Further to my recent trip to Ireland, I am delighted to report that Forest is to launch its first group outside the UK. Like Forest, Forest Éireann will campaign against the denormalisation of smoking and the vilification of smokers by the tobacco control lobby.
This is what we call a 'soft' launch (ie done without any fanfare). The plan is to attract a core group of supporters and then develop a modest website that will feature news, information and a dedicated blog.
Our spokesman in Ireland is John Mallon. John and I first swapped emails in 2005 when he wanted to make a film highlighting the truth about passive smoking. "I am a smoker who deeply resents having to go out in the rain to smoke because of a law enacted on a false premise," he told me.
Today he says: "When plans for a comprehensive smoking ban were announced, what got to me was the sense that there was something fundamentally wrong with the whole thing. The way the ban was sold to us was designed to ensure that no decent person could oppose it. Yet I had nagging doubts.
"Any suggestions about compromise, partial restrictions or even a voluntary code were rejected in the most high-handed fashion. In my experience this was most unusual because Irish society is better known for its cheerful tolerance and our live and let live attitude to life.
"The outcome of the ban, now in its sixth year, suggests that it has been counter-productive. Smoking rates have increased while one pub a day closes due to the effects of the ban. Meanwhile society is polarised at social occasions due to large numbers of people being forced to go outdoors.
"The ban affects everybody, smoker and non-smoker alike. If people do not fight for their rights, a host of other restrictions will surely follow."
I've been to Ireland many times since 2003 and I've lost count of the number of times I've been interviewed on Irish radio in particular.
As much as I enjoy the opportunity, I have always felt that Forest should be represented in Ireland by a bona fide Irish voice and having met John I believe we have the right man.
If you live in Ireland (or are Irish and living abroad) please register your support HERE.