasury could lose up to £3 billion a year, which the country can ill afford in the present economic climate.
"Raising taxation on tobacco hits the elderly and the low paid the hardest. Why should they be discriminated against?"
09:26 ... The Press Association has just sent me an email: "Your statement is now running on the PA wires". Thanks but unfortunately it's too late. The story has already run.
09:36 ... The BBC says it will update its report to include a quote from Forest but no sign of it so far.
10:13 ... I have just emailed the BBC to ask them to let me know when they will be updating their story to include our response. I hope I don't have to phone the newsdesk again. This is the weekend, for heaven's sake!
10:40 ... BBC story updated HERE.
Time for a strong coffee and the Saturday Telegraph. Damn, I've missed most of Danny Baker on Five Live!
I should have kept my mouth shut. I have just been asked to take part in a discussion on this issue at
4.00 4.45pm on the BBC News Channel. (According to a producer, I have been invited "in the interests of balance".)
So now I have to drive to the BBC studio in Cambridge. The original plan - a late lunch and a quiet afternoon in Ely - has been shelved. I am not very popular at home!