Smoking and drinking and eating are pleasant pastimes. It is perhaps not possible to explain exactly why this is so, but it nevertheless is so. It is somehow or other a great pleasure to sit at a table, and drink a beer, and smoke a cigarette, and munch peanuts or crisps. It’s also a pleasure to kick around balls, or bat them to and fro, or paddle or swim in water, or fly kites, or gaze at passing clouds. It’s also a pleasure to see a beautiful woman (like the one that’s currently in the right hand margin of this page). It’s not possible to say exactly why she is beautiful. She just is. And it gladdens the heart to see her.
It doesn’t need any advertising campaign to get people to enjoy smoking and drinking. They’ll find out anyway. If advertising is of any value, it is to get customers to buy one brand of cigarettes in preference to another, or one make of beer rather than another, the differences between them being so marginal as to be almost enitely unnoticeable.
On the other hand, it requires a continuous and unrelenting campaign to get people to stop enjoying any of these things. It is possible to make people abhor smoking or drinking or sex by repeatedly associating them with death and disease. It is possible to get men to hate the sight of women, and make them cover their faces and their bodies. It is possible to get people to hate the sight of cigarettes, or glasses of beer, or plates of food, or even passing clouds.
But the key thing is that it requires a continuous campaign to make people stop enjoying doing things which they ordinarily enjoy doing. It requires a continuous exertion of effort to do this in exactly the same way that it requires a continuous expenditure of energy to keep a car moving along a road, or an aircraft flying. Left to themselves, they would come to a halt, or fall to earth. Left to themselves, people will smoke and drink and gaze at clouds. Because that is their nature. That is how they are.
And this is why, in the end, all anti-smoking campaigns and all anti-drinking campaigns and all anti-sex campaigns are doomed to fail. Because in the end it becomes impossible to sustain the continuous effort needed to make people dislike what they actually like. As soon as the campaign runs out of money or enthusiasm, people immediately begin to revert to doing what they naturally like doing. And sooner or later these campaigns always do run out of money and enthusiasm, just like cars and airplanes run out of fuel, or forest fires burn themselves out, or storms subside. Anti-smoking campaigns are sandcastles. They superficially appear strong, but they start falling down as soon as they stop being built.
And so, for an anti-smoking campaign to succeed, it has to be continued indefinitely. It can’t last just 5 years or 10 years. It has to go on for 100 years or 1000 years. And even then, the moment it ends, people will start smoking again. Because it’s something they enjoy doing. Like they enjoy kicking balls around. Or lying in the sun. Or eating chocolate chip cookies.
If anything is perverse, it is is not smoking or drinking, but instead the attempt to make people stop smoking or drinking or kicking around footballs. It is perverse to set out to make what is pleasant seem unpleasant. It is as perverse a thing to try to ‘denormalise’ smoking as it is to try to denormalise football and flirting and daydreaming.
In the end, people will anyway rediscover the simple truth that smoking is good for you, just like sunbathing and kite-flying and playing chess and reading books is good for you. They are good because they are pleasurable and enjoyable.
It is the delusion of antismokers to suppose that smoking is an addiction, or that the addictive substance is nicotine, or that smokers only smoke because tobacco is advertised for sale, or because they see people smoking in movies. It is a delusion to suppose that if people can be once induced to give up smoking they will never take it up again. For if that is true of smoking, then the same must be true of every other pleasure in life. And it is not true. And it never will be true.