Tuesday 28 February 2017

A Night At The Pleasure Zone (part 2) - The Balloon Debate

On Thursday I commented on an excellent presentation by Neil McKegany full of thoughtful insight and philosophy on the issue of smoking. As an academic, you'd think he would not be unusual in being able to deliver profound analysis like that, but then tobacco control is an abnormal discipline full of grifters, chancers and snake oil salesmen which, I suppose, is why it came as such a delightful surprise.

I promised that I'd also write up the balloon debate that followed which was sumptuously-ladelled with levity and brought peals of laughter out of the room. So here's a quick rundown of what I took from it.

The format was three minutes for each advocate to extol the virtues of why they consider their chosen nicotine delivery device to be the most pleasurable. In front of a well-oiled audience, they all did their best and raised many a chuckle.

First up was Andrew Stewart who made the case for pipe smoking.

He was extremely affable, a calming voice who almost made me want to try a pipe myself. Almost. I found his description of a lifelong love affair with pipes quite charming, and it was great to see him reminding those assembled that the RCP did once say that pipe smoking (like moderate alcohol consumption today) was found to be less harmful than no tobacco use at all. This would, of course, be heresy in these days of tobacco control extremist hyperbole, but considering tobacco control now lies more than the tobacco industry ever did, I'd take the RCP's word for it, frankly.

Next at the mike was Chris Snowdon who gave a barnstorming performance in favour of snus.

His three minutes was funny, roped in topical references to Trump, the Champions League and Brexit, and was everything a balloon debate contribution should be. I have to admit that his presentation won my vote for the night if only for the line "only an idiot would not accept snus has been good for public health, so therefore public health idiots don't accept it".

After such a frenetic presentation, Ranald McDonald of Boisdale then chose a more louche tone to champion cigars. In a relaxed, almost Barry White-esque voice, he took the aesthetic and arty line (he was later to claim that cigars enhanced sexual relations!) and almost dribbled in his appreciation of the Cuban mastery of cigar-making.

Mark Littlewood then rose to speak of his love of 'Heat not Burn' or heated tobacco (which I tried for the first time in December).  He boldly declared that he was there to "advocate the future", and enthusiastically waxed lyrical about the the science behind it.

He had a playful straw man dig at Simon Clark for not wanting brands to be advertised, suggesting that this was a new departure into endorsing plain packaging, but finished on a roll by dismissing Communist Cuba and boring Sweden for their choices of tobacco products.

He was followed by Angela Harbutt who took the seductive approach. A faux pas whereby a couple of misplaced vowels led to her mis-speaking Volvo to indicate she was talking about something completely different made the room erupt, but considering the rest of her presentation seemed designed to ooze finery and sensual appeal I'm still not sure it wasn't deliberate.

Angela was later to be crowned winner on the night after invoking Audrey Hepburn, more fast cars, and Champagne in the three-way run-off. Not, maybe, a surprise at a Forest event but it still had to be a good presentation to get that far, which it very much was.

Last up was Judy Gibson of INNCO, who had told me beforehand she had coveted the last position so as to be fresh in the voter mind.

She emphasised that vapers really understand that pleasure is part of enjoying nicotine, but admitted - via a reference to masochism which raised some giggles - that we all make our own choices as to what we enjoy. Armed with an impressive array of devices, she spoke from nearly five decades of experience but had decided to embrace the electronic kind of nicotine delivery rather than what vaping consumers sometimes call 'analogue'.

All in all, it was a wonderful debate (but then I'm biased cos I love the balloon type and I'm pretty keen on nicotine however it's delivered) and all should be congratulated for their willingness to get up there and speak for their cause. It also made a perfect foil for Nel McKegany's prior cerebral academic contribution to the debate about smoking, nicotine and pleasure.

I could say more but why when you can watch it yourself here. I recommend you do as it is very amusing.

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