Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco

From Powerbase
Revision as of 00:09, 20 April 2011 by Melissa Jones (talk | contribs) (Supporters Council)
Jump to: navigation, search

The Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco (FOREST) was founded in 1979 and describes itself as "a media and political lobbying group that defends the interests of smokers." [1] It is positioned as a grassroots body representing ordinary smokers but in reality it is heavily funded by the tobacco industry in order to exaggerate public support of relaxed smoking restrictions. In a report on smoking in public places which was submitted to the GLA (Greater London Authority) the group argue that passive smoking is not a significant risk to the health of non-smokers. [2] It is also argued that restrictions on smoking in public spaces is detrimental to business, especially the restaurant and pub sectors.


The group admit that they accept "donations" from tobacco companies but claim that they do not promote smoking or speak on behalf of or in defence of the tobacco industry. [2]

Using the term "donation" to describe the input of the tobacco industry gives a false impression as in 2000 the group received 96% of their funding from this source. [3] The British American Tobacco company in particular gave substantial funding to the group, and evidence of just one such instance of funding can be found in a memo from Simon Milson, the international government affairs manager. This document details three payments of over £8,000 given to the group in 1999, making a total of over £24,000 for that year. [4]

According to FOREST's website, in 2010 donations from individual supporters ranged from £10 to £300 to £2,000. It does not declare whether it receives money from companies. [5] The website of its related campaign The Free Society says it welcomes both individual and corporate donations 'to support the cost of our website, publications, research and events'. [6]

Industry influence

Despite the fact the group are apparently open about their funding the organisation is still misleading as it positions itself as representative of ordinary smokers but is in fact highly influenced by the industry. This idea is summed up entirely in a BAT document sent to Nick Brookes, the director of the America Pacific region for the company, in February 1981, which shows the company wished to use FOREST as:

"...a consumer pressure group funded by the industry. There would be no attempt to conceal the funding but equally there would be no suggestion that FOREST were anything other than an independent consumer pressure group." [7]

This approach is not so different to those front groups which hide their true sponsorship. Although FOREST admits to industry funding they can still mislead the public by appearing to be a consumer-led group. This is obviously the intention of the tobacco companies who wish to make it appear as though they have widespread consumer support. Although undoubtedly many people agree with relaxed smoking legislation, groups such as FOREST exaggerate this support and so obscure the true facts about the issue.

Groups such as FOREST are often used to publicise opposition to smoking bans in public spaces. One such example is in the Scottish edition of the Daily Star, March 25, 2006 in which FOREST spokesmen Neil Rafferty says:

"The claims about passive smoking are a calculated deception by anti-smoking groups to scare the population and manipulate weak-minded politicians." [8]

The article goes on to urge smokers to resist the Scottish smoking ban which is positioned as an infringement of their rights. Although this can be seen as an expression of the opinions of smokers it is also an important tactic used by the tobacco industry, which stands to lose vast amounts of revenue if such smoking bans are implemented.


2007 Conservative Party Conference

In 2007 Forest co-hosted a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference, speakers at the event included Claire Fox, Brian Monteith and Simon Hills.[9]


Forest gives the following account of its history and lists the following directors:

It was launched in 1979 by a former Battle of Britain fighter pilot (and pipe smoker) Sir Christopher Foxley-Norris who died in 2004.[10]

There have been four executive directors:

Supporters Council

As of April 2011 the following celebrities and businesspeople were listed:

Antony Worrall Thompson | David Hockney | Joe Jackson | Ronald Harwood | Trevor Baylis | Ranald Macdonald[11]


  1. Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) (2001),Smoking in Public Places FOREST Submission to the GLA
  2. 2.0 2.1 Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), Christian Aid and Friends of the Earth (2005), 'BAT in its Own Words'
  3. Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) (2001),Smoking in Public Places FOREST Submission to the GLA
  4. Legacy Tobacco Documents Library
  5. FOREST, Help Us, accessed 19 April 2011.
  6. The Free Society, Donations, accessed 19 April 2011
  7. Legacy Tobacco Documents Library.
  8. Stephen Wilkie, 'Smokers urged to fight the ban', Daily Star, March 25, 2006
  9. TMA, Briefing January 2007, Tobacco Manufacturers Association, January 2007, Accessed 11-February-2011
  10. FOREST About
  11. FOREST, Supporters, accessed 19 April 2011