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« Duncan Bannatyne: I want to break free | Main | Still smoking and drinking at 100 »

Forest versus ASH ... seconds out

Well, I enjoyed a bit of a humdinger with my old friend Deborah Arnott of ASH on the BBC News Channel on Saturday.

Great fun. See for yourself HERE. (Apologies for the picture/sound quality.)

H/T Dave Atherton.

Dave, it was your comment on THIS post (which I read on my iPhone moments before going on air) that prompted my reference to the Irish Times article.

As you can see, it went down a treat!

Reader Comments (46)

"First of all....Simon forgets to mention.....his organisation.....funded by the Tobacco industry.....spin......."

Polite message to the Witch of Endor:


(And kindly allow US to get on with OURS)

Thanks - I feel a lot better now.

It was close, though...................

March 8, 2010 at 9:29 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

Arnotts broomstick went down in flames !

March 8, 2010 at 9:57 | Unregistered CommenterSpecky

Or - to put it another way:

"ASH nazg durbatulûk, ASH nazg gimbatul,
ASH nazg thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul"

PLEASE, Deborah - put the Ring on !

You know you WANT to................

March 8, 2010 at 10:52 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

Good interview Simes…although a nice suit and tie would have given you even more authority.

Anott’s point about smuggling being a law enforcement issue is neither here nor there…because if tobacco products in this country weren’t taxed so highly then there would be no need for tobacco product smuggling in the first place. Users of these products complain vociferously because of the high tax, and naturally would try and buy the same product cheaper.

BTW I think the amount of revenue from tobacco products is higher than £10billion each year.

March 8, 2010 at 11:45 | Unregistered CommenterChris F J Cyrnik

Enlighten me, someone:

How does one KNOW whether the smuggling of a specific commodity has increased or decreased, exactly ?

I had assumed that statistics were gathered at the Smugglers' Terminal at Heathrow and Dover (etc), but have now been informed that this is not the case.

And certain smugglers (I believe) selfishly fail to fill in the 'Income - Smuggling Activities' Section of their annual returns.

Frankly, I'm puzzled...........

March 8, 2010 at 12:01 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V


Great interview from me too and I am very flattered.

Arnott mentioned Norway and "no suggling,", wrong as always. "Only Norway has higher prices, at around Eur 10 per pack, and it is estimated that over 40 per cent of cigarettes smoked there are smuggled, creating the country's organised crime groups."

Also I have a paper I hope will be published in the British Medical Journal, here is an extract, food for thought.

"The narcotics industry, heroin and cocaine are worth according to the United Nations in 2005 combined of US$135 billion. I can only get the figures from 2000 but the tobacco market is worth $400 billion, it strikes me that $500 billion is a reasonable estimate for 2010, three times as big. "

March 8, 2010 at 12:15 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

Well done Simon.

@ Martin - I feel like venting too today, having had the pleasure of smoking outside at a family wedding this weekend. It was cold. Very, very cold. For your information, Ms Arnott, I wasn't thinking, I hope the Government will put the prices up so I can give up. I was thinking, damn ASH, and damn this Government, for reducing the enjoyment of such occasions.

March 8, 2010 at 12:25 | Unregistered CommenterRose


Simon is right that it is £10 billion, £9.99624242 billion to be precise. Also ASH admit the cost of treating smokers is only £2.7 billion.

"The annual cost of smoking to the NHS in England has soared from £1.7 billion a year in 1998 to £2.7 billion this year."

Since the Tories were last in power they began specifically ring fencing tobacco taxes for the NHS. Labour have carried on the practice.

"Gordon Brown, the chancellor of the exchequer, announced the tax in his prebudget statement last week. If the duty is raised by 5% on1 April next year, it would raise £300m ($480m) for the NHS for the year 2000-1."

March 8, 2010 at 12:41 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

Arnott is clearly in a dreamworld. The only people I know still smoking are people who want to. Everyone else has given up, and I know of no one in the "Oh, I wish the government would put up taxes so I can quit" camp. Maybe I'm alone on this but it seems a lot of rot to me: obviously there are people out there trying to quit but I know of none; it sort of hangs DA's "two-thirds of smokers want to quit" out to dry.

Anyway, I haven't bought cigarettes in this country for a long time. I travel to Europe a few times a year and rolling tobacco is half the British price. Seeing as 50g of rolling baccy keeps me going for a lot longer than the similarly-priced two packs of Marleys, it's a no-brainer and still entirely legal. And still the Treasury gets no tax money from me (well aside from the tax-money that gets back to them from the Europeans which is minimal).


March 8, 2010 at 12:51 | Unregistered CommenterJames Davies

Dave where does the name Cyril appear in my name...

Can't you people read?

March 8, 2010 at 13:10 | Unregistered CommenterChris F J Cyrnik



Apologies to Chris and the ASG piece should ead 2008.

Sorry again.

March 8, 2010 at 13:22 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

Very well done, Simon!

March 8, 2010 at 15:48 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Haha! Great job Simon, loved it! I noticed that while you are able to respond directly to questions, Deborah is refusing to leave her auto-cue name dropping organisations to bolster her argument. "yes, children sell cigarettes door to door in ireland since this happened, but it's under control" brilliant.

March 8, 2010 at 16:10 | Unregistered CommenterRich White

Well done, Simon and how does Debs manage to say with a straight face that smokers, themselves, want the price put up? Oh, yes, she's practised in deception...

March 8, 2010 at 16:11 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

ASH has always been the most pointless and counterproductive of organisations, funded by big pharmacy and staffed entirely by humourless killjoys. All these healthist fanatics will be just as dead as a smoker like me in a hundred years time. Smokers will quit when *they* want to not when the nanny state tells them to.

March 8, 2010 at 16:14 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge George

Very well done Simon. Perhaps you should have pointed out that ASH is very much a fake charity which draws only a tiny proportion of its funding from voluntary donations in answer to her accusations regarding Tobacco industry funding for FOREST.

March 8, 2010 at 16:15 | Unregistered CommenterCostello

I put the Vid on my site as soon as I saw it. Good interview Simon.She certainly didn't have it her own way.

March 8, 2010 at 16:16 | Unregistered CommenterThe Filthy Engineer

What a smug vindictive person Arnott is. Theres no way ASH should be given charity status. Its akin to funding a Hitler Youth movement. Forget the illegal smuggling. I (and hundreds of thousands of others) visit Belgium twice a year and quite legally bring back a 6 month supply of cigars. You only have to visit Adinkerke to see the number of buses and cars turning up from the UK. In these credit crunch times I would guess the trade is vital to Belgiums economy.

March 8, 2010 at 16:46 | Unregistered CommenterMalc G

Yes, interesting to note that she jumped on Forest for being tobacco funded, but omitted ASH being funded by the pharmaceutical industry. It was probably a mistake though, a person of such integrity and moral standing wouldn't deliberately forget such information...

March 8, 2010 at 17:01 | Unregistered CommenterRich White

For Christ's sake. Why can't Arnott wind her neck in and mind her own business. I love my tobacco and I'll never give it up no matter what she says. If they made it illegal I would grow my own. So there Arnott you damn liar.

March 8, 2010 at 17:03 | Unregistered CommenterMr.Delicious Cigarrettes

Was it my wishful imagination or did Debs seem off-balance, slightly on the back foot?

March 8, 2010 at 17:22 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

If you guys want to cheer yourself up read this paper from 1998 I have been sent authored by the Cato Institute. This is with regards to mortality in the USA.

"For example, the same calculations that yield 400,000 smoking-related deaths suggest that 504,000 people die each year because they engage in little or no exercise. Employing an identical formula, bad nutritional habits can
be shown to account for 649,000 excess deaths annually.

"That is nearly 1.6 million deaths from only three causes—without considering alcoholism, accidents, poverty, etc.—out of 2.3 million. And on it goes—computer-generated phantom deaths, not real deaths—constrained neither by accepted statistical methods, by common sense, nor by the number of people who die each year."

"Most important, the government should stop lying and stop pretending that smoking-related deaths are anything but a statistical artifact. The unifying bond of all science is that truth is its aim. When that goal yields to politics, tainting science in order to advance predetermined ends, we are all at Risk. Sadly, that is exactly what has transpired as our public officials fabricate
evidence to promote their crusade against big tobacco."

March 8, 2010 at 17:22 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

What a horrible disilussioned woman - I would say I pity the poor sob married to her but I can't imagine anyone would be so stupid

March 8, 2010 at 17:38 | Unregistered Commenterjohn

simon ur a ledge, allthough fighting a losing a battle as the majority dont smoke

March 8, 2010 at 18:28 | Unregistered Commenterjames

It sounded like you were talking common sense, Simon, and Debs looked rather desperate. Nice one! When she sticks the boot in about tobacco funding, you perhaps ought to remind her that the general public doesn't support ASH's ideology and that is shown in how much funding it gets from the public. Without Big Pharma support and tax payers' hard earned cash, it wouldn't exist at all.

March 8, 2010 at 18:38 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Good interview Simon. A clear win for common sense. But just a thought:

ASH keep claiming that 70% of smokers want to give up.
There's an easy way to test this.
Get the Government to offer a free quit service and count the number of applicants. Should be around the 8 million mark.

Oh hang on - they've already done that experiment. From memory, they had a few 100,000 or so applicants.

March 8, 2010 at 18:57 | Unregistered CommenterTony

Hahaha! Turkeys don't vote for christmas!!
Simon Clark, you are my hero. If i wasn't a heterosexual male, i would want to conceive a child by you!
You made that sour trout of a woman look desperate. Very good work!

March 8, 2010 at 19:39 | Unregistered CommenterSmoke smoke wherever you may be

Arnott said about the two thirds who want to give up - "You just need to read the surveys Simon" - or words to that effect.

Whenever has a survey not produced what the organisation paying for it wants it to produce? Surveys, like statistics, are not scientific, even by the standards of the science put out by ASH, WHO and this government!

Well done Simon for keeping your cool and even managing a chuckle or 2; I would have been tempted to throttle the old bat!

I also bring my cigarettes back from Spain/Majorca each year. We make 2 trips and usually have to pay a little in excess baggage, but it is still only half of what we would pay here for cigarettes, so it is more than worth it. In fact, I was away last week on the most recent jaunt and met a young lady on the flight home who was so incensed by the smoking ban that she almost (sadly only almost) started smoking.

Currently my response to those who wish to challenge smokers is that the healthiest people I know are smokers! Which is no word of a lie, either.

Happy smoking everyone, especially on No Smoking Day!

March 8, 2010 at 21:02 | Unregistered CommenterLyn

Arnott is just a harpie. lf all women looked and sounded like her the human race would disappear off the face of the earth.

l know many people who now buy their tobacco in the EU and if the gov put UK prices up by 5% even more would.

Personally l wish everyone would do it and then see how long the gov would keep fake charities like ASH funded when all tax from tobacco dried up.

Go to Spain folks or better still Bulgaria ... have a short break, buy your tobacco (Marlboro currently £1.90 a pack of 20 in BG) and still be better off than staying in UK and buying here.

Hit this gov and ASH where it hurts!

March 8, 2010 at 21:33 | Unregistered CommenterSpartan

Totally irrelevant, but I know someone who knew Arnott in her youth. The fact that she smoked came as less of a surprise than that she used to ride a motorbike.

Hard to imagine, now.

March 8, 2010 at 22:32 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

What happened to EU tax harmonisation ???

March 8, 2010 at 22:46 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

'Imaginary exchange' -
Arnott - "May I remind everyone that Simon is sponsored by Tobacco Companies".
Clark - "May I remind everyone that Deborah lobbies those who pay her salary, the government".

March 8, 2010 at 23:10 | Unregistered Commentertimbone

Why not kick off these debates each time by stating" Of course ASH do'nt like it mentioned that much of their funding comes via Big Pharma. ASH (USA) and CRUK both receive direct pharma funding, then pass it on to ASH(UK)" Then explain how pharma influence global tobacco policy(they run WHO) to sell their NRT which has a 98.4% falure rate and often works as a gateway drug to anti-depressants (zyban etc). Then challenge her to say if she supports prohibition, or does she want to protect her job by merely continuing demonisation.You have to play them at their own game or the BT link will render you impotent.

March 9, 2010 at 11:00 | Unregistered CommenterAJ

I agree with AJ above.

Especially since I've a feeling that the general public is even more suspicious of the Pharmaceuticals nowadays than they ever were of the Tobacco companies.

The Big Pharma-WHO-Royal College of Physicians-ASH line of command needs to be REPEATEDLY exposed.

And without apologising.

The Health Lobby is NOT Mother Teresa..........

March 9, 2010 at 14:41 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

Trouble is Labour will just think raising the tax by 5% is a good idea.
Their stupid remember .

March 9, 2010 at 14:59 | Unregistered CommenterSpecky

Sooner or later all this crap will stop. Well the Berlin Wall came down when the East Germans realised that they were being controlled by a very small bunch of people like Debbie. So why not!

March 9, 2010 at 21:13 | Unregistered CommenterChris

Am I the only one who thinks this proposed 5% tax increase may well be an attempted trade-off by ASH with the Government – a “sweetener” to try and persuade them to keep giving as much money as they’ve done in the past to fund Arnott and her friends? You know – “We’ll scratch another bit of your back if you go on scratching the same bit of ours”? Now, why would that be? Surely not possibly because, having fulfilled their usefulness in “fronting” the shove-through of the smoking ban legislation, there are now some nasty rumours behind closed doors of imminent funding cuts to come? No, surely not!

March 10, 2010 at 0:24 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

That was a cracker, Simon. Well done!

March 10, 2010 at 1:08 | Unregistered CommenterAno

I do think that Simon though he did well could have slapped the b!"£ch with a few better facts such as their funding, government sponsered, taxpayer funded and how they are the mouth piece of big pharm - much more likely to get their funding witdrawn if the public are aware.

March 10, 2010 at 18:49 | Unregistered Commenterjohn m

She was lost for words at the end there. Well done Simon.

March 12, 2010 at 12:19 | Unregistered CommenterAnts

Enlighten me please.
Is it amongst FOREST'S plans in the near future(ASAP)any plans/efforts to change the anti-smoking law?This is the purpose of me been a member of it.

March 12, 2010 at 14:19 | Unregistered Commenterdeva

Two-thirds of smokers wish to quit?
In your dreams Debbie.
A smoker saying they want to quit is only making a conditioned response in order to avoid being confrontational with the questioner.
And that old chestnut about Forest being funded by the tobacco industry fails to take into account the billions of anti-smoking propaganda funded by the drug industry and our own money through taxation. Including Deborah's own wages.
Big Pharma and Big Tobacco are at war, but it's the bigger brother Pharma that has the ear of governments to promote their own business.
Well done Simon!

March 12, 2010 at 14:58 | Unregistered CommenterShaftmonde

" Deborah Arnott said smokers want the price of cigarettes to go up and also that two thirds of smokers wanted to quit"

What planet is she on, it certainly isn't the planet Earth.


March 12, 2010 at 14:58 | Unregistered CommenterEddie Douthwaite

I'm not quite sure if two thirds of smokers would like to quit but about three thirds woud definately like to beat Deborah with the reality stick and I don't even need to take an opinions survey to make that assesment.

Every time I hear any kind of argument dismisal because a person is employed directly or indirectly from the tobacco industry the hair at the back of my neck go up! How bad just about every goverment and politician must be under the same pretence, since our smoking habits amount to several billion in taxation each year? So MP salaries aren't funded from the tobacco industries then? What about health organizations, don't they receive funding from the goverments as well? Funding which is part cames from the huge yearly sums deriving from tobacco taxation?

After seeing the representation of the health lobby (fasists), I've decided from this point onwards to cancel my contributions to ANY and ALL charities that support directly or indirectly the anti-smoking policies. After all it seems I'm going to be needing the money to pay for the increase in the upcoming tax (with half a mind here to buy smokes from any smuggler knocking my door to sell cigarettes). Lets see how much saving that is going to be for the NHS.

That may sound harsh but nobody is cutting me any slack here so why should I? I'm supporting causes which on the face of it may seem good, and behind my back I'm getting painted as the bad guy because I smoke. Seems ridiculous? Have you been aproached on your smoking break from a charity person making the argument - "If you get cancer from smoking you'd wish people were making contributions to cancer research" -and then use those contributions to fund people like ASH which are having their salaries paid in part from my charity. And that probably includes the wicked witch of the west.

Simon well done, my hat's off to you; and my advice to ask her who's paying HER salary next time you see her. (and maybe she should use some of that money for a face lift - I've seen ugly but damn - guess all that health eating doesn't really do you much good considering how the ASH poster girl looks)

Regarding NHS - 20 Million savings by increasing tobacco tax? How? By providing more Ibuprofen with the extra income from this tax, which is what they do the first 3 months to cancer patients in the first place - and some of them are non-smokers - before they do a proper diagnose of the disease, let alone link it to smoking? This doesn't sit well with me either. Consider this, dodgy smuggled cigarretes will cause even more harm, how is the savings scheme is going to work then?

I'd rather educate my children to the truth about smoking, and when they are coming of age allow them to make their own decisions. Somehow I question Arnotts motives about her caring about them. After all anyone beginning their conversation with "do not hear any argument from the opposing side, the other person is evil" seems more like religious fanatism to me (I did say fasists) rather than a well established dialogue. Sure Deborah, you are the saint here, you convinced me, Simon was the only one in the debate with an agenta. What a fool I must be.

Let's get one thing straight. I do believe smoking is not really a healthy thing to do but it is pleasurable; on the other hand it is not as bad as it is being presented these days. In any case it is a conscious choice, and I would like to believe by the majoriry of smokers. People also have the choice to quit should they want to. But the important thing is forcing them in any way to act against their will and you making the choice for them; well I am not going to repeat myself for the third time but most certainly you are not going to win any popularity contests.

You can establish the relation between health benefits deriving from the taxation, but you can't possibly see the connection between inflated economics and smuggling? Sure smuggling is a law enforcing issue, but you may want to look deeper into it considering you are the spokesperson for the health police.

Get a life - and allow me to enjoy my own.

March 12, 2010 at 20:59 | Unregistered CommenterSotirios Mitsis

When the witch tried to discredit you by claiming your salary was paid by the tobacco industry, I wish you had countered by saying that she was paid bu Pfizer.

March 13, 2010 at 9:20 | Unregistered Commenterdave

A fact I was not so far aware off is these organised door to door cheap fags sellers.

Where do I subscribe?

March 17, 2010 at 23:13 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph K

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