This campaign has received some criticism in the past from Simon Clark, director of Forest, for appearing to throw smokers out with the bathwater in favour of vapers' rights. I can assure him that this is not the case. The Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco, to give Forest its full title, rightly stands up for smokers' rights against a barrage of nanny state and illiberal policies emanating from the Government and the Government's friends in ASH. I, on behalf of The Freedom Association, have regularly taken to the airwaves to criticise, for example, the silly ban on smoking in cars with under-18s present. The ban is unenforceable, as is the silly suggestion that smoking is banned on Brighton beach. We have campaigned against the plain packaging of cigarettes which, ironically, will mean it is easier to sell counterfeit cigarettes. It is a policy that is damaging to public health, yet those who advocated plain packaging appeared not to appreciate the irony.
The reason we set-up Freedom to Vape was because we felt that unless there were more evidence based reports exerting more pressure on ministers, vaping policies would mirror smoking policies, something which we didn't want to see. That is not to say that we agree with many of the illiberal smoking policies, because we do not.
Having got that off my chest, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed myself in the Pleasure Zone on Wednesday evening - an event hosted by Forest and chaired by Simon Clark. First up was an excellent presentation by Dr. Neil McKeganey who talked us through his latest report, commissioned by Forest, The Pleasure of Smoking. Dick Puddlecote has more about it here. There's no point in me writing more about it, as I agree with everything Dick says. Do read Dick's post, though, and also read the report.
After Dr. McKeganey's presentation, there followed a balloon debate. The subject was the "Most Pleasurable Nicotine Delivery Device in the World". The six nicotine delivery systems to choose from were pipes, cigars, snus, heated tobacco, cigarettes, and e-cigarettes. Contestants each had three minutes to persuade the audience that their nicotine delivery system was the most pleasurable. After all the contestants had had their turn, the audience voted. Those with the three lowest votes were eliminated, or thrown out of the balloon (Don't worry, health and safety was a major consideration and no contestants were injured during the debate.)
The first three systems thrown out of the balloon were pipes, heated tobacco and (sadly) e-cigarettes. Remarkably, snus got into the final round which had vastly more to do with the entertaining pitch given by the IEA's Chris Snowdon than it had to do with the revolting little tea bags from Sweden. In the end, cigarettes won. I suppose this was always going to happen at a Forest event, although cigars came a close second, however, the case for cigarettes was helped enormously by Angela Harbutt who gave the most seductive pitch you could ever want to hear that left most of the non-smokers in the audience wanting to light up!
The purpose of the evening was, as Simon Clark said, not to tell people what device they should use, if indeed they want to use any. It is about freedom to choose. I thoroughly enjoyed smoking cigarettes, but I gave up and move to vaping on health grounds. There are millions of others who have done the same and we should have the freedom to enjoy vaping without the nanny state inflicting illiberal and irrational policies and regulations on both vapers and the vaping industry.
That is what Freedom to Vape is all about.