Freedom2Choose

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Freedom2Choose is a smokers' rights campaign group “set up to oppose smoking bans and expose the myth surrounding second hand smoke”.[1] It calls itself “the nation’s leading pro-choice organisation”, though the basis for this claim is unclear.[2]

Pro-Smoking, Freedom-Loving but 'Not Pro-Tobacco'

Freedom2Choose says it 'seeks to protect the informed choices of consenting adults with sensible and achievable goals on the issues of smoking'.

We at Freedom2Choose do not represent either extreme of the passive smoke debate; we are not a pro-tobacco organisation funded by tobacco companies nor are we anti-smokers funded by drug companies. We are members of the public from all walks of life, professional through to working class, united in a determination to expose the myths that are currently leading to the removals of the freedoms of the people of this nation. [3]
We actively campaign to prevent victimisation of smokers, social division, social isolation and to alleviate the negative social and economic impacts of the smoking ban'. [4]

Staff

2012

  • Dave Atherton - Campaign Chairman [4]
  • Andy Davis - Vice Chairman[4]
  • Phil Johnson - Former Chairman
  • Helen Daniels - Press Officer
  • Belinda Cunnison - Scotland convenor

2011

Phil Johnson was listed as chairman in 2011. He is reported to be 59, and has “smoked since he was 10 years old”. [5][6]

Its Scottish spokesman was Eddie Douthwaith.[7]

An undated information sheet [8] also listed the following staff:

  • Andy Davis, Chairman
  • Colin Grainger, Vice Chairman
  • John Baker, Secretary
  • Belinda Cunnison, Treasurer
  • Helen Daniels, Press Office
  • Steve Cross, Marketing
  • Peter Jackson, Membership
  • Ali Piearce, Internal Communications
  • Phil Johnson, Club Liaison
  • Gian Turci, International coordinator

[9][10]

Membership

In 2008, just after launching F2C had 127 members. [11] Two years later its membership remained the same. [12] Membership as of January 2012 was £10 a year (£5 junior). The contact person for memberships is Peter Jackson.[13]

Funded by Public Donations

According to Freedom2Choose's website,

We are funded entirely by donations from the general public and have no connections whatsoever with the tobacco or pharmaceutical industries. Our membership consists of both smokers and non smokers. [4]

Networking with FORCES

According to Dave Atherton, Freedom2Choose could have "become the UK branch of Forces, but instead he (Bob Feal-Martinez, the founder of Freedom2Choose) decided to set up a separate entity. But obviously we do know each other, we do swap emails, we are linked in to each other on facebook and we do swap information. You probably wouldn't get in a cigarette paper between us in terms of differences." [14]

On the UKIP Fringe

Atherton addressed a Freedom Association event on the fringe of the UKIP Conference in Torquay in 2010. Other speakers included Phil Booth of NO2ID and Alex Deane of Big Brother Watch. [15]

A Respected and Feared Voice in Westminster?

Dave Atherton argues that:

"Freedom2Choose have been accepted as a mainstream pressure group and think tank in the Westminster Bubble. I have not heard one voice of dissent about an amendment to the smoking ban and many people such as Alex Deane of Big Brother Watch and Simon Richards of the Freedom Association are happy to promote our cause. They are all sympathetic and many people button hole me and say you are ‘the smoking bloke’. The Wednesday Meeting at The TaxPayers' Alliance is the cream of the UK's Centre-right think tanks and you can be aware that Freedom2Choose is on a list in the Conservative's Central Office. Government know that they have a fight on their hands and I think my efforts will go to not expecting any new restrictions."

He adds: "I have also made friends with a number of MPs and senior academics, and this has furthered our cause. I am hoping that I am now on the speaking circuit as I was at UKIP and spoke about how the smoking restrictions will find their way into drinking and eating next. In conclusion Freedom2Choose are now a respectable and feared voice in Westminster." [16]

A Force to be Reckoned With?

When Phil Johnson stepped down as chairman in October 2011, he wrote in his final newsletter that Freedom2Choose was "now definitely a force to be reckoned with" and "a constant thorn in the sides of anti-tobacco". Looking back over the 21 months of his chairmanship, he wrote:

"The greatest achievement was the complete annihilation of one Councillor Paul Bartlett... That wonderful achievement has been bettered by the news that Councillor Bartlett has now received a vote of "no confidence" from his fellow councillors. Hitler died in his bunker and it looks very much like Bartlett has done likewise! And all for the right to have freedom2choose for oneself!"[17]

Paul Bartlett is a town councillor who in 2011 proposed a total smoking ban on the streets of Stony Stratford in Buckinghamshire.[18]

The incoming chairman Dave Atherton wrote: "F2C are a respected and credible campaigning group who are feared and respected by ASH and the Global Tobacco Link, which include junk scientists such as Professor Linda Bauld and Dr Anna Gilmore... we can only go from strength to strength and we can turn the tide of the anti-smokers."[19]

The "Cream" of the Libertarian / Right

In his annual update for 2011, Atherton writes that "Crucially I have an invite to the “Wednesday Meeting” on which I cannot comment too much. It is the cream of the libertarian, centre-right and is a privilege to be invited. The TaxPayers' Alliance, The Freedom Association, Big Brother Watch, the Institute of Economic Affairs to name but some. If I say it myself I have really raised the profile of smoking and the plight of smokers. It has also given me access to MPs and to a lesser extent junior ministers." [20]

Endorsements

The website says the campaign is endorsed by:

On Facebook

Freedom2Choose is on Facebook, where it calls itself "a rapidly growing organisation, funded only by memberships, determined to stop the prohibitions being forced upon the people of this country".

The "Non-affiliated Blog"

See also the Freedom2Choose Blog, and death threats against ASH and others.

Notes

  1. Website description for Info Freedom 2 Choose website, undated.
  2. Freedom 2 Choose, ‘‘Labour’s Smoking Ban: Make Your Mind Up’’, Website, 27 February 2011
  3. Freedom2Choose Home Page, Accessed 27 January 2012
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Freedom To Choose About Us, accessed 27 January 2012
  5. Freedom 2 Choose, ‘‘"Evidence Review" - Without Evidence!, Website, 11 May 2011, accessed 15 June 2011
  6. thisiskent ‘‘Ciggy film draws ire’’, www.thisiskent.co.uk, 17 September 2010, accessed 15 June 2011
  7. Freedom 2 Choose, ‘‘Scottish Government Defies Public Opinion’’, Website, 9 October 2010, accessed 15 June 2011
  8. Freedom 2 Choose, ‘‘Press information sheet’’, Website, undated, accessed 15 June 2011
  9. Freedom 2 Choose, ‘‘"Evidence Review" - Without Evidence!, Website, 11 May 2011, accessed 15 June 2011
  10. thisiskent ‘‘Ciggy film draws ire’’, www.thisiskent.co.uk, 17 September 2010, accessed 15 June 2011
  11. Freedom2Choose, Annual Report 2007–2008, Accessed July 2011
  12. Freedom2Choose, Annual Report 2009–2010, Accessed July 2011
  13. Freedom2Choose, Freedom2Choose Memberships, Accessed January 2012
  14. E-CigaretteDirect, Website, Accessed June 2011
  15. Frank Davis, Blog, 4 September 2010, accessed July 2011
  16. Freedom2Choose, Annual Report 2009–2010, Accessed July 2011
  17. Phil Johnson, Outgoing chairman's message, Freedom2Choose website, 11 October 2011, accessed 31 January 2012
  18. MK News, 'Votes of no confidence at Stony Stratford Town Council', 22 September 2011, accessed 31 January 2012
  19. Dave Atherton, Incoming Chairman's Message, Freedom2Choose website, 11 October 2011, accessed 31 January 2012
  20. Freedom 2 Choose, Annual Report 2010–2011, Accessed February 2012
  21. Endorsements, Freedom2Choose website, accessed 22 April 2012