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« Postscript to passive smoking and the price of propaganda | Main | Frankly, who gives a tweet? »

A teacher writes

We have this afternoon received the following email:

Dear Forest,

As a secondary school teacher who on a weekly basis teachers my students about the dangers of cigarettes and tobacco I was wondering in what sense your organisation is doing anything positive in our world?

Don't you think that you should give up the ghost and this losing battle? I am a big believer in freedom of choice when that choice is safe and positive but not when a choice will kill and harm you and those around you.

Myself and the entire student faculty look forward to your answer which will be discussed in classes.


Prof C.D.

Your comments are welcome and I will of course be only too happy to refer him "and the entire student faculty" to this post, should you have anything constructive to say!

Reader Comments (40)

Dear Sir/Madam/Miss/Ms/Other,

Neither I nor the other pupils in your class intend to be lectured to by a soi-disant 'teacher' who a) believes that 'teacher' is a verb, b) resorts to redundant verbiage such as 'on-a-weekly-basis' ('weekly' is quite sufficient), c) seeks to give instruction upon a subject which he quite plainly has no real understanding of, and d) seems to have confused 'education' with 'indoctrination'.

Is it too much to expect that one day you and your colleagues will re-discover the TRUE function of Education, and finally cast off the malign influence of John Dewey and all the other crypto-marxist mind-benders since, with their sturdy attachment to 'values', and a marked resistance to the (nowadays) revolutionary notion that children should be encouraged to think for themselves ?

I write this, of course, under the asumption that you ARE a teacher, as you claim - and not a mischevous agent provacateur acting under instruction from the Ministry of Truth.

Should you seek further clarification (or amplification) of any of the points raised, then please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours etc

January 7, 2011 at 17:08 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

Dear teacher,

Along with the points from the commenter 'Martin V', I would only add one thing. Driving a car is much more dangerous than smoking a fag or drinking a pint and the effects that it has on other individuals are real and unobservable without question (unlike second-hand smoke). If you really believed in freedom of choice, save for circumstances which might hurt oneself or other individuals around them, than you really don't believe in freedom of choice. Everything, regardless of whether it is drinking a glass of water or a pint of cider, can have some negative effect on an individual. That's simply life.

January 7, 2011 at 17:19 | Unregistered CommenterDan Osborne

Dear Teacher,

The UK schools have the most active campaigns as you demonstrate on tobacco, alcohol, sex education and drugs. However UK youth have Europe's highest incidence of cigarette, alcohol and drug consumption. We also have the highest rates of teenage pregnancies in Europe too. I am sure you have read the paper that when the the nanny state goes into schools to teach sex education, just in case here is a taste. "Teenage pregnancies have risen fastest in areas of the country where the Government has specifically targeted resources to reduce them, a new survey has revealed.

The report, to be published tomorrow, says that the explicit sex education leaflets and free condoms provided to under-age girls by the Government schemes have simply encouraged them to have sex."

So you nannying them on alcohol and tobacco may create a new generation of smokers and drinkers.

Many from the free market would blame it on too generous welfare payments, undermining of family values (to a lesser extent) and the abrogation of personal responsibility to the state. A lack of discipline in school, insufficient sentencing in the courts and a police force tied up in red tape and diversity' courses. I am sure many of these things I have mentioned if you are a Guardianista may appall you.

As a teacher you may well be part of the problem.

January 7, 2011 at 17:50 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

Dear Teacher,
I don't see why I should have to risk death riding on a bus just because people are selfish enough to own and use private vehicles and make journeys in them for purely recreational reasons. I also
believe that recreational sex should be banned. HPV is a sexually transmissible infection and a necessary cause of ~100% of cervical cancers and is believed to cause other cancers too. Although it is illegal to give someone a transmissible disease under the offenses against the person Act (I believe) prosecutions are rare as it is hard to prove. It would be better to ban the freedom to choose to have recreational sex altogether if only to protect sex workers from cancer and death. Sex should only be for reproductive purposes and or only sanctioned between couples that are registered with the state and subject to tests in order to prevent vertical transmission. Why should a baby risk infection just because it's mother wanted freedom of choice to have recreational sex?

January 7, 2011 at 19:00 | Unregistered CommenterFredrik Eich

Dear Teacher,
As an ex-teacher who had no specific responsibility for teaching pupils about tobacco usage I must draw your attention to the active role I had in bringing some balance and understanding to a most difficult topic.
The pupils realised that PSHE sessions were rather dictatorial and based on ready-made information packs rather than personal experience and research.
They also realised that certain topics, unlike most other educational activities, provided for no debate.
Many pupils ridiculed the lessons and realised many claims were quite extreme so, when asked by pupils, I felt I had to provide some grey to the black & white they were told.
I believe my words as a smoker bore weight and engendered understanding to the extent that few of my class members went on to smoke.
It grieves me to say I was 'discouraged' from discussing 'subjects I had no training in' and more recently on a social occasion realised that our duly 'educated' youth frequently share their free NRT for an extra buzz when smoking.

The anti-smoking movement have assumed sole responsibility for their area, have denied any place for any resource other than theirs and despite all their rules, regulations and threats of Armageddon have failed.

January 7, 2011 at 20:28 | Unregistered CommenterChris

Was this actually signed 'Professor' or have you added that? The title 'Professor' can only be held in this country by one who currently holds a departmental chair within a university. As such, I can't really understand why such a person would be taking time away from their academic responsibilities with the university to 'teach' PSE to teenagers.

January 7, 2011 at 20:46 | Unregistered CommenterTodd

Hi Simon, Have just sent through this ENORMOUS suggested reply. It's very, very long, so clearly don't post it if you don't want to bore all your readers to death! As you say, this isn't a space for would-be bloggers to put their blogs up! But even if you don't post it, feel free to (a) use any bits of it that you like (b) amend and use any bits you want or (c) sling the whole thing straight into the bin and stick with your own, much more concise (and, probably, much more appropriate) version! I do tend to go on a bit once I get going, I know! It's a slightly different take on things from most of the comments on here. I've tried to challenge HIM a bit to make him feel a bit uncomfortable and to put him on the spot a bit - never a bad experience for the average common-or-garden bigot to have every now and again. Anyway, here goes .......

Dear Professor CD

Thank you for your e-mail. Quite apart from the fact that the tone of your letter indicates little inclination to accept as reasonable any explanation as to what I and Forest do, which leads me in turn to suspect that any reply which I may make to your e-mail will almost certainly be disregarded as the stuff of delusion and, possibly, held up for some kind of ridicule for your students to enjoy, I will nevertheless grace your – if I may be so bold - slightly patronising note with a considered reply.

But first I would like to highlight some points within your e-mail which were of interest to me. The first is your suggestion that I “should give up the ghost and this losing battle.” Of particular interest is the use of the word “should” at the start of this statement, which I feel may well be a little Freudian slip on your behalf. You claim to be “a big believer in freedom of choice” although you do not extend this privilege to smokers, and it is perhaps also slightly Freudian that you include as one of the reasons for their exclusion the fact that they are “harming themselves.” This, surely must be the ultimate attitude of someone who, far from being a “big believer” in freedom in fact has a very, very limited view of what freedoms should or should not be allowed. Is it not every crazed leader’s ultimate dream that they should be able to control, not just what people do in conjunction with others, but also what they do of their own volition, on their own, to themselves?

I am also interested to know whether you include campaigning on behalf of smokers (I do not smoke myself) as falling into the category of an "unacceptable" freedom? Or do you extend your limitation of the rights of others not just to those activities which you believe “kill and harm them and those around them” but also to those who seek to support the people who are undertaking the activity which you deem so dangerous? Where would you stop in this respect? Would you also deny individual members of our organisation the freedom to support us? And what about the people who personally support the views of our members, but who are not members themselves? Many of these people are, like me, non-smokers, so in and of itself their support cannot possibly be directly harming anyone. But are they to be denied their freedom to do so purely by association, no matter how many times removed? If so, then your suggestion as to what we “should” be allowed the choice to do could go on ad infinitum! Is nobody to be allowed to question the accepted doctrine regarding smoking (or, indeed, anything else)? Should no-one be permitted, even having studied much of the so-called evidence presented by the anti-smoking lobby as “proof” – and having found it wanting – to publicly voice their concerns?

I would go so far as to say, in fact, that e-mails such as yours in many ways exemplify exactly why we do what we do. It is precisely because of the entrenched and utterly immovable opinions of people such as yourself that nearly a quarter of the population now find themselves experiencing not just the practical unpleasantness of a blanket smoking ban, but also the associated knock-on effects of persecution, prejudice, threats, bullying and harassment. They suffer all of this with the financial backing and supporting policies of authorities at all levels, and – perhaps even more importantly - with the tacit approval of people like yourself, who refuse to acknowledge the outward ripples within society that your own open and wholehearted support of the anti-smoking movement’s entire stance on the matter has caused.

I have directed you towards several documents which I hope you will find of interest, although in fairness I should warn that for you they will not make pleasant reading, because they do not parrot the “party line” on smoking and – as you would expect from an organisation like Forest – in fact often take an opposing position. Read in conjunction with many of the documents prepared by the anti-smoking lobby they might well enable anyone with an objective viewpoint to come to a reasoned, logical position on the whole matter of smoking. But all documents, from both sides of the argument, would need to be read with an open mind in order to reach such an informed conclusion, and I am not at all certain that this applies to you with regard to this particular subject. I hope you find them useful nonetheless.

Having taken the time and trouble to compose this rather lengthy reply to your own e-mail, I do hope that you will permit me to ask one last question of you in return. I would be very interested to know if, as an individual, you yourself completely, totally and utterly believe each and every single document, study, research paper and news report about the harmful nature of smoking which has peppered the media and the internet for many years now, and which still continue to appear on a daily basis. Of course, there have been many hundreds of these over the years, and I would not expect you to have read, digested and learned by heart each and every one of them! But I would be grateful nonetheless if you would refer your answer to those which you have read or heard about that you remember. And, if there have been any at all which you have viewed with some skepticism or lack of credibility (and I am sure that these would have been in the minority, so would be quite easy to recall), I would be extremely interested to know which ones these were, and your reasons for regarding them with a degree of doubt. Even a vague recollection of the subject matter and/or a rough timing would be of great interest to me.

With best wishes, and I look forward to hearing from you.
Simon Clark
FOREST Head Honcho
PR Guru
All-round Genius!

January 7, 2011 at 20:51 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

I am a lifelong smoker from another era when it was perceived differently. I began in childhood. I've smoked now for 43 years. I have never wanted to hurt anyone else but I do want to be left alone to do that which I enjoy which has not yet led me to hospital or my doctor for any "smoking related" illness.

If I die from one in my elderly years then I believe I have paid enough tax in this lifetime to entitle me to care at the end of it.

I have four healthy and tolerant children who have been fortunate enough to get both sides of this debate as they have grown up. My youngest (non-smoking) son (now 17) came home crying as a small child because he told his teacher that I smoked and she told him I was going to die.

That year I amazed her by coming fourth in the Mum's race - and I swear I'd have won if the parent next to me hadn't cheated and set me off on a slow start! I can still run and walk flights of stairs after being told 25 years ago that if I didn't quit I wouldn't be able to do either. My lifelong non-smoking sister does not enjoy the same good health as myself in her older age.

I have seen studies that show lifelong smokers like myself are more likely to die soon after quitting suddenly and this has been matched by my own anecdotal evidence of those that I have known.

I am third generation smoker in my family on both sides. Three of my four children do not smoke. My own personal experiences do not match with the health warnings that I have seen become more outrageous as each decade has passed.

These have run alongside an ideological aim to eradicate tobacco by any means even by marginalising those who enjoy it. The end game is criminalisation of smokers in their older age because of a forced change to social attitudes to their lifestyle.

This is partly due to education programmes - perhaps like the one you now promote. Balance is the thing that has been lost over this issue so I, for one, am pleased that you seek the other point of view.

Smoking is cultural but it has been attacked in a way that would be forbidden for any other culture. The battle between those who like smoking and those who hate or fear it, is not new. It has run for centuries.

My own personal stance on smoking may be seen as "promoting smoking" but I do not. I promote choice for informed adults to partake in a legal product if that is what they wish to do. I support those I have known over the years who have quit. I defend those who choose not to quit.

My view is this. If you have never smoked don't start, don't try it for all sorts of reasons including economics but if you are a lifelong smoker then, before you quit, seek out independent advice than that put out by Pharmaceutical companies linked to those "charities" like ASH dependent on their funding. They are simply in direct competition with the tobacco industry to supply the beleagured smoker with nicotine.

There are doctors and scientists out there who are not allowed to be heard by our NHS or Govt which has given control of social and health policy over to anti-smoking quangoes. . These doctors are dismayed that their profession has been maligned by "junk science" which has brought us to this point where smokers are socially excluded and fair game for anyone who wants to insult them or attack them.

There is almost a psychotic hatred of smokers by some who simply do not understand why they continue to smoke, others who have lost loved ones who smoke and they seek someone to blame, and some who have an almost paranoid fear of a wisp of smoke which has NOT been proved to harm anyone either second, third or fourth hand - that is this decade's outrageous claim.

You criticise Forest's defence and support of people like myself because tobacco is a "dangerous" product, but that could be applied to many other things.

Everyday we hear of vehicle accidents - these do match my own experiences of people I have known who have died in road accidents - and yet I wonder if you teach your students of the dangers of motoring and driving a car or a motorbike?

You may wish to point out that when they come to parenthood, should they really risk the life of their child by putting it in car? No matter how safe their driving, the truth is they knowingly risk serious injury to their child because no one can guarantee a safe journey each time they set out on the road.

This is an obvious issue of child safety and yet the Govt is more concerned with those who smoke in their own car when children are present. Smoke can be irritating to some who don't like it and most smokers employ good manners around children - particularly small children who may not be able to express their dislike.

Talk of bans in one's own private car is draconian, dictatorial, and it promotes unnecessarily the negative "selfish smoker" image. A positive campaign that works with the smoker on this issue would be far more effective and less likely to result in unfairness for those smokers without children, and anger from those smokers who choose not to smoke when children are around.

This, of course, would not happen because even though smokers are the experts on this issue, they are always ignored and treated like social lepers by those who make policies against them.

We all take relative risks based on the information that we have from both a wider source and our own experiences. I do not condemn car drivers any more than anyone has the right to condemn or judge smokers who smoke in their own cars or homes.

We all share this world. It's big enough for both of us. Health information is welcome, health propaganda is not. Perhaps you could discuss the difference with your students.

Sorry Simon, I hadn't intended to rattle on so long. Thanks so much for the work that you do especially given that it seems almost daily pressure like this is put upon you to abandon us.

January 7, 2011 at 20:54 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Crumbs, sorry, Simon - don't get cross with me!!! I thought it would be moderated first! Oh well, it'll be interesting to see what other people on here think of it anyway.

Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry .......... (sob!)

January 7, 2011 at 20:58 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

Forgive me Simon if I am putting words in your mouth, but my understanding that the purpose of Forest is not the promotion of smoking, indeed tobacco companies and Forest acknowledge the potential health implications, but to protect the rights of adults who have make an informed choice to smoke.

Forest and its supporters are not out on the streets beating the drum for more people to smoke but to stop an oppressive state from passing authoritarian laws and regulations that offend freedom and democracy.

What maybe of interest to the teacher and her class is Forest are in the vanguard of freedom. Smokers are the guinea pigs for most health bullying. Bullying smokers is the blueprint for alcohol restrictions, obesity and food restrictions, climate change taxation and car driving restrictions.

Rather than be critical of an organisation because some of us smoke, you should be celebrating that tax payers and voters are prepared to fight for their own and ultimately your rights too.

January 7, 2011 at 21:16 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

Dear Teacher,

Because FOREST fights for scientific integrity and advocates a sensible evidence-based approach to policy making. From your tone it seems you are a "happy believer" in passive smoking? It would perhaps interest you that of all the studies ever conducted on the subject only 10% showed a very minimal risk of harm, while another 10% showed that passive smoke was actually protective of several conditions, and the remaining 80% showed absolutely no risk at all. Don't take my word for it - visit "Velvet Glove, Iron Fist" linked to from this very blog and see if you can denounce any of the assertions made there re the shoddy methodologies, and downright fraudulent statistical manipulations etc used by many of the anti-tobacco researchers. Or even better, visit the blog of Professor Siegel, a man who has worked in Tobacco Control for decades but who now spends much of his time denouncing these people as he desperately fights to save the academic reputation of tobacco research. He may hate smoking but he hates bad science more - that is why much of his blog denounces the unscientific fraud that these people participate in. Read it and educate yourself as to where the science really is and then wonder just WHY these people are doing what they are doing.

Which brings us to fighting hypocrisy, mendaciousness and attacks on democracy. Now I know the truth behind the science I do not like being lied to by special interest groups who deliberately spew such nonsense, using my tax money, in order to increase profits for their paymasters in the pharmaceutical companies or to increase their own powerbases - especially when such groups would, despite pretending to be "citizens concerned about smoking and health", not be able to exist if they were forced to rely on donations and support from the public. I do not like it when such groups influence legislators by infiltrating Select Committees, Government Departments and polling organisations in order to get their points across. I do not like the fact that they hide behind Charity status to avoid being exposed to FOI requests and the need for election yet are wholly funded by the State and influence the legislature at all levels. I don't like how MPs who are members of this group can lie in the House without redress and how such lies are broadcast by a complicit State-funded media with no right to reply.

But, I'm tired. I hope that's enough to give the merest hint as to why I support FOREST. Throw in the fight to protect Britain's pubs, over 10% of which have closed in three years (a 60fold increase in closures!), the trammelling of private property rights re: what is a private and what is a public space. the deliberate "denormalisation" of 28% of the tax paying electorate (their word - look it up), and so on, and you might just get the vaguest idea why FOREST is doing something very, very useful indeed.

FOREST is fighting fascism, nothing more, nothing less. And that, I think, is a very noble thing indeed.

January 7, 2011 at 21:51 | Unregistered CommenterMr A

You mugs!

Quite clearly this is a hoax which you have fallen for. The letter isn’t signed with a proper name and title, a professor teaching at a Secondary Modern school is that plausible? Did you email back for further details of the student faculty?
Why not invite you along to give a talk, or take part in a debate. It looks like many of you have spent so much time composing your replies for no reason at all.

Whoever sent this must be laughing themselves silly at all the long winded responses.

It’s been enormous fun watching this develop.

January 8, 2011 at 3:20 | Unregistered CommenterAlice

@ Alice.

I guess that you are Prof C D. Well, it sounds like it anyway.

You are wrong. The commenters are not mugs - not in the way that the BMJ were mugs in accepting 'jwatso's' obvious nonsensical proposition about tobacco company profits. The commenters are AMUSING THEMSELVES, and, at the same time, putting into words what a reply to such a request for information from a 'professor' might be.

Maybe your name 'Alice' is also a bit of fun. Are you perhaps 'Alice in Wonderland'?
Honestly, Alice, you could have done better! What you could have done, Alice (or should it be Mr. Alice?), is ask for answers to these questions:

Does Forest think that:

1. SHS is harmful?
2. It is correct for the state to overturn our ancient rights of private property.
3. It is correct for the WHO to make the laws of the people of this country.
4. It is correct for the state to deny us out rights of free assembly in private clubs.
5. It is correct for the people to be lied to via propaganda.
6. It is correct for the state to fund fake-charity lobby groups which are fronts for pharmaceutical companies?

And so on - are these not questions that 'Citizenship' courses should be asking?

Simon Clark saw through it straight away, and replied politely. Everyone saw through it straight away. 'Dear Mr Teacher....' But we people who enjoy tobacco are polite, you see, and address the real issues. We do not think in terms of 'stinks' and 'filth'.

January 8, 2011 at 5:01 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Chris: You are spot on. That is the report that my 3 children have given at 3 different times. The attitude in the classes is generally boredom but can also range from shaking heads in pure disbelief to tears because one of them believes their parents are going to die next week. It's abhorrent. The whole subject is despised and purely political. It should be eradicated.

January 8, 2011 at 12:27 | Unregistered CommenterFrank

Alice. 1. They did not say secondary modern (those are long gone anyway). 2. Secondary schools in the UK, whatever they are called as there are now called by several different names, have faculties and call their recipients students. 3. It would not surprise me for a head of faculty to call themselves a professor, after all, it is just another Americanism as they have done it there for years.

January 8, 2011 at 13:09 | Unregistered Commentertimbone

If this is a genuine request, it wouldn't surprise me if this Teacher has been 'forced' into admitting that not everybody agrees with his State controlled diktats and other arguments exist. Maybe he's not been able to answer things fired at him by his class (or their parents). I do know in my own kid's classes that the Teacher was unable to answer several things. Of course, they sound so indoctrinated they feel they will be able to dismiss it all. What happens is the Kids take it home, get feed back from their parents, and continue next class. I have the impression from my kids that the poor Teacher has been hammered and is grateful to finish the subject. The bad thing is that in taking the exam, stock answers are required for marks. No prizes for guessing what they are. The same also applies to global warming. This sovietisation is thoroughly disgusting.

Hope it's true, should be fun and another sign of a breaking through.

Well done, Simon et al, keep it up.

January 8, 2011 at 15:12 | Unregistered CommenterFrank

Sadly, we have had to put up with bitches like Alice goading us for far too long. These people are just perverse. If it wasn't for that sort, we wouldn't have to defend ourselves day after day and waste time on an issue so trivial. People like her made it an issue - not us. We've just been forced into a fight for survival and defence against their slanderous frauds. NOT OUR CHOICE! One would think they'd have better things to do.
It's such a shame they don't use that energy on something far more worthwhile and constructive than spreading hate and fear.

I imagine that Simon has got the teacher's full name but he didn't print it. I imagine also that she included what school/college/uni she teaches in.

Perhaps Simon could enlighten us.

January 8, 2011 at 15:14 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Teachers and students, those with a long and happy life ahead of them with so much to do are interested in what a group of selfish addicts with a filthy habit have to say? Aren't you afraid you might catch smoking? Don't you read the news or watch the tele?

Some of us are a bit jumpy these days, many of us are under a great deal of pressure to change who we are, deny what we believe, abandon those who think as we do. So I hope emotional replies that sound a bit angry are genuinely heartfelt and not directed at you. We welcome you. Anyone who's ever been picked on by a bully, or rather a group of bullies, as the rest silently watch, and it goes on day after day, well, you get a little jumpy. Your questions sound just a bit like what the tormentors say, however well intentioned they were meant.

Your questions are good ones though. The answers are short and simple, right? Well, sure. You've heard them already:


FOREST is a spokesman for big tobacco, paid liars, they serve no purpose other than keeping addicts in denial and getting kids to start smoking.

We want to quit smoking but we can't -- we are slaves to our addiction, and we are also filthy and disgusting degenerates who purposely put everyone around us in danger by exhaling toxic gas, one whiff the smoke we exhale can give you a heart attack and second hand smoke is more dangerous to you than the smoke we willfully and deeply inhale. We are litterbugs, shoplifters, thieves, and given the chance to smoke in a single pub will selfishly take over all public spaces and go back to our old ways blowing smoke in the faces of non-smokers and laughing about it. We'd stop if we could but we can't and we're sick degenerates unless we quit and reject tobacco in all its flesh devouring forms. We deserve to be shunned and exiled and shamed and denied any and all considerations and privileges to which only healthy people and not addicts are entitled.

Freedom of choice is indeed what makes democracies like the UK and the US superior to all other forms of government. We have the freedom think and say whatever we want without fear of reprisal or interference from government unlike oppressive societies like China and North Korea which jail and shun any and all dissent. Obviously misguided and stupid beliefs which fly in the face of mountains of scientific truth, common public knowledge isn't "free speech" or whatever, it's just stupidity -- addicts opinions don't matter because tolerating obviously wrong modes of thought is dangerous since it makes people think smoking is okay. It isn't.

Smoking related disease -- diseases which can have any number of causes which also turn up in people who smoke for any period of time -- kills more non-smokers and never-smokers than smokers who actively smoke. That proves how dangerous cigarette smoke is. Even if smoking didn't kill non-smokers, or even smokers themselves, and it turns out that it was invisible air pollution increasing since the early 1900s, it wouldn't matter. Smoking is stinky, gross and majority rules so get over it already. Cool people don't smoke and yell at anyone who does.


The answers are simple, as you hear all the time, so do we, yet we still persist in clinging to misguided divergent views. We need help, we need to be despised.

You'll hear all sorts of smoke and mirror talk about freedom 2 choose, or tolerating people we disagree with, or having compassion for the sick, the weak, the addicts, and other fuzzy emotional appeals. You'll hear all this antiquated baloney about the right to hold unpopular beliefs or the right to make unhealthy choices or claptrap about a tranquil mind being as important as physical health, junkie talk about how each person regulates their own inner state of wellness and mental frame of mind by how each person attenuates their own mental state subjectively and what makes one person healthy is different for another. Whatever. Nonsense.

We're all the same, right? Only an elected politician or health professional has the knowledge and wisdom to determine what is right for us as a country, where an EU standard has not already set the standard or International bodies like the WHO have provided a universal framework. No man, no town, no county, no nation, no continent, none of these are islands, this island is Earth and we all need to work together, and we all need to agree on the essential truths. Democracy is global now.

Yet dispite all this, as the world all comes together on this, what are we doing hiding here in the dark. Whining about wanting to burn and inhale smoke just like we used to going back 400 years or so. Can't we just get over it? I guess not. I'm still wanting to be an island...that smokes, against the world that doesn't. That's crazy.

The vile half-person I am today can be made whole and clean again just by turning by back on myself and joining my tormentors and I'll thank them, I will. Like a blind man restored to sight I'll see smokers for what they are -- and I'll join the fight. Stupid stinky smokers have no right to poison MY AIR!!!

But I know I won't do it. Because I'm an addict and I'm too stupid to let go of old ideas. Magna Carta, American Constitution, give me liberty or give me death, the government serves the people, my country is a beacon of freedom, powers not granted to the government rest with the public, democracy is a just system that respects the rights of a dissenting minority rather than degenerating into an autocratic tyranny of the majority, things like that. I know it's corny but I actually half believe the mythology.

Maybe when the tax goes up another pound or dollar or euro or ten, finally I'll be forced to let it go, whinge about withdrawl and finally be free and I'll be so thankful, but I just can't do it yet. Maybe when those large pictures of dead people and excised livers and diseased lungs, gassed corpses, burning children, Timorese mass graves, gassed Kurds and other pictures appear on my box of fags I'll be able to stop. Or maybe, when I'm finally put to death for my crimes that I will do to support my perverted right to pollute your clean air, maybe just maybe I'll finally be free.

Thank you for the stigma, I wear my shame like a shroud. My hatred of myself is slightly more sweet than my love for big brother.

Dr. Brian Oblivion, addict, bleeding heart, enemy of the people.

(sorry for the length, it's really a simple issue of our democracy's health)

January 8, 2011 at 16:23 | Unregistered CommenterDr. Brian Oblivion

Happy New Year, everyone.

Brian Oblivion's post, if it were serious, expresses just the kind of self-flagellating cant that one would expect to hear at Smokers' Anonymous. I'm surprised that no-one's already set one up - every other Undesirable has one to belong to!

Even if the email's a hoax (which I think it is) the comments have all served a purpose by summing up to any new visitors to the site why we're all still here.

January 8, 2011 at 16:51 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

Dear Teacher
I hope you will oblige Simon with the courtesy of a reply. I would like to know the response from your students after you have debated the enlightening issues of all posters on here.
Otherwise I will take it that -
1 You binned it
2 It was not the reply you were expecting
3 You would'nt be able to defend your anti smoking stance if your students got sight of these replies.
Yours truly

January 8, 2011 at 16:55 | Unregistered Commenterann

After writing my post I googled 'smokers anonymous' and whaddayaknow there is one!

Probably coming soon to a town near you...

January 8, 2011 at 16:58 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce


Yes, I know the person's full name but I chose not to print it for reasons of confidentiality.

I too am dubious that he is a genuine 'professor' (although that is the title he gave himself) but a little detective work revealed that our correspondent does appear to be a teacher.

Thanks to Google I also know his age (thirties), home town (northern), year of graduation, degree and where he studied. He appears to like Austria.

Last but not least, he can't spell "competitive".

PS. As of this evening I shall be re-imposing the 300-word limit for comments. Honestly, give some people an inch ...!

January 8, 2011 at 18:19 | Unregistered CommenterSimon Clark

Sorry Simon. I took several and one of the biggest offenders on this post :(

I thought "the teacher" really might want to know and so I tried to give him plenty to analyse and discuss.

January 8, 2011 at 18:36 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Sorry Joyce, most people don't really get satire (maybe I fail as well). What with parody long since having violently strangled itself stone dead in repsonse to the endless shark jumping by ever more absurd and science by press release for the lulz, what's the alternative? I was hoping to slip some subliminal jolts through the Internets in an attempt to kickstart the Magna Carta instinct that lies dormant in much of the public. It's hard to do properly. Bah.

Empathy properly suppressed isn't easily activated by the direct approach, and appeals to concepts such as liberty and freedom, beaten into the ground and rendered meaningless by the modern obfuscating politician, are also ineffective if played straight.

Joyce, your agitation is noted. I still hold out hope that rambling attempt at least stirs a little discomfort in a few who deep down have an awareness they've been fed a constant diet of horse manure. If that awareness can be encouraged to bubble to the surface maybe the non-smoking public can snap out of their collective trance. Pipe dream? Well....

Naturally the idea that a good faith effort by a teacher to permit CHILDREN to evaluate the words of smokers and come to their own conclusions would be way off script. But you never know, maybe there's a school out there that hasn't gotten the memo. Ha!

Divergent thinking -- it's bad for democracy.

January 8, 2011 at 18:37 | Unregistered CommenterDr. Brian Oblivion

"As a secondary school teacher who on a weekly basis teachers my students about the dangers of cigarettes and tobacco I was wondering in what sense your organisation is doing anything positive in our world? "

I've just read this and it justifies what I have been writing about our education system over the past year. As a qualified language teacher, my humble opinion is that this writer displays to me mediocrity regarding written English. Not only is the verb (to teach) conjugated incorrectly, but there is also no comma after the word 'tobacco'.

How can anyone take this person seriously? It appears to me that teachers generally should adhere more strictly to teaching pupils and students about their specialist subjects instead of concentrating on political issues. I find it unsurprising that literacy, numeracy and other educational standards are now utterly appalling.

If this letter is meant seriously, it is sad reflection of what is actually happening in British classrooms today. I remember learning about the dangers of tobacco smoking in Biology lessons when I was about fourteen years old. The indoctrination stopped there, but back in the 1970s people were not so obsessed with controlling and influencing the lives of adults or children. This teacher would have struggled to pass the old GCE English Language 'O' Level and would not have been capable of qualifying to be a teacher when I was educated. I believe that I have made my point and there is no further need for me to elaborate: )

January 8, 2011 at 18:59 | Unregistered CommenterJenny of Yorkshire

@Brian - :) ) I knew you were writing with tongue firmly in cheek but could imagine that, were it a straight piece, it would express the state of a smoker forced at some ghastly SA meeting to admit his 'sins'.

The way things are going, we're all going to meet in person some day when we're forced to 'commit to leading a nicotine-free life' by attending SA in exchange for medical care, housing and employment........

@Jenny - I read recently that a percentage of teachers would fail 'old-style' O level literacy and numeracy exams. But hey, as long as they can ram it home that the polar bears are dying and that mummy's killing little Johnnie because she smokes...

January 8, 2011 at 19:24 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

Sorry, again, Simon. I know I was one of the worst offenders. I genuinely expected the comment to be caught by the moderators (ouch!) and not shown – it was really just for you to peruse and (if you wanted) pick some ideas/comments out of. Apologies again to everyone who’s now got to restrict themselves to 300 words.

But I do agree with Joyce – even if Alice/the teacher is a spoof (a weak little get-back for jwatso’s stunt, maybe?) it’s been a useful exercise to tuck away for the future, should any genuine enquiries come through. It also doesn’t do any harm for any non-smokers perusing the site to see the reasons given for why Forest do what they do. Antis will automatically dismiss the lot as garbage, of course, but who knows, maybe it’ll set one or two “waverers” thinking ….

So, bring it on spoofers! The more our message gets out there, the better!

(A mere 159 words!)

January 8, 2011 at 22:30 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

Jenny -

The redoubtable Charlotte Iserbyt related recently how she was leapt upon by a particularly vicious Attack Poodle (bitch, as it happens) from the American Educational Establishment - for DARING to suggest that children be taught GRAMMAR. Charlotte, of course, was dangerously exposed on this front. Structured Language facilitates Structured Thinking.................and who knows what THAT could lead to ? Dr Johnson would be unemployable today (even though he abhorred Tobacco).

January 9, 2011 at 1:00 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

I was disgusted at your use of the word bitch to describe me. This was deeply offensive and unnecessary. There is no need to resort to that kind of language.

It is small minded and disgraceful for you to attack me in this way. I am a decent human being. I would never use this word to describe you.

Therefore I would like you to apologise.

January 9, 2011 at 3:03 | Unregistered CommenterAlice

Alice, the language used by antis is a bit of a dog whistle those acutely aware of the psychological warfare being waged against us. When I sense the same pattern being volleyed my way, I tend to get barking mad right away because my mind is not to be toyed with by small minded authoritarians eager to isolate and break smokers for sport.

Pat's a good egg.

January 9, 2011 at 5:25 | Unregistered CommenterDr. Brian Oblivion

"But hey, as long as they can ram it home that the polar bears are dying................"

Yes, that's the wonderful thing about Schoolgirl Science - you don't need to trouble the Class with troublesome things like FACTS (eg bear populations INCREASING). Merely flash up a couple of cuddly images from a WWF calendar, and Hey Presto ! Why struggle to be another Newton when you could grow up to become Al Gore II ?

What, however, would the Alarmists and their semi-educated Elementary School propagandists do if some Real World Science were suddenly to offer irrefutable evidence that Polar Bears CONTRIBUTED to Global Warming and the rapid melting of ice sheets ?

Well, a man can dream, can't he ?

January 9, 2011 at 11:24 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

Alice - "mugs" is hardly flattering and deeply offensive to those who spent time passionately pouring out here how they feel.

Please don't play innocent unless you are. We are all decent people here too so why mock us for wanting to be heard?

January 9, 2011 at 14:27 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Hey! We are being 'flamed' (or should that be 'flammed'?)!!

See how 'flaming' works? Call someone a mug. Wait for that person to call you an idiot (or bitch in this case). Then moan about name-calling. Thus distracting attention from the real matter in hand.

The real matters in hand are:

I can decide for myself whether to smoke or not, harmful or not.
SHS is harmless.
The smoking ban is a con based upon SHS.
It is a denial of our ancient property rights.
It is a denial of right of peaceful assembly.

Right, Alice, let's talk about those facts.

January 9, 2011 at 19:41 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Um, folks - where is anyone getting the idea from that Alice is an anti or a troll? I read her original comment as simply saying, don't waste your time responding to a mischief-maker. I don't happen to agree that our illiterate teacher(er) is a fake, but it seemed to me to be a reasonable pov Alice was expressing, albeit perhaps not entirely tactfully ...

January 9, 2011 at 23:44 | Unregistered CommenterRose W

Hello, Rose W.

You may well be right. But is there not something very odd about Alice's post? Look at the last sentence:

"It’s been enormous fun watching this develop."

I do not recall seeing an 'Alice' commnting on this blog in the last few years, and yet she says...."watching this develop". Note the word 'watching'.

It may be that Alice has been reading this blog for years, but never bothered to comment. That may be true; but if it is, is it not very odd that the first words she says are "You mugs!" Is it not also odd that she offers no opinion of her own regarding the subject matter of the teacher's letter? It seems that her only concern is our stupidity for rising to the bait.

January 10, 2011 at 1:41 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Further, if she has been 'watching this develop', does it not suggest vaguely that she knew that it was coming? After all, we have never seen her before.

Finally, looking back at the original professor's letter, it really is a bit comical, isn't it? The letter, in effect, says that everyone knows that tobacco is harmful. If so, what is the point of asking Forest's opinion? In any case, teachers are not allowed to speak to tobacco companies 'or their proxies'. Also, the letter then goes on to pre-judge the issue - "Don't you think that you should give up the ghost...?" It further goes on to say that the author believes in 'freedom' of choice', but immediately states that the author does not believe in freedom of choice. Note also the phrase: " and those around you....". The two situations are entirely separate. If this professor is genuine, I'll eat my hat.

The good news is that we have all been amused, and that we have had an opportunity to practise how we would respond to a genuine letter of that nature.

January 10, 2011 at 2:13 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

I don't think Simon would have posted the Teacher's letter if he felt it was not genuine. As for Alice, she offended me and others. She doesn't sound like a "friend". Perhaps when she comes down off her high horse, she can enlighten us as to her views about choice, tolerance, and tobacco.

January 10, 2011 at 10:19 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

I'm just relieved that Pat didn't take offense at my use of the word "egg." Whew!

January 10, 2011 at 10:44 | Unregistered CommenterDr. Brian Oblivion

No - because of the context in which it was used. Alice appeared to be able to dish it out but not take it back.

January 10, 2011 at 11:20 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Just some nutter. "Prof C D " is not a school teacher.

January 10, 2011 at 12:01 | Unregistered Commenterjon

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