Creating Divisions

Anyone who has been reading this blog will know that I am a very angry smoker. But how many smokers are as angry as I am? I often wonder about this. I generally guess that it’s about 10% of smokers that fall into the angry category.

I think that how angry any smoker is about smoking bans is probably almost entirely dependent on how much they smoke. If they smoke a lot, they hate smoking bans. If they don’t smoke very much, they don’t like smoking bans very much. If they hardly smoke at all, they don’t mind them in the least. Non-smokers fall into this last category.

Me, I smoke roll-ups and lose count of the number I smoke every day. But the total weight of tobacco used to be half an ounce a day. Or around 12.5 gm. How much I smoke depends on what I’m doing and how I’m feeling. If I’m sitting in a pub, I smoke. If I’m thinking hard about something, I chainsmoke. If I’m anxious or angry, I smoke a lot too. If I’m not doing anything much, I don’t smoke at all.

I think that how much people smoke also defines how they react to smoking bans. And I’ll put them in three categories again. Confirmed, moderate, and light.

Confirmed smokers – the angry and excluded

My half-ounce smoking habit isn’t, in historical terms, a heavy smoking habit. So I’ll call myself a confirmed smoker rather than a heavy smoker. I’m a confirmed smoker in the sense of having no wish to give up smoking. 

Smoking bans fall hardest on confirmed smokers. For them, such bans completely destroy their experience of pubs and bars, and to some extent restaurants as well. And they respond by stopping going to them. Or they stand outside. Which is what I do. I haven’t had a single drink inside the River since the smoking ban came into force. I only ever sit outside on sunny days.

This category of smoker is the one most likely to feel excluded and angry. And I feel both of these. This country doesn’t seem like my country any more since the smoking ban came into force.

I could write – and do write – at great length about how I feel about the smoking ban. It utterly enrages me. And it’s an anger that doesn’t go away. Two years on from the imposition of the smoking ban, I’m still as angry about it as I ever was. In fact, now that I know that there’s no epidemiological justification for such bans, I’m even angrier.

Moderate smokers – the blitz spirit

I think that most smokers probably fall into the moderate smoking category. The smoking ban didn’t completely destroy their pub experience, and so they kept on going to pubs. They’d just go outside now and then for a cigarette. How long they spent outside depended entirely on how much they smoked.

I don’t fall into this category of smokers, but I’ve spent a bit of time with them. They sit in pubs, drinking and talking, and then one of them says, "Let’s have a cigarette," and they all troop outside and light up, smoke a cigarette, and then go back in again, to rejoin the non-smokers they left behind. 

The moderate smokers don’t like the smoking ban, but they don’t find it unendurable. They grin and bear it. They soldier on. Theirs is a "blitz spirit", of taking whatever the huns throw at them, and enduring it without complaint. The moderate smokers don’t talk about the smoking ban very much. They go to pubs to drink and and talk, and smoking is about the third or fourth thing that matters to them. Many of them consider giving up smoking. Many of them do so. And many of them take it up again.

Non-smokers – the indifferent

The non-smokers either don’t notice the smoking ban, or they approve of it. In their view 1 July 2007 was a non-event in English history. Nothing happened that day. Most non-smokers don’t mind people smoking. If they did, they either stopped going to pubs long ago, or else they never went at all. 

Most of the people that I know are non-smokers. Because most people don’t smoke. But many non-smokers are ex-smokers, who rather unwillingly gave up smoking out of fears for their future health. Many of them will occasionally smoke a cigarette in times of stress or anxiety, or smoke a cigar at the end of a dinner party. Comparatively few of them have never smoked cigarettes. Hardly any are smoke-hating antismokers.

The non-smokers are oblivious. They don’t really notice the change in the pubs. They don’t really notice the loss of custom. They don’t notice the widening social divisions.

Social Effects

The confirmed smokers and moderate smokers and non-smokers used to get along fine together. With the smoking ban, this conviviality came under stress.

When the confirmed smokers left, the pubs became emptier. How empty depended upon how many of the customers had been heavy smokers. If 90%, then 90% left, and the pub would close within a few months. If 10% were heavy smokers, then 10% left, and the pubs takings dipped a bit. If the rest were moderate smokers or non-smokers, there’d be collections of smokers outside pubs.

The social impact of the smoking ban fell most heavily on the heavy smokers. They became the most socially isolated. In my own case, this isolation is now near-total. But I’m a fairly self-reliant sort of guy. When I went to pubs, it was very often to sit in quiet meditation alone. I don’t really mind my hermit lifestyle too much. I can think a lot. But the social isolation probably fell very heavily on someone like Lawrence Walker. And no doubt upon others too.

For the remainder, which would generally be the majority, the social life of the pub would have become a bit quieter. And it would have become something of a fractured experience, as they forever trooped in and out the door. And it would have become a bit fractured for the non-smokers also, as their smoking friends would get up and walk out half way through a conversation.

There seems to have been the development of a new sort of arrangement, whereby people meet at a pub, enjoy its conviviality for one drink, and then go back to one of their houses to continue drinking and smoking. Some of  the non-smokers left behind in the now half-empty pubs must have themselves felt socially excluded.

In this manner what was once a community became divided. There were the non-smokers inside the pubs, the moderate smokers standing outside, and the confirmed smokers at home – a thread of humanity drawn out of the pubs like cotton from a reel. The non-smokers resented the smokers for going outside. The smokers resented having to go outside, and were torn between on the one hand giving up smoking and going back inside, or giving up drinking and staying home. And the angry confirmed smokers at home wished that everyone would revolt. 

The divisions aren’t this simple, of course. The confirmed smokers were divided among themselves. Some of them were resigned. Some of them were angry. Some of them put a brave face on it all.  Some of them were utterly defeated. So smokers are divided among themselves. 

But non-smokers are probably divided too. Only of a few of them are virulent anti-smokers. And not all of them are utterly oblivious to what is going on around them. I was deeply touched when a couple of non-smoking friends of mine – one an ex-smoker and the other a never-smoker – came outside at one party to declare their "solidarity" with us smokers. Some non-smokers are as angry as any confirmed smoker.
Nobody in the pubs had wanted this. In the past, those non-smokers who went to pubs had by definition not minded the smoke, because otherwise they would not have gone to the pubs. None of the smokers wanted the ban, of course. The only people who wanted it were the anti-smokers who never went to pubs anyway. 

In such manner a bad law tears a society apart, and creates divisions where there were none before.

About Frank Davis

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15 Responses to Creating Divisions

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hell,I am one of the most pissed off smokers,I bought a camper to haul the harley in,sold the farm,moved to a smoking state and will be here and fight the bloody nazis if they show up…….I fight em in open hearings,i FIGHTEM ON THE NET EVERYDAY!!!!! I HATE THE BASTARDS SO MUCH….
    yOUR ABSOLUTLY RIGHT ABOUT SMOKERS STAYING HOME AND NOT GOING OUT..In tennessee afetr the ban everybody stayed home and I for one have never been to another restaraunt in that state since nor will I til the ban is repealed….many places shut down after the ban there……..our old hangout the wafflehouse lost 60% of their business in the first week of the ban and it never recovered……….after 9 months they filed bankruptcy……….all this shit because second hand smoke doesnt harm anyone……..osha
    Indeed its prohibition
    As for secondhand smoke in the air, OSHA has stated outright that:
    “Field studies of environmental tobacco smoke indicate that under normal conditions, the components in tobacco smoke are diluted below existing Permissible Exposure Levels (PELS.) as referenced in the Air Contaminant Standard (29 CFR 1910.1000)…It would be very rare to find a workplace with so much smoking that any individual PEL would be exceeded.”
    -Letter From Greg Watchman, Acting Sec’y, OSHA, To Leroy J Pletten, PHD, July 8, 1997

  2. Anonymous says:

    I think that many of the tolerant non-smokers are more irritated about the ban than you might think. They’re not quite as angry as many smokers, of course, and they don’t really understand how dreadful it is when on the receiving end, because of course they’re not ON the receiving end, but I think that a lot of them who thought that their smoking friends “just wouldn’t bother to smoke” when they were out and that everything would carry on pretty much as normal have come to realise that that’s not how the ban is working out in practice. Many that I know who weren’t really concerned about it beforehand have since said to me that there are many things which they really dislike about it now it’s here. Firstly, they dislike the fractured nature of their evenings out these days, as smoking members of their party frequently get up and leave for a cigarette, often leaving them in the bar to look after seats/bags/drinks in their absence; secondly, this is exacerbated when smokers outside get chatting to other smokers (which often happens) and end up staying outside for two, three or more cigarettes instead of just the planned one, leaving their party depleted for even longer than they expected; and lastly, now they can actually see their own friends or family members or acquaintances forced outside when it’s raining or cold or windy they’ve started to realise that the theoretical ban which they envisaged before July 2007 is a far cry from the real one which is now upon them. People are notorious for wanting one thing for strangers they’ve never met but not wanting to inflict it upon people that they personally know – hence the reason why many vocal critics of “welfare scroungers” and the like somehow never manage to report anyone that they know personally who’s swinging the lead (I recently had a fairly heated debate on this very subject with my sister-in-law – a great one for saying: “These benefit scroungers should be slung in jail” when one of her own family has been thoroughly undeservedly living on benefits for years).
    It’s also notable that not one of these now-angry non-smokers ever blame the smokers themselves for these effects. They realise that all the smokers are doing is sticking to the rules – but that the rules themselves have had a backlash against them, the non-smokers, which they didn’t anticipate. Smokers, of course, knew that the ban wouldn’t be pleasant for them; non-smokers, on the other hand, didn’t in all honesty think it would affect them at all, and they’ve been rather unpleasantly surprised to be caught in the crossfire of a battle over an activity which they don’t even participate in.
    I also think that more non-smokers than you’d imagine have watched from the sidelines with mounting unease, not just at the extensive nature of a ban emanating from what they thought was a largely well-meaning (if inept) Government, but also at its knock-on effects in terms of the way people now feel it is permissible to behave towards each other, with rudeness, demanding one’s own way, bullying, bias, prejudice and unfairness tacitly supported by this one piece of legislation. All but the most deliberately blind of them can see that if the powers-that-be can get away with this in one area, then they can get away with it in others, with a bit of spin, a few dodgy statistics and the help of the media. And if there’s one very thin silver lining in the very big, dark cloud which is the smoking ban (no pun intended!), it must surely be that its very sudden and draconian introduction has at least alerted people who would otherwise be unaware to the dangers of allowing a small but very vocal minority of campaigners with a favourite hobby-horse the power to persuade those who formulate public policy to do their bidding.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Angry Smoker
    One myth exposed by the smoking ban, British bravery.
    You know,all the nonsense about Agincourt,Waterloo,
    Ypres and El Alamein.
    But now the truth, millions of them cowering in car parks,backyards,behind waste bins,landlords doing
    vanishing tricks at the very mention of protest,
    Noble ,young , hard English heroes watching their
    old huddled in forlorn groups outside clubs and bingo
    halls. No wonder Islam is on a winning run
    Angriest Smoker in the UK

  4. Frank Davis says:

    I sometimes think of buying a camper van too. And driving across Europe eastwards, looking for a free country somewhere, anywhere.

  5. Frank Davis says:

    thought that their smoking friends “just wouldn’t bother to smoke”
    I’ve had something of the same sense. I wonder, if alcohol had been banned for the same trumped-up ‘health’ reasons, they’d have thought that their drinking friends “just wouldn’t bother to drink”?
    I occasionally see people drinking pints of Coca Cola these days. And when I see that, I wonder if pubs will gradually fill up with non-drinkers, until they are the majority, and then alcohol will be banned one day.
    Same with meat in restaurants, as veggie restaurants multiply.
    these now-angry non-smokers…
    I can’t say that I haven’t met any of them. Or if I have, I can’t say that they seem very angry. Just a bit cross.
    I, on the other hand, am angry all the time.

  6. Frank Davis says:

    Re: Angry Smoker
    Well, yes, that’s another sort of anger.
    The anger that smokers have for other smokers, because they didn’t all revolt against this vile law.
    And then there’s the anger that smokers have for smokers who are angry at them.

  7. Anonymous says:

    angry smoker
    I’m as angry as you Frank and I agree with the poster who is complaining that smokers mounted no protest. Last week there was talk of the hunting ban being scrapped by the Conservatives. I think that, due to the mass demonstrations and the invasion of the H of Commons, it was watered down to such an extent that it doesn’t really exist. I would have thought leave it like that but I’m not a politician. The point I’m making is that the Government would have had to similarly water down the smoking ban had it been ignored by large numbers of people. Admittedly the massive fine for business owners makes this difficult, and this was very cunning. I’ve not seen this strategy employed before. However, we smokers are neither brave nor imaginative in our protests. We don’t need to break any laws. Don’t give blood would be an effective first step. This could cause a massive problem. The NHS is quite happy to receive our blood at the same time as suggesting treatment should be withheld from us and that we be denormalised. Smoke ecigs in non-smoking areas, particularly where there is cctv surveillance. This takes the Mick, wastes resources and causes confusion. Set up experiments to determine the effectiveness of extraction systems. Smoking is allowed for genuine research purposes. Record the results and publicise them. Get a couple of thousand people to jointly rent premises, post a bond to pay any ensuing fines and start a smoking club. I don’t believe that appeals to reason will overturn the ban. Somebody, somewhere, will have to do something. A few landlords have tried but each small action just peters out. Why we are different to Holland and Germany, I don’t know.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Yes, you’re right. “Now-angry” was probably a bit of an exaggeration (and wishful thinking on my behalf!), “increasingly miffed” would probably have been a better description! But from tiny acorns ….?
    On the subject of booze, well yes, they’ve already started down that road. Have you noticed? The subtle drip, drip, drip feed of little messages is already upon us, just like the anti-smoking messages started small and subtle and then grew ….. But just you try telling non-smoking drinkers about it (or, particularly, publicans) and the sound of spades digging holes in the sand for them to bury their heads in is deafening!

  9. Frank Davis says:

    Re: angry smoker
    I agree with the poster who is complaining that smokers mounted no protest.
    But in my piece I was pointing out the reason why they didn’t protest: they didn’t smoke as much as I did. They could live with popping outside for an occasional smoke. And for those of them who hardly smoked at all, there wasn’t anything much to protest about.
    I think also that in my own case I didn’t know, in advance of the actuality of the ban, how I would react to it. I didn’t expect the anger that came then, and which I still have. And in many ways I couldn’t have foreseen it.
    I agree with all your suggested activities. I agree with anything anyone does. Or, at least, I’ll not say don’t do it.
    In the case of the hunting ban, the hunts were tight-knit communities who had been under attack for decades. Those are the sort of communities which can take concerted action. Smokers haven’t been part of any community of smokers. And they didn’t see the smoking ban coming (or at least I didn’t).
    In Germany and Holland the bans have been rather different. In Germany they were also different from one region to the next. And I think Bavaria’s ban was the most draconian of all. And in places like Spain, there’s hardly anything worth calling a ‘ban’. I think that, although nominally they’ve all got smoking bans, they’re as different as apples and oranges.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Brilliant piece of writing as always Frank.
    I am still angry also. Your last line for me, is very powerful as that is exactly what is has done. I am so angry for what they have done to the elderly who do not have the same outlet to express themselves, I still struggle with the computer and I do not understand many things “twitter” for one.
    So without somewhere to vent my anger, I cannot imagine the despair some are going through, A feeling of being “punished” for enjoying something legal just seems criminal.
    The lies I cannot stand, the total waste of money from so called “charities” is criminal and offensive.
    I am also angry I cannot find words strong enough or cannot express myself as well of some of the great blog writers the internet has to offer.
    Bans have always been turned around, it is great that Canada are putting up a huge fight, along with parts of the USA.
    We have the internet, others in the past did not, so that gives me some hope.
    No social gathering is the same, some outside and some inside, I have just come back from Spain and it seems just like our Country when it was normal.
    There are some great comments on here and I agree with them.
    Thank you

  11. Frank Davis says:

    Re: Angry
    I am also angry I cannot find words strong enough
    Neither can I, most of the time.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I dunno
    As of June ’07 my average daily ration was 7 or 8 cigs. After a brief episode of plus-20 and some tobacco related eduation, it’s down to about 7.5g a day (sorry about metric. Can’t be bothered to do conversion sums. About a quarter of an ounce?) Hardly a smoker then, although it is astonishing how many fags you can get out of 7.5g if you roll them thin enough.
    The point is, I am VERY angry.
    Re. a previous post I turned up too late for – please don’t fry with vegetable oil! I read somwhere that veg. oil turns nasty under extreme heat. You should always fry with animal fat, unless it’s something like eggs on low heat. Apparently goose, chicken and duck fat are the healthiest, though you really can’t beat chips in beef dripping. I have an animal fat and alzheimers theory that’s too irrelevant to mention, but it beats your Labour causes cancer one hands down!

  13. Frank Davis says:

    Re: I dunno
    it is astonishing how many fags you can get out of 7.5g if you roll them thin enough.
    12.5 g = 0.44 oz. So 7.5 g = 0.26 oz. A quarter of an ounce. About half what I smoke.
    And yes, it’s astonishing how many roll-ups you can make. Many years ago, when I was a bit broke, I took to using a crunched-up cigarette paper as a ‘filter’ at one end of the rollie. The filter sometimes filled about half of the length of the finished product, so doubling the number of roll-ups I could make with some amount of tobacco. By this device, theoretically an infinite number of roll-ups can be made with a few ounces of tobacco.
    The point is, I am VERY angry
    And maybe that blows my whole theory out of the water. Maybe depth of anger isn’t proportional to amount smoked.
    For example, there could be somebody who only ever smoked one cigarette per day in their local pub. Only one. At the bar in the pub. Over a single malt whisky. Never anywhere else.
    It was the most precious cigarette of the day, because it was the only cigarette of the day. It was the reward for a day’s work.
    The smoking ban would have been completely shattering for someone like that. They would have been furious at it. Far angrier than me. Or you.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Sorry, a bit late to this thread but I would like to point out that not all non-smokers are tolerant(ish) of smoking.
    Lifted from a comment over at Wat Tyler’s place;
    ‘My neighbour at the moment is sat outside, drinking and smoking (I’ve complained to environmental health about this)…’
    Health fascists are everywhere. To your face they may appear relaxed about it but from the privacy of their own homes the WILL attempt to have you sanctioned or sectioned.
    Another thing. Recently I’ve noticed an attitude amongst the younger checkout operators in my local (small) supermarket when I ask for any smoking paraphernalia. They seem ‘uncomfortable’ with meeting my request. Maybe just paranoia on my part but it’s beginning to grate a little.

  15. Frank Davis says:

    Yes, I know that not all non-smokers are tolerant. But many are. Most of the pub-going ones, leastways.

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