Let’s just say at the outset that we really don’t want to spoil the party. We hope and trust that everyone who attends the FOREST UK’s smoking ban protest event “Revolt In Style: A Freedom Dinner” at London’s Savoy Hotel at the end of June will have a wonderful time, and that the event will stimulate all in attendance to think about how to actively fight Britain’s smoking ban — and, indeed, the whole repressive suite of government controls that are seeping into so many aspects of daily life in the UK.
That said, we can’t help but shake our heads at the, well, subtly discouraging tone that FOREST, not for the first time, is taking to the whole question of how people should respond to threats to their freedoms.
That tone, simultaneously faux-angry and coy, is evident in one of the slogans for the event: “Revolt in style? You can’t do that?!!” Well, ladies and gentlemen, there is no revolt here. The dinner will be held BEFORE the smoking ban goes into effect, so no tuxedoed torsos will be going limp in the time-honoured fashion of non-violent protest as the police haul revellers off the dance floor and into paddy wagons. Nor is FOREST, to the best of our knowledge, planning a party for AFTER the ban, when to wilfully smoke at such an event would directly challenge the law and indeed constitute a revolt. Thus, the exercise, complete with the debut of a new song of resigned but dutiful obedience (it’s entitled “I’m Going Outside”) risks appearing more like a wistful send-off to a way of life than a determined battle cry to preserve it.
Yes, we no doubt sound churlish. But many veteran fighters against smoking bans have been around long enough to see tobacco company money used repeatedly for slick public relations exercises and crowd control – a way of helping smokers let off a bit of steam before “adjusting” to the repression that Big Tobacco has in many cases long ago made its peace with. We can only hope that the FOREST dinner will get at least some of the prominent attendees who have expressed their disgust at the smoking ban to start fighting this repression in earnest. If the dinner is the start of something political, rather than merely a stylish teary-eyed capitulation, we will be pleased. But we’re not counting on it. For that, we are counting on ourselves.