As the UK prepares to leave the EU, a smokers’ rights group founded in London in 1979 is launching a new campaign in Brussels.
The Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco (Forest) campaigns against what it says are ‘excessive regulations’ on smoking and tobacco.
Commenting on the launch of Forest EU, Simon Clark, the director of Forest, said that the war on tobacco had gone too far.
“Tobacco is a legal product yet smokers are being subjected to increasing attacks and restrictions on their habit,” he said. “Enough is enough.
“Decisions made at EU level affect the lives of tens of millions of adults across Europe yet the revised Tobacco Products Directive, currently being enforced in member states, was introduced with very little engagement with ordinary consumers.
“Smokers pay a huge amount of tax on tobacco, as much as 80 or 90 per cent in some countries. That alone gives them a right to be represented in the political process. Instead they are often ignored or treated like naughty children incapable of making informed decisions.
“As the UK prepares to leave the European Union we are delighted to be starting a new, EU-centred, chapter in our history. We will be bringing our trademark events to Brussels including smoker-friendly receptions and seminars. Our goal is to put consumers at the heart of the debate.”
Guillaume Périgois, director of Forest EU, said that the role of Forest EU was to ensure that adults who didn’t want to stop smoking were given a voice in Brussels and beyond.
“We intend to arm consumers throughout Europe with information and resources so they can engage with politicians and regulators at national and international level,” he said.
“We acknowledge the health risks but if adults choose to smoke that’s a matter for them and no-one else. Politicians, regulators and NGOs have no right to tell law-abiding citizens how to live their lives. Whether or not they smoke is not a public health issue, it’s a private health issue.
“The European Union has the power to set the agenda on smoking and other lifestyle issues. We hope that program will focus on education not coercion. What we need is a liberal and pragmatic approach to tobacco that puts empathy above dogma and takes into account the views of ordinary citizens.
“Politicians and regulators need to understand and appreciate the pleasure many people get from smoking. This requires politicians and regulators to engage not only with the strident tobacco control lobby but also with adults who enjoy smoking and don’t want to quit.”