One thing my e-cig has done this winter has been to allow me to spend much more time inside my local pub. Over the previous couple of years I simply stopped going between about October and March, and when I did go, I’d always sit outside.
One result has been that I’ve been rediscovering pub culture a bit, and got back on speaking terms with a few regulars I hadn’t said a word to in over two years. Many of them are smokers, but are indifferent to the ban. It’s not a talking point. It’s just another fact of life, like every other law. They’d prefer to be inside smoking, but they can’t and there’s nothing they can do about it.
And so they sit at the bar with their drinks, talking about this and that, and then one of them will head outside, polish off a cigarette in less than 5 minutes, and then come back in again. And most of them probably don’t mind it because, as telephone engineers and builders and the like, they spend a lot of time outside anyway. They’re used to it. Not me, though. A few minutes standing around outside and my fingers have gone numb, and my toes aren’t far behind.
Theirs is a slightly different pub culture than mine. They drink, smoke, talk, play the fruit machines. But I used to mostly sit alone with my pint and cigarettes, in quiet contemplation. Getting up every few minutes to go outside doesn’t go at all well with quiet contemplation.
One thing I’ve noticed since coming back inside is that nobody is at all hostile to smoking. The smokers don’t talk about giving it up. And the non-smokers don’t have any bad words about it either. I spent quite a long time talking to one ex-smoker, who’d given up 10 years beforehand, and who said that he still dreamed about smoking, but had nothing bad to say about it. There was no hostility towards the habit. Another evening I spent a while talking to someone who’d given up smoking 2 months beforehand. He said he’d just been coughing the whole time, and it had become unbearable, and he’d really had to give up. Nobody had pressured him. It was his own decision. And I could (for once) sympathise, given that about 4 months ago I’d been coughing non-stop after a bout of flu, and had begun to wonder if I should give up. My e-cig saved the day back then.
So none of the regulars are hostile to smoking, but there also aren’t any hand-wavers passing the smokers outside the door. And in the entire time that I’ve sat outside smoking, I’ve never seen a single hand-waver either, or heard any remarks passed. But I never saw or heard any before the ban either. Perhaps I’m just lucky, but in this little patch of Devon, life has continued more or less exactly as it did before, only now the smokers periodically and uncomplainingly duck outside to smoke.
I think that it’s probably because most anti-smokers don’t want personal confrontation. On the night that the smoking ban came into force, somebody – presumably a righteous antismoker – smashed all the pub’s outside ashtrays. But that’s not confrontational. And they haven’t been back to smash their replacements.
In some ways, the start of the smoking ban seems to have marked the high tide of the antismokers. A near neighbour of mine, an antismoker who once lectured me righteously about smoking a few months before the ban came in, hasn’t breathed a word about smoking since. If she had, I’d have let her have it, with both barrels. Nor has anybody else. Perhaps that’s because even antismokers can see that it’s a nasty, divisive, and vindictive ban.
I suspect that very few antismokers do much in the way of confrontation. The way they actually work is behind the scenes, framing antismoking legislation, making antismoking ads, printing off antismoking leaflets. None of that involves face to face confrontation with anybody. They get other people to do the confrontation for them. That’s what the law is. It’s a way to get other people to provide the muscle you daren’t risk. So when you, as antismoker, see smokers huddled outside pub doorways, you don’t go up to them and complain. No, you just slip an amendment into the regulations at the next committee meeting. It’ll be somebody else who’ll be telling the smokers to move along next week.
Exactly the same is true for all the MPs who voted for the smoking ban. They weren’t personally going to have to enforce it. All they had to do was walk through one lobby or another. All the rest would be done by somebody else.
It’s also how the Nazi holocaust worked. Most of the organisers of it never got their hands dirty. They left it to other people to carry out their dirty work. There were probably lots of people who were arranging and scheduling transport trains in nice clean offices in Berlin, only vaguely aware of the reality of what they were doing, and not wanting to know any more than they did. And then, as now, it was all justified by fraudulent pseudoscience and breath-taking lies, and disguised behind weasel words. “Jew-free”. “Smoke-free”. And the Nazis were just as moralistic and righteous as any of their contemporary counterparts. After all, you have to be mind-bogglingly righteous to consign entire peoples to death. It must have been an awful shock for many of those righteous Nazis to find themselves in court a few years later, charged with crimes against humanity.
Today’s antismoking equivalents of Adolf Eichmann would never dream of tackling a smoker face to face. If they were sat on a non-smoking compartment of a train, and somebody lit a cigarette, they wouldn’t lift a finger or say a word. No. But next day they’d be on the phone first thing to bawl out the absent inspectors, and to demand larger No Smoking signs, and further extensions to the ban.
Minus the force of law, and a chain of command whereby superiors in government get inferiors to do their dirty work for them, there wouldn’t be any antismoking movement at all. Nor would there have been any murderous antisemitism in Germany. These people can only get anything done by co-opting the state and the law. It is the only way they can ever gain the kind of leverage to lend real force to their petty prejudices. In such manner are all the worst atrocities committed. They could never do it on their own. And would never even dream of trying.