Studies estimate that about 11,000 people a year die because of passive smoking. This isn’t nanny statism, Big Brother, or wrongful interference in people’s personal freedoms – it’s the right thing to do to protect the health of the vast majority of us who don’t smoke from the declining minority who do.
Well, perhaps it is the right thing to do if 11,000 people really are being killed by passive smoking every year. But I don’t believe that anybody at all is dying because of passive smoking. Show me the bodies. And I’m constantly astonished that anyone else can bring themselves to believe this sort of drivel. If people are ready to believe that, then they will believe absolutely anything.
And the worst of it is that people do believe absolutely anything. Particularly anything from any self-styled expert. Lots of people believe that human carbon dioxide emissions are slowly cooking the planet. The numbers of these people seems to be in decline since the Climategate emails revealed that climate scientists making this claim were playing fast and loose with their data, and their credibility plunged.
Bannatyne’s call for smokers, having been evicted from inside their pubs, to be moved several yards away from the front door (how many? 5 yards? 10 yards? 50 yards?) reminded me of the hope expressed by Bill Godshall a few years back in the comments of Michael Siegel’s blog that one day you’d only ever see smokers fixing up in alleyways. Both wish to see smokers reduced to the status of heroin junkies, shooting up with dirty needles, and dying like flies. And smokers are well on the way to becoming exactly this. A significant fraction of the population have been reduced from being respectable members of the community to being social outcasts. It was something that was done to the heroin and opium and cocaine users many years before them. You take otherwise useful and productive members of society, and you degrade them.
We once had a society where we were trying to lift people up and give them new dignity. Black people. Homosexuals. Women. The idea was to lift ancient prejudices against these social groups, and restore them to their rightful place as equals among others. Now, with smokers, we’re doing the exact opposite. We’re taking formerly perfectly respectable people (Winston Churchill was a smoker. Clement Attlee was a smoker. Etc, etc.) and reducing them to despised outcasts fixing up in alleyways.
And nobody says a word about it. No politician mentions it. No bishop speaks from the pulpit about it. No prince addresses his concerns to his people.
In a comment today, somebody wrote:
Scared of what? I asked. But presumably he meant public opinion, as it has been whipped up against smokers in the last few years. Any hint of any relaxation and any number of Amanda Sandfords and Deborah Arnotts and Duncan Bannantynes will start hissing and screeching and howling. Giving any leeway to smokers would be like sanctifying paedophilia (which is of course the subject of yet another modern panic, much like global warming).
No doubt it was much the same in the heyday of Girolamo Savonarola, except that his language would have been about hellfire and damnation rather than that of Relative Risk and Premature Death employed by his modern descendants
These panics seem to pass quite rapidly. Fickle public sentiment, which once supported these righteous reformers, soon turned against them. Savonarola’s fall came only a year later, when he was burned above an ‘enormous bonfire’ in the very same place that he had burned the vanities the previous year.
I hope that my correspondent is right, and that Cameron and Hague and Osborne and Pickles actually are scared. For that is much better than them actually being antismoking zealots like Duncan Bannantyne, which I’ve been wondering they might be.
I read yesterday, again in the Freedom-to-Choose blog, that the UK National Smoking Cessation Conference is to be held in Glasgow on 14-15 June. I further learned that there were going to be 479 delegates attending, each forking out £375 for a registration fee.
479 of them? How many anti-smoking professionals does one country need? 479 is not far off the number of MPs we’ve just elected to parliament. I took a look through the names and organisations represented. Something like 70% were from local authorities and universities and the NHS and the Department of Health. And that didn’t include various delegates from ASH, whose Deborah Arnott was not attending. Other names were absent too. So there are plenty more of them out there, snooping and informing and bullying and busybodying away. No wonder Hague and Cameron and co are frightened. There’s a whole parliament of these people out there, shrieking their demands for the further exclusion and demonisation of smokers.
I heard yesterday that the government had begun to announce a programme of cuts in public spending. Hundreds of millions of pounds were going to be slashed from a whole range of departments. And pundits asserted that it was just the beginning, and amounted to less than 10% of the cuts needed.
I don’t have much hope of any relaxation of the smoking ban. But I do have high hopes that swingeing public spending cuts will remove a good many of the professional antismoking busybodies. Next year, when the next UK National Smoking Cessation Conference fires up in some benighted city in this country, I hope that there will not be 479 delegates, but that there will be just 3 of them. Because in the meantime all the rest of them will have been summarily fired from their useless and destructive jobs. If this doesn’t happen, it will either be because the cuts required aren’t as deep as I expect them to be, or because antismoking organisations have sufficient clout within government to save themselves from the worst of them.
Anyway I hope that the three remaining delegates will be Deborah Arnott and Amanda Sandford and Duncan Bannantyne. And that, dressed in rags and chains, all three of them will be suspended above an enormous bonfire of tobacco packets and cigarette butts and No Smoking signs, and there incinerated. I’ll bring some burgers. We could have us a party.