Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco
This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.
The Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco (FOREST) is a European smokers' rights group (SRG) started in 1979 with £12,000 British of tobacco and allied industry funding. This group was used by the tobacco industry to make pro-tobacco views appear to emanate from an entirely an "independent" group. Smokers' rights groups (SRGs) were usually operated through public relations companies, to help maintain the appearance of distance from the tobacco industry.
FOREST was founded Christopher Foxley-Norris.
The idea for a "grassroots" front group was first seriously mooted by British American Tobacco's then PR firm Campbell-Johnson, in a proposal written in November 1978. The biggest challenge, according to Campbell-Johnson, would be keeping the appearance of separation between the new group and the tobacco industry: "The main problem would be how to ensure that the group had access to the industry's thinking on major issues without appearing to be merely a mouthpiece for it. In this connexion it is possible that Campbell-Johnson Limited, within any functions carried out for TAC, could act unattributably both as an intermediary in facilitating two-way flow of information between the group and TAC, and as a backroom guide to the group in overcoming some of the public relations difficulties it might meet." 
Minutes of a 1979 meeting of a subcommittee of the Tobacco Advisory Council (TAC), the trade group of the United Kingdom tobacco companies, describe plans to set up the group. In the meeting, members of the tobacco industry rehearsed how they would answer press inquiries about FOREST after 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." 
Researcher Anne Landman says that a report in 1985 by the then director, Stephen Eyres, makes it 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."
Strategy to avoid arguments based on health
A strategy document written by Chris R. Tame, the director of FOREST in 1989, concedes that any medical or health-based argument about secondhand tobacco smoke is lost before it begins, and that smokers and the tobacco industry cannot win as long as the argument is held on the grounds of health. Tame plots how to get around this, and suggests using a strategy that has actually long been used by the industry and its supporters in many countries. The strategy was to equate public health efforts around smoking with fascism and authoritarianism. Tame says,
The only way that the right to smoke can be preserved is to link it up with the freedom of lifestyle position, and with the broader libertarian critique of 'health fascism' and the paternalism and authoritarianism of the medical establishment. Our 'special interest' can only be viably defended as part and parcel of broader coalition. We have to shift the focus of the debate from the enemy's strong ground--health--to our strong ground--freedom of choice and individual liberty.
- Antony Worrall Thompson, patron
- Lord Harris of High Cross, chairman (founder president of the Institute of Economic Affairs)
- Simon Clark, Director
- Professor John Burton
- Professor Christie Davies
- Dr Stephen Davies
- Dennis O'Keeffe
- Professor Lord Robert Skidelsky
- Dr Bill Thompson
- Professor Norman Stone
- The tobacco industry and the health risks of smoking", UK Government Select Committee on Health, 5 June, 2000.
- "We really need something for people to die of" (1978), Landman Tobacco Document collection (regarding Bates No. 201766542-201766564), February 28, 2001
- Minutes of the 11th Meeting of the Public Relations Sub-Committee of T.A.C. (May 1979), Landman Tobacco Document collection (Bates No. 2501159474/9481A), August 2004.
- FOREST 1985 Director's Report, Landman Tobacco Document collection (Bates No. 303667474/7499), August 21, 2004.
- Chris R. Tame, "Forest's Future Strategy: a discussion", Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, Bates Number 507652779/2785, April 1989 (estimated).
- FOREST website
Tobacco Industry Documents on FOREST
- Title: 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
Company/Source: Philip Morris
Document Date: 08 May 1979 (est.)
Length: 9 pages
Bates No. 2501159474/9481A
- Title: Attn Ms. Mary Covington
Company/Source: Philip Morris
Document Date: 11 Sep 1979
Length: 1 page
Bates No. 2010064865
- Title: FOREST 1985 Director's Report
Company/Source: British American Tobacco
Document Date: 19850210
Length: 26 Pages
Bates No. 303667474/7499
Title: Document WHO033
Source: Physicians for Smoke-Free Canada
Contains statements by operatives of the UK Smokers' Rights group FOREST, including how it was set up to operate, discussions of embezzlement from the organization by director Stephen Eyres (who was diagnosed with AIDS), and statements by Eyres' co-workers.
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This article may include information from Tobacco Documents Online.
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