A quotation that somebody left in the comments filtered back to mind today, so I went looking for it. It was left by Magnetic a week or so back, and it was a quotation from Sir George Godber, who’d said:
I wonder how long that George Godber thought that “a while” would last?
Somehow, I think that Godber imagined that they’d be a bit sulky and cross for a few days, or a few weeks. At most, after a few months, the last of them would have come in from the cold, grinning sheepishly, and saying, “It’s a fair cop. I’ve learned my lesson. Let me buy you antismokers a round of drinks. But for you people nothing would ever have changed. And, y’know what? I’ve given up smoking!”
Godber was probably drawing on his experience of previous smoking bans. Like ones on buses and trains and airline jets, where smokers had just shrugged and accepted it. That was how I responded myself to all those creeping bans, after all. I noticed them at first, but a week later it was just water under the bridge. After all, I didn’t particularly want to smoke on buses or trains or airline jets.
But when all those earlier bans came in, smokers weren’t expelled from society. They didn’t lose their communities of friends. They didn’t get vilified and demonised in the media. They didn’t get fired from their jobs. Or refused medical treatment.
Which is what happened with the pub smoking ban, of course. Smokers were pushed and prodded for years. And then they were hit with a really big stick.
It hurt a lot of people. Like Eastenders star June Brown:
And to the extent that people really have been badly hurt, and really had their lives ruined, it’s safe to say that those people are never going to forget, and are never going to forgive what was done to them. They’re not going to be angry for a day or a week. They’re going to be bitter for the rest of their lives.
George Godber’s “while” is going to be of indefinite duration.
And one day, when it finally filters through to the powers that be that the smoking ban was a mistake, they’ll relax the ban. The existing law will be seen for what it is – ineffective and unnecessarily draconian -. I think this is bound to happen sooner or later.
But when it does happen, and smokers get their own smoking rooms or their own pubs or whatever, it won’t be a cure. It’ll just be an improvement. For the bitterness and the anger won’t go away. That really is permanent. Because people can’t be given back their communities or their friends. They can’t be given back the jobs and the businesses they lost. Maybe they can’t even be given back their good name.
Whatever happens, the smoking ban will leave a permanent bleeding wound.
And a very large, permanent, bleeding wound. Because this isn’t just one or two people who have been run over by a truck. This is millions of people all over the world. Millions of permanently angry and resentful people.
It’s going to be a very big problem, I think. Politicians and pundits are going to deeply regret what they did. Not the ones who actually inflicted the damage, of course. They’ll never admit fault, ever. But the ones who come after them, who have to pick up the pieces, are going to be shaking their heads and wondering what sort of madness afflicted their predecessors that they could have so vilified and expelled from polite society fully a quarter of their own people. There’ll probably be academic papers about it. “The epic lunacy of the smoking bans: what had they been smoking?”
It’ll be a problem not just here in Britain, but all over the world. Ten, twenty years from now. Longer than that even. And regardless of whether bans have been amended or repealed in the mean time.
That’s my guess, anyway. From looking at my own anger. Three and a half years into the smoking ban, I’m still angry. And I think I’ll always be angry. Even if they repeal the ban, I’ll carry on being angry.
It isn’t going to go away.
But some good may yet come of it. Tobacco Control must be destroyed. Inherently divisive ‘lifestyle medicine’ must be comprehensively discredited and rejected. Epidemiology needs to be refounded. The medical profession must be reformed, and every single antismoker expelled from its ranks.
That would be a good start.