During the conversation I expressed my view that the public health movement had morphed from a position of benevolent concern for the public into one where coercion and bullying appeared to be central tactics; that in the past, public health had offered advice and support for those who wished to change their lifestyles, but generally left alone those who were content with taking ubiquitously-known risks. The occasion sticks in my mind because - to my surprise - the guy nodded and seemed to agree with me!
"Where's the empathy?", he rhetorically questioned as I necked my wine and he sipped his orange juice, "It is true that there are some who have forgotten that their first priority should be to engage and persuade".
One of the "some" revealed himself last night in an astonishing performance on Twitter.
Last week, the BBC rolled out their latest e-cig 'expert' to regurgitate the fantasies of Big Pharma and the irrational prejudices of rent-seekers - you can listen to his bizarre claims here and here. Said expert - the head of the Faculty of Public Health, no less - was naturally challenged with facts and proper evidence to counter his stark scaremongery such as that e-cigs cause blindness, amongst others.
He wasn't impressed on Wednesday.
This "abuse" was something of a surprise to vapers on Twitter seeing as the tweets were merely ones questioning his evidence and offering opposing views. It was even more bizarre considering he had pre-blocked a slew of prominent vaping tweeters so couldn't have seen what they said anyway.
Some discussion ensued but it had moved on by the following day and Ashton was largely forgotten. However, last night, sober thoughtful public health industry spokesman Prof John Ashton unfathomably decided to trawl some of the accounts he had blocked and offer contemptuous replies. It must have taken him a while since he went back six months to find this one!
... and the truly surreal.
One of his own side tried to get him to tone it down, but to no avail.
Now, it appears that Ashton has since deleted a lot of this stuff from his timeline, but the episode is quite telling for a number of reasons.
Firstly, for someone who claims to be a wise, unimpeachable guardian of our well-being - and a self-professed thinker of the children, public health's greatest human shield - Ashton has no clue whatsoever how to handle social media responsibly. While the rest of us always warn kids that anything placed online is instantly published to the world and therefore irretrievable, Professor Ashton - someone who has installed himself as a consummate expert in human behaviour - understands this less than the vast majority of teens posting duck faces on Facebook.
Secondly, as someone whose tweets reveal him to be an archetypal public health socialist who believes that big industry uses advertising as a mendacious weapon, his use of media to disseminate flawed opinions while actively censoring every right of reply (yes, he blocked me too because I referenced him) is the height of hypocrisy. But it's something we have come to expect from the public health Mafia.
Additionally, there is the widespread public health annoyance that anyone is allowed to be anonymous online and that - as such - they must surely be paid shills. This not only further emphasises that they really don't understand how this internet thing has naturally developed since the 90s but also reveals the underlying tyrannical modern public health mindset.
It's a facet of the tyrant for centuries that anonymity unnerves the dictatorial. If you have a solid case that can be backed up with unshakeable evidence, anonymity is nothing to be scared of, but public health haven't enjoyed that position for over a decade now.
Instead, as Ashton has shown, the modus operandum for public health now solely consists of attacking the man not the ball (they've been lamely doing exactly that again today). How on Earth can they do that if those opposing them can't be investigated and intimidated, eh? Best just ignore the debate entirely or, in Ashton's case, spit out venomous bile.
Most importantly though, as discussed with my public health professional acquaintance 18 months ago, Ashton proved comprehensively last night that he despises the public. There is no empathy in him - in fact, he'd very much prefer it if the public would just shut the hell up and allow him to get on with his career unhindered.
He knows what he thinks; he's not bothered if it is bunkum; and he doesn't want anyone to get in the way of his highly-paid faux concern for the public's health. Even when the public have quite clearly sorted it all out for themselves and could do without his uninvited interference.
This, sadly, is the modern and true face of the public health industry. They quite simply despise the public they used to care for and have empathy with. Last night, Ashton's astonishing behaviour gave us yet another glimpse behind the mask.
See also: The Random Vaper, VapeMeStoopid and the Redhead.