Chris Mann, presenter, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire: First up my guest Simon Clark joins me this morning in the studio from the Cambridgeshire based pro-smoking pressure group Forest financed by the tobacco companies.
Simon Clark, director, Forest: Indeed, but we’re pro-choice not pro-smoking.
Chris Mann: But that means, in this case, pro-smoking. Presumably you want people to carry on buying and smoking cigarettes?
Simon Clark: No, not at all because I don’t sell cigarettes. I simply want to defend those people who choose to smoke. It’s an adult activity, it’s a legal product, and people should be allowed to do it if they want to.
Chris Mann: It is an odd thing, isn’t it, that people know it’s doing them a lot of harm. We spend so much of our lives trying to live longer and protect ourselves and avoid danger and here is this thing, this very popular thing, that people do knowing that it’s going to potentially kill them.
Simon Clark: Yes, but we do lots of things in life that can be potentially harmful. I mean, you look at extreme sports, people who drink too much, people like me who are overweight because we eat the wrong type of food. The reason a lot of people do it is because they get pleasure from doing it, and one of the things in the smoking debate that people have forgotten about, because we never hear about it any more, is the fact that many people smoke because they enjoy it, they get pleasure from it, and they put pleasure ahead of the potential health risks.
Reading the transcript (there’s quite a lot more), I thought Chris Mann came over as aggressive and bullying, and Simon Clark as very courteous and polite.
I couldn’t help thinking that, in his shoes, I would have very likely hit back hard at Mann. I’d have probably sworn at the little bastard.
But Simon Clark is doing a job, for which he is paid. It’s important that he be courteous and polite. And he doesn’t smoke. So for him it’s not personal. But I’m fighting a war, and I’m a volunteer in that war. And I smoke. To me, someone like Chris Mann is simply The Enemy. And the BBC is The Enemy as well. And for me it’s personal.
I’ll never actually appear on any radio show anyway. A few years back I would occasionally get invitations – usually at very short notice – to speak about smoking on one show or other. I always turned them down.
As I see it now, I’m simply not part of their world any more. I’m not welcome there. I was expelled from it 12½ years ago, and I’m never going back. And I don’t want to belong to their nasty, bullying world anyway. I don’t watch BBC TV, and I don’t listen to BBC radio. I don’t watch any TV. I don’t listen to any radio. I get all my news and commentary from the internet.
As far as I’m concerned, smoking bans are the single most divisive and destructive feature of ‘progressive’ modern life. They split the world into smokers and non-smokers, and pit them against each other. And this is happening all over the world. And I simply live the life of another reviled, excluded smoker, just like hundreds of millions of others.
And I think there’s an explosion coming.