Tobacco Harm Reduction

I’ve been reading the Tobacco Harm Reduction blog that seems to have started up in October of last year. It has several authors, and many of the posts seem to be critical of rabid antismokers, and to praise Michael Siegel, and to approve of e-cigarettes. So what was different between virulent obsessive antismokers and Tobacco Harm Reductionists? Eventually I found out:

Though harm reductionists and anti-tobacco activists share the goal of getting smokers away from smoking, we differ radically on how we conceptualize the process. Anti-smoking activists are paternalistic and feel that smokers will only respond to force as in increasingly onerous restrictions and various other steps in the direction of prohibition.

Harm reduction is based on the idea of choice and autonomy. Smokers smoke for good reason (even if it is unhealthy) and only by accepting those reasons as valid can we develop attractive alternatives to smoking. Secondly, and quite a different point, is that the anti-smoking movement has created the very barriers that stop smokers from knowing about safer alternatives.

Sort of a good-cop bad-cop thing, then? But really, when you’ve been hauled into a police station and beaten up by bad cop, and then good cop comes in with a cup of coffee and a biscuit for you, are you likely to have your opinion of cops in general restored by that? Well, no you aren’t. You’ll still hate the whole damn lot of them.

They can sort of see that stigmatizing smoking might maintain smoking.

ultimately, stigmatizing is more a form of politicized whining which says a lot more about the whiners than it does about the targets

They can even see the parallels of post-Climategate global warming science with antismoking science.

What is fascinating, in case it is not obvious, is that a simple word-substitution algorithm would make the whole thing read like an expose of the anti-tobacco extremists’ behavior in attacking tobacco harm reduction, denying the benefits of nicotine, condemning low-risk products, overstating the effects of second-hand smoke, and trying to bully anyone who challenges them.

Elsewhere on the blog, PLB writes:

As I have written previously, ironically, for us in tobacco harm reduction, a hard line against smoking would seem supportive of our position. After all, we are trying to get people to adopt safer alternatives. But also ironically, our greatest foes in reducing the risks to smokers are those same hardliners in tobacco control and in positions of authority in many health departments.

Trying to get people to adopt safer alternatives is still trying to get people to do something they might not otherwise want to do. It’s still all about claiming to know what’s good for other people better than they know themselves.

Ultimately, health initiatives work best when politics are not part of the equation. Vilifying smokers, smoking and tobacco only preserves the status quo and keeps us locked in this impoverished quit or die mode.

Maybe they worked once. I’m sure they did. But I doubt they’ll work any more.

Over the past few years I’ve found myself a stranger in my own country, demonised and denormalised. I’ve lost a lot of friends, mostly because there’s nowhere comfortable to meet them any more, but sometimes as a consequence of head-on collision. I’m not going to forget it. When, one day, the antismoking bigots and bullies have been finally consigned to oblivion, as they will be, how does PLB think I’ll respond when he comes up to me and says, ‘Well Frank. How about giving up smoking now, eh?’

I can tell him already. I’ll tell him to Fuck Off. He’ll be lucky if he gets out of the room without an axe in his skull. I’ve had enough of people like him. I’ve had it up to here. I don’t make distinctions between any of them any more. They can all go to hell. Every single last one of them. And, believe me, as long as I live, I’ll be working to make sure they do all go to hell.

And that includes Dr Michael Siegel. He writes good stuff exposing the lies of antismoking zealots. But in the end, he’s just as much a zealot as they are. There’s barely a cigarette paper between them. He wants smoking banned in public places too. And he’s got 220 dead bartenders that can tell you why. Will I feel grateful to Michael Siegel when it’s all over? No, I won’t. He can go to hell too.

It’s all over for Tobacco Control. They went too far. I think that in a few years time they’re going to be seen as a bunch of Nazis (because that is, after all, what they essentially are), and it’s not going to be possible to say that some of them were Good Nazis. They’ll all be tarred with the same brush. And anyway there won’t be any more money in either antismoking or Tobacco Harm Reduction because the people who were handing them all that money will have been publicly strangled.

Tobacco Control is set to implode in the way that the Temperance movement seems to have imploded after the failure of Prohibition in the USA. I grew up in the world that followed. There was no war on alcohol on the 1950s and 1960s. It was over. But I kept picking up stories of a time, a decade or two earlier, when alcohol was demonised about as much as tobacco is now. My grandfather in the 1950s never went to any pub, but he’d drink one small bottle of Pale Ale every afternoon, and my mother absolutely insisted that he kept a small bottle of vodka or whisky with which to fortify it. I had an uncle whose terrible weakness for alcohol supposedly led him to go and live in Pakistan where he couldn’t get any. There were all sorts of stories like that about the demon drink. The Temperance campaigns demonising alcohol were over, but they continued to reverberate through society for decades. In retrospect, I’ve come to realise that my parents were rebels. They were rebels against alcohol prohibition in the 1930s and 1940s just like Sixties’ hippies were rebels against cannabis prohibition 20 or 30 years later. Through the 1950s and 60s, my father always kept a well-stocked bar in our living room, complete with high stools to go round it. Yet he hardly ever got drunk. I’ve come to realise, in retrospect, that it was his gesture of defiance. But the righteous had abandoned their war on alcohol by then, and had turned their evil eye on tobacco instead. The equivalent gesture these days would be to set up a little tobacconist shop in your own living room, with every single possible variety of tobacco available, complete with Tobacco Kills and Fumar Puede Matar labels, and pictures of dead bodies and black lungs. They’ll be priceless one day. Collect them while you can.

There was once a time when antismoking campaigns were socially acceptable. I didn’t used to mind them any more than I minded Jehovah’s Witnesses. Those days are over. Now they’re just evil. And it’s not going to be possible to return to the status quo ante, any more than it was ever going to be possible to return to ‘moderate’ antisemitism after Auschwitz.

The best thing anybody working in Tobacco Control these days could do is to look for another job. Like a petrol pump attendant. Or a cinema usherette. And better still get cosmetic surgery to give them a new face, and a new identity, and a small farm in Uruguay.

There’s going to be no forgiveness. It’s going to be a long and bloody revenge.

About Frank Davis

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10 Responses to Tobacco Harm Reduction

  1. Anonymous says:

    This is a curious site, and the deeply suspicious side of me wonders whether it’s a ploy by the anti-smoking Righteous who might – for all they may protest otherwise in public – have finally realised that the ban has actually had some very unexpected consequences, most of them not the ones which they envisaged at all, and that ultimately they’ve gone too far, too fast and that by overstepping themselves they’ve unwittingly revealed their true nature and intentions to many more people than just the smokers who rumbled them a long time ago – and this site is a form of back-peddling, whilst at the same time trying to save face. The constant references to “anti smokers” on the site – usually in a derogatory or critical fashion – seems to me to be a bit too much like saying: “Look! We can’t be antis, because we’re actually criticising them! Oh, no, we’re just people who really, really CARE about you!” Yeah, right.
    But regardless of whether this is a wing of the anti-smoking movement opening up a new battle tactic, or whether it is a group of slightly-more-realistic anti-smokers who can see the damage which the ban has done to their overall goal, and are trying to do something to repair that damage, it is, as you say, much too little and much too late. Like you, I now regard anyone who comes out with any of the clichéd phrases, in no matter how casual or minor or seemingly well-meaning a way, as someone who has, whether they know it or not, “bought into” the whole anti-smoking con and as such, no matter how many times they say (as they so often do): “I’m not anti smoking at all, but ………” they have BECOME anti-smokers. And in a way, I respect those people even less than the loud variety, for having been stupid and lazy-minded enough to be duped into adopting an attitude and a set of opinions without even thinking about them. Being “slightly anti-smoking” is like being “slightly pregnant” – either you are or you aren’t. And come the revolution – which, like you, Frank, I think is inevitable, though sadly not as imminent as I would like – I think that many of these “I’m not anti but ….” types may discover this to their dismay.

  2. Frank Davis says:

    I agree with all that you say.
    “Tobacco Harm Reduction” is in itself something of a question-begging title. It presupposes that tobacco causes harm. And it does so in exactly the same way as the Institute for the Study of the Dangers of Tobacco in Jena, to which Hitler gave a lot of money. They had decided, back in Nazi Germany, that smoking tobacco was dangerous. Research was to proceed on that assumption. And it has, ever since.
    finally realised that the ban has actually had some very unexpected consequences, most of them not the ones which they envisaged at all,
    Perhaps they have. But I didn’t see much sign of it. There seemed to be a recognition that stigmatisation and coercion didn’t work. But the sense I got was that they’d just look around for something else that did work. I didn’t get any sense that they had any idea how socially damaging smoking bans are, what real divisions they create in society.
    They also seemed rather self-absorbed. Their universe, as far as I could make out, consisted of the evil coercive antismokers, their own rather more tolerant grouping, and the Industry (i.e. tobacco companies). Smokers, as a social group, did not appear to exist. Or they existed simply as a passive body of people to be got to give up smoking somehow or other – a goal from which only tobacco companies dissented.
    Perhaps for a long time this was how things were. Twenty or thirty years ago there weren’t any smokers who actively campaigned in favour of tobacco (that I know of). But there were plenty of antismokers. Perhaps they just got used to smokers being complacent about what was happening (and they were complacent). But this is rapidly changing now, as smokers all over the world are getting together (online and at TICAP etc) and beginning to create a grassroots movement which isn’t Industry-funded. Antismokers really don’t seem to have noticed that yet. Or else they assume that people in it have been hired by the ubiquitous Industry.
    Nor do they have any idea of the depths of anger in someone like me. And that also is a mistake on their part.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Frank’s Post and The Reply
    First, Frank, your post echoes the anger I feel and I think many others feel so well that there’s little to say other than “right on”.
    I don’t share your antipathy for Dr. Siegel, but, like you, I think it’s counter-productive to allow an apologetic anti-smoker to be the major voice regarding anti-smoking dissidence. I also find it disconcerting that many of the most influential people on our side the issue feel compelled to post in response to his blogs, while none of these people post on FORCES, F2C or the other SRG gathering places. I can only conclude that it’s the conflicted nature of Siegel’s blog that attracts people. They want to argue and convince, even if they won’t be successful at it. They’re attracted to the fight.
    So, are sites like Siegel’s blog what amounts to anti-smoking counter-propaganda? I doubt it. I think Siegel is sincere, and I doubt that he’s a double-agent-of-sorts for anti-tobacco. Anti-smoking is so insulting to so many sensibilities that it doesn’t surprise me that influential people within its structure want to speak out against its corruption and misdeeds.
    What concerns me, though, is that he’ll post a blog and 12 hours later it will have 50 responses. Over at the FORCES Tavern, it takes about a week or two to get 50 posts.
    Part of this, no doubt, is that people who are eager to fight in the public square are frustrated with just reading similar posts over and over again. But on the precipice of action, one realizes that the whole topic is really ideologically top heavy.
    Now as opposed to years ago, however, anti-smoking has done much of the work for us. They’ve doled out enough rope to hang themselves with, and did the very things that they claimed they didn’t want to do years ago. The proper path of least resistance now isn’t to defend smoking, but to expose anti-smoking. Anti-smoking doesn’t need a “climategate” because anti-smoking doesn’t hide it’s manipulation and irrationality. Anti-smoking can do what it wants because no one in the mainstream is paying any attention to it. Anti-smoking has positioned itself to be able to commit fraud in broad daylight.
    Now, all that’s needed is a finger to be pointed, and the fraud and oppression to be proclaimed. At least in America, there was once a participation level and political support that could make that happen, but now that participation and support has lost its drive at a time when the opportunities have arrived. In short, we need the support and participation level of years ago combined with the circumstances of today.
    The saddest thing, I think, is that the participation level, in reality, is still there. But smokers aren’t talking to each other anymore. Instead, they’re wasting their time posting over at Siegel’s blog for some reason I don’t quite understand. WS.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Total discrimination
    I noticed in the above newspaper report what I believe is the true agenda of the prohibitionists:
    “This year for the first time, new recruits for the Chattanooga Fire Department can’t be smokers, a decision the city hopes will bring both savings in insurance costs and improvement in firefighters’ health. “The main thing is to keep a healthier employee. We get ’em for 25 to 30 years or longer, and we want them to be healthy throughout their life while they’re here, as well as when they retire,” said Chief Randy Parker.”
    Savings in insurance costs and keeping the “slave” healthy.
    I also noticed the inclusion of alcohol in the hospital’s list of “unacceptable” substances:
    “Individuals whose post-offer health screening results are verified positive for illegal drugs, alcohol, and/or tobacco/nicotine use”

  5. Frank Davis says:

    Re: Frank’s Post and The Reply
    There’s enough here to write 5 or 6 individual essays about.
    My antipathy to Siegel isn’t personal. It’s just antipathy to antismokers of any sort whatsoever. And Siegel is an antismoker.
    I used to post quite regularly there (as idlex), but I don’t any more, because he never budges. Or hardly ever budges. But then, neither do his vociferous opponents in the comments. It’s a stalemate. It’s like First World War trench warfare over there. I’ve begun to think it’s pointless, and haven’t posted there for months.
    As for Forces, it always feels like a huge, echoing hall, big enough for thousands of people, down at the end of some sideroad outside town, with only two or three people sitting at the bar talking about this and that.
    I feel that with my own blog I’ve done something like open up a tiny cafe in the middle of town. As you can see, it has a minimal decor, and just a few stools next to a bar. Anyone can walk in off the street. I’m selling, on good days, a kind of anger. I’m always trying to get the recipe right. And somehow or other I’ve become a member of a community of little cafes (and quite big ones too), and I’ve even got some civic awards from the mayor pinned up over there on the right. The other cafes aren’t selling my particular toxic brand of coffee, but they’re selling something not too different, and they count me as one of them. They’re selling different flavours of anger about all sorts of things. I get 100-150 customers a day, and some of them leave a tip in the form of a comment. And I get some great comments.
    And this is different. I don’t know whether it goes anywhere, but it’s not something I feel I have to do, or ought to do. Most days I have no idea what I’m going to write next, or if I’m going to write anything.
    And I don’t really want to argue with antismokers. I’ve done it enough, and it gets nowhere. I think that I want to connect smokers with other sort-of like-minded people. Like climate sceptics. And beer drinkers. And fat people. All sorts of people. People who have been excluded by the righteous. I want to help build some sort of coalition of the excluded and the unwelcome. I don’t think smokers are going to get far on their own.
    I don’t agree that Anti-smoking doesn’t need a “climategate” like AGW. I think it needs it far more than AGW needs it, because it’s older and deeper and far more corrupt. It seems to me that the AGW guys took their blueprint from antismoking: come on like authorities, create the appearance of consensus, make stuff up if you need to. Antismoking will only not need its own climategate if people suddenly realise that they’re being lied to by authorities all over the place, and start distrusting them all. Things are moving that way. But most ordinary, regular people are nowhere near that.
    I could go on. For hours.

  6. Frank Davis says:

    Re: Total discrimination
    Doesn’t surprise me.
    What always seems crazy with firefighters is that their job involves standing around and even going into burning, smoke-filled buildings. So why ban them from smoking, if they’re breathing lungfuls of far worse stuff as part of their job?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Frank, I just wanted to say that you couldn’t have articulated my feelings toward St. Michael better. To another commenter: F*** him and his so-called sincerity… He is just what Frank called him – a good nazi.
    Ljubljana, Slovenia

  8. Anonymous says:

    From Junican.
    I was struck by your assertion that it is not possible to go back to the ‘status quo anti’. I know that you were referring to ‘good-natured live and let live’, and, yes, you are right. Too many people whom I thought were ‘my friends’ turned out to be my enemies when it came to smoking in the pub. Well, in the case of the particular pub that I have in mind, they have got their reward – it has closed.
    No return to the ‘status quo anti’.
    The ‘Save Our Pubs and Clubs’ campaign was a good try, but it does not seems to have had any real support from the clubs and pubs. Not really. Very few pubs and clubs actually threw themselves into the campaign with enthusiasm. It seems to have been down to us smokers individually to try to preserve our pubs.
    Let us think………Perhaps the days of the magnificent edifices of big pubs are at an end. Perhaps the idea of ‘saving’ these places is wrong. Perhaps the ‘status quo anti’ is simply not possible.
    It may be that the future status of pubs will be small bars. You can call them pubs if you wish. Certainly, in ‘Cuidad Jardin’ (Garden City), a district of Malaga, on the outskirts of the city, but a place where many people live, has no magnificent edifices as pubs (I found my way there because there was a cheap, university hostel there!). All the pubs are small.
    It may be that an intelligent way to think would be to let the collapse of big pubs run its course. Maybe, it is a good thing. When the country regains its senses, perhaps there will appear a proliferation of small but economic, little bars/pubs. All the little bars in Cuidad Jardin have sky sports, so they must have an arrangement with sky which is comparatively cheap compared with the UK. It may be that, in the beginning of the pub/club revolution, the first sufferers are the independents, but it is not unlikely that the ‘estates’ of the pubcos will suffer the same fate in due course. In fact, it is clear, from my own observations of my local pubco pub, that they also are losing masses of business.
    Of course, it goes without saying that the re-emergence of the pub as a small, economically viable concern will depend upon the end of blanket bans and over-zealous regulation. No relaxation – no proliferation.
    One last point. The media, the health experts, etc are all going on about ‘pre-loading’ (being having a few bevies before turning out). Does it ever occur that the reason that youths pre-load is because they can drink and smoke at home to their heart’s content rather than gather in a pub where they are controlled? Obviously not. And so the authorities will pass some new laws which will turn out to have unintended consequences and the whole thing will start up again and the poor saps, the taxpayers, will find themselves paying more and more and more for less and less return…………..etc, etc. Unless the country comes to its senses.

  9. Frank Davis says:

    ‘status quo anti’.
    A small correction. It’s status quo ante not anti. Ante means ‘before’, but anti means ‘against’. An ‘antismoker’ is someone who is against smoking, while an ‘antesmoker’ is someone before they’ve smoked – a bit like children. Maybe there’s not too much difference. I increasingly think that antismokers are like children. Sorry, but I used to study Latin, long ago.
    Perhaps the days of the magnificent edifices of big pubs are at an end. Perhaps the idea of ‘saving’ these places is wrong.
    That’s probably right. But I wouldn’t mind if there was just a little bar that I could slip into someplace. I don’t need ‘magnificence’.
    When the country regains its senses, perhaps there will appear a proliferation of small but economic, little bars/pubs. All the little bars in Cuidad Jardin have sky sports,..
    Spain is not the same as Britain. I was there back in November. It’s a different culture. There aren’t any ‘pubs’ in Spain, except those that cater to the British. Nor are there any bierkellers…
    Unless the country comes to its senses.
    I think it will. In fact I don’t think the country ever lost its senses. Nobody I knew in the pubs actually wanted a smoking ban. It was something to be endured in the way that the British endure things. It was the politicians and (above all) the doctors who lost their heads.

  10. Anonymous says:

    From Junican.
    Quite right Frank. I too studied Latin many moons ago. ‘Ante’ not anti’. Slip of the mental pen.

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