Juliette Torres

The director of information for the smokers' pressure group Forest responds to Deborah Orr's article arguing that the group was unrepresentative of smokers
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The Independent Online

Deborah Orr has clearly never met anyone from Forest - Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco ("All this hype! It's enough to make you light up", 18 August). According to her we are "dear old buggers" with pipes, whose pronouncements are invariably delivered with "incandescent anger and over-the-top hyperbole". Not guilty, m'lud.

Deborah Orr has clearly never met anyone from Forest - Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco ("All this hype! It's enough to make you light up", 18 August). According to her we are "dear old buggers" with pipes, whose pronouncements are invariably delivered with "incandescent anger and over-the-top hyperbole". Not guilty, m'lud.

We are, in the main, young bucks and, far from taking ourselves too seriously, we positively exude joie de vivre, as anyone who has attended our recent events will confirm.

It is true, however, that we are serious about defending the right of adults to smoke, should they choose to do so. A tolerant, mature society is one that can accept diversity, be it in race, religion or lifestyle. Why, then, should people who wish to pursue a perfectly legal habit be subject to punitive taxation, daily discrimination and the ever-present demand that they be banished from so-called public places, which is the theme of our new report?

Deborah Orr may sniff at the "dispassionate" way we pursue our case, but "defending the status quo" is a long and honourable tradition. She is right to question references to the Third Reich, but mention of "health fascists" is rare and not without cause. Those who seek to impose their views and lifestyle on others are at best busybodies and at worst something far more dangerous.

If Ms Orr still thinks Forest is unrepresentative of "decent smokers", may I quote the words of our new Scottish spokesman Charlie MacLean. Describing his vision of Utopia in Free Choice, the Forest magazine, he lists, "Sitting on a yacht off the west coast of Scotland with three good friends, a full bottle of whisky and a fresh packet of cigarettes." Surely even Deborah Orr would drink to that.

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