Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco

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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 they do not promote smoking or speak on behalf of or in defence of the tobacco industry. [2]

In January 2000 FOREST's director Simon Clark told the House of Commons Health Select Committee hearing that the group received 96 per cent of its total £250,000 budget from tobacco companies. However he maintained that FOREST's independence stemmed from the fact it was originally set up not by the industry but rather by a former Battle of Britain pilot who believed in his right to smoke a pipe as and when he wished. When a committee member put to Clark that given the extent of this funding, FOREST must be a front for tobacco companies, Clark steadfastly stated he "had not been told what to do at all" by them - that "we would only be a front if they told us what to do, if they appointed the staff..."[3]

Critics argue that using the term "donation" to describe the input of the tobacco industry gives a false impression. [4] 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 £8000 given to the group in 1999, making a total of over £24,000 for that year. [5]

According to FOREST's website, in 2010 donations from individual supporters ranged from £10 to £300 to £2000. It does not declare whether it receives money from companies. [6] 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'. [7]

Industry influence

Although FOREST positions itself as representing ordinary smokers critics argue it has long been influenced by the tobacco industry. Simon Clark's story of a lone pipe-smoking war veteran at the vanguard of smoker's rights is at odds with the minutes of a 1979 sub-committee meeting of the trade group of UK tobacco companies, the Tobacco Advisory Council (TAC). These describe plans to set up FOREST and show how members at this meeting rehearsed their answers to press inquiries before its launch, saying "T.A.C. should reply that while they were aware of its existence, [the industry] had no connection with the new organization...]." The General Manager of Public Affairs at Gallaher Tobacco stated that "his company should reply that Forest was an independent organisation, that it seemed a good idea for it to support smokers and that the company provided financial support and nothing more." [8]

A BAT document sent to Nick Brookes, the director of the America Pacific region for the company, in February 1981, 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." [9]

This approach is not so different to those front groups which hide their true sponsorship. Despite admitting to industry funding, FOREST's public image is that of a consumer-led group. Tobacco companies have long used this tactic to try to show they have widespread consumer support.

Researcher Anne Landman says that a report in 1985 by the then director, Stephen Eyres, makes clear that "FOREST, while publicly maintaining distance from the tobacco industry, reported in a confidential manner to British American Tobacco, received resources and assistance from the tobacco industry's global group INFOTAB, maintained liaison with the tobacco industry and operated very much like an arm of the industry which could speak and react more freely since it did not represent a product or incur the inhibitions of product liability." [10]

Groups such as FOREST are often used to publicise opposition to smoking bans in public spaces. Although many people may agree with relaxed smoking legislation, groups such as FOREST exaggerate this support and obscure the facts about the issue. An 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." [11]

The article urges smokers to resist the Scottish smoking ban as an infringement of their rights. Although this can be seen as an expression of smokers' opinions it is an important tactic used by the tobacco industry, which stands to lose vast revenues from such smoking bans.

Lobbying and influence

1998 Edinburgh Festival

In 1998 FOREST sponsored a debate on 'The tyranny of the new PC' as part of a series of events organised by LM magazine. Speakers included Mick Hume the editor of LM and Ferdinand Mount, the former adviser to Margaret Thatcher.[12]

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.[13]


FOREST says it 'was launched in 1979 by a former Battle of Britain fighter pilot (and pipe smoker) Sir Christopher Foxley-Norris who died in 2004'.[14] Lord Harris of High Cross, the founder president of the Institute of Economic Affairs), was chairman from 1987 until he died in 2006.


Executive Directors

There have been four executive directors since FOREST was set up:

Advisory council

Circa 2005

'Our Advisory Council includes journalists, politicians and academics, among them' Professor John Burton, Professor Christie Davies (Reading University), Dr Stephen Davies (Manchester Metropolitan University), Dennis O'Keeffe (North London University), Professor Lord Robert Skidelsky (Warwick University), Dr Bill Thompson (Reading University) and Professor Norman Stone.[15]

Supporters Council

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

Antony Worrall Thompson (patron) | David Hockney | Joe Jackson | Ronald Harwood | Trevor Baylis | Ranald Macdonald[16]

Company Details

FOREST is a registered company in the UK (Company No. 02444194), incorporated on 17/11/1989. Its name was changed from 'Sectorboard Ltd' on 26/02/1990. [17]



Address: Forest, Sheraton House, Castle Park, Cambridge CB3 0AX


  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. House of Commons,Select Committee on Health Minutes of Evidence, 20 January 2000, accessed 20 April 2011
  4. Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) (2001),Smoking in Public Places FOREST Submission to the GLA
  5. Legacy Tobacco Documents Library
  6. FOREST, Help Us, accessed 19 April 2011.
  7. The Free Society, Donations, accessed 19 April 2011
  8. Minutes of the 11th Meeting of the Public Relations Sub-Committee of T.A.C. Held at Glen House, Stag Place, London, S.W.1. On Tuesday, 790508 Date: 08 May 1979 (est.) Length: 9 pages 2501159474-2501159481A Derived from: /pm/2501159474-9481A.html
  9. Legacy Tobacco Documents Library.
  10. FOREST 1985 Director's Report Company/Source: British American Tobacco Document Date: 19850210 Length: 26 Pages Bates No. 303667474/7499 URL (PDF Version): Posting Date: Saturday, August 21, 2004
  11. Stephen Wilkie, 'Smokers urged to fight the ban', Daily Star, March 25, 2006
  12. LM presents: 'Living Dangerously', LM July/August 1998, No. 112 p. 14
  13. TMA, Briefing January 2007, Tobacco Manufacturers Association, January 2007, Accessed 11-February-2011
  14. FOREST About
  15. FOREST About FOREST Retrieved from the Internet Archive of 7 February 2005, accessed 26 June 2012
  16. FOREST, Supporters, accessed 19 April 2011