June 27, 2017
by Forest EU

Smokers’ campaign group barred from two Smoke Free Partnership events

An anti-tobacco lobby blocked Forest EU from attending two of its events in May and June 2017 – a rare move in Brussels.


The Smoke Free Partnership blocked Forest EU from attending two of its events in May and June 2017, a rare move in Brussels that came amid tobacco-control lobbies’ escalating war against smokers.

The Smoke Free Partnership, a Brussels-based umbrella organisation for various tobacco-control associations, banned the Director of Forest EU, a recently established smokers’ campaign group, from attending a ‘World No Tobacco Day 2017 Policy Debate‘ on May 31st and a ‘High Level Conference on Illicit Trade of Tobacco Products‘ on June 27th, 2017 but gave access to a number of representatives from other organisations considered sympathetic to the views of the Smoke Free Partnership.

After having registered on May 19th to the May 31st event on the Smoke Free Partnership website where a note above the registration button read ‘Please note: the tobacco industry and those representing tobacco industry interests are not invited, in accordance with the Article 5.3 FCTC. All registrations will be screened’ and having received an email promising ‘further details concerning your registration and the event’, Guillaume Périgois, the Director of Forest EU, received a second email signed ‘The Smoke Free Partnership Team’ from Anca Toma Friedlaender, its Director of Communications and International Policy, saying the organisation was ‘unable to confirm’ Périgois’ registration to the debate and inviting him to contact the organisation should he have any questions.

The Forest EU representative asked to know more, noticing that the event was still up on the Smoke Free Partnership website and that registrations were still open. Friedlaender didn’t answer Périgois’ question and pointed him to the text of the invitation. Périgois, assuming from her unclear email that the Director of Communications was referring to the FCTC note in the invitation, underlined that Forest EU doesn’t represent the interests of the tobacco industry and that since 1979, Forest has shown it only stands for adult smokers who make informed choices.

Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) reads

In setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control, Parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law.

The connection between an article from a text applicable to governmental policy-making processes and an anti-tobacco lobby barring a smokers’ group from two of its events remains to be revealed.

Périgois’ request for the Smoke Free Partnership to reconsider, as well as his May 23rd email to Florence Berteletti, Director of the anti-tobacco lobby, requesting a meeting to introduce Forest EU and inviting her and her team ‘for an open, polite and frank discussion’ to the smokers’ campaign group launch event on May 31st didn’t receive any subsequent answer.

Forest EU’s registration to the Smoke Free Partnership event on June 27th received a similar rejection email, with a rather amusing mention saying that it was looking forward to welcoming Forest EU to its future events. Forest EU is taking note of this and will indeed continue to register.

Although it is the very right of the Smoke Free Partnership to screen and deny entry to potential guests of its choice in a private event, this unusual ban serves as an example of how tobacco consumers are being squeezed out of the Brussels political networking process, with lobbies sometimes using the WHO FCTC as an excuse to shut out anyone who is perceived to be linked to the tobacco industry’s interests in a blatant lack of integrity.

Forest EU will work hard to try to change that by giving a voice to smokers in debates on smoking policies where smokers’ views are neither invited nor welcomed. Since the current extreme levels of taxation on tobacco were described by one panelist at the Smoke Free Parternship ‘debate’ as ‘a win-win policy measure’, thereby ignoring the depth of the loss such a policy imposes on confirmed smokers, there is indeed a lot of work for Forest EU to bring back balanced, moderate views and integrity in the debate.

In other news…

Forest EU invites all stakeholders to its next event, ‘Why do smokers smoke? on July 11th in Brussels.

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About Forest EU

Since 1979, Forest has been the leading voice in defending the rights of tobacco consumers and tolerant non-smokers. As an advocacy campaign, Forest EU informs consumers about issues that affect them in the European Union and engages with stakeholders so the views of informed adults are taken into account within the EU’s decision-making process. Forest EU doesn’t encourage smoking and represents the consumer, not the tobacco industry. For more information, visit forestonline.eu.

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