It’s my own personal conviction that the really serious damage that smoking bans do is to the very fabric of human society. I’d like to try to explain how this happens and why it matters.
Smoking bans drive smokers from pubs and bars and cafes, and one result of this is that pubs and bars and cafes close down, and this is a visible consequence – ‘closed’ and ‘for sale’ signs spring up on the bankrupted pubs. Much less visible are the human communities that are also closed down. A pub or a cafe is a centre of community, a place where people meet and make or renew friendships. When the smokers have been driven out, these bonds of community begin to be broken, because they are no longer being repaired and renewed. The entire community (and not just the community of smokers) begins to unravel. But no ‘closed’ or ‘for sale’ signs go up on these communities. The loss is invisible.
One may think of a community as a number of interconnected nodes. The nodes represent individual people, and the lines connecting them represent the relationships between them, some close and some distant, some strong and some weak. At the outset, in a vibrant pub or cafe society, there will be lots of connections between people, lots of friendships and acquaintanceships. But when smoking bans expel smokers – even by just making them stand outside – they stretch and weaken and break many of these bonds of friendship. And the result is that the little society centred around a little cafe or bar becomes less cohesive. It may even disintegrate entirely. At which point the cafe or bar closes down, and the ‘for sale’ signs go up.
One consequence of this, for example, is that more cohesive groups of friends may set up their own little convivial sub-communities in their own homes (e.g. ‘smoky-drinky places’) where they can continue to meet to enjoy each others company. But when this happens, the community as a whole has become fragmented, broken up into small groups of families or friends.
But because these groups of families or friends exist in private, it’s difficult for anyone to join them. The original vibrant, cohesive pub community was always being renewed and revivified with new people, even while illness and old age depleted them. The new private groups, starved of new members, are likely to in turn gradually become depleted, and themselves die out.
The end point of this process is one in which society has been entirely atomised, and consists of a set of atomic individuals, who have no connection whatsoever with one another, beyond that of an occasional casual encounter.
Does it matter if this happens to a society? Does it matter if communities disintegrate? The antismoking health establishment that has been demanding ever more extensive smoking bans does not seem to think it matters at all. The only thing that seems to matter to them is “health”, by which they mean the physical well-being of individual people. In their view, smoking bans improve “health” by “helping” smokers to give up the unhealthy habit of smoking. (It does not seem to occur to any of them that, when smokers are driven out of pubs and cafes to stand outside in the wind and cold and dark and rain, they are put at far greater risk than they were while they were smoking and drinking inside. Even by this crude measure of “health”, smoking bans are far more unhealthy than the alternative.)
If we are really to make a decisive improvement in this vacuous, one-eyed notion of “health”, it has to be said that the very best thing to do would be to close down all pubs and cafes. Because it’s not just smoking that is claimed to be bad for people’s health, but also drinking alcohol, and eating crisps and peanuts. All these things are deemed to pose “health risks” of one sort or other. But even if nobody smoked or drank or ate anything, and pubs became indistinguishable from churches, there would still be a discernible “health risk” simply from people transmitting communicable diseases (colds, flu, measles, mumps, etc) to each other. The “healthiest” society is quite obviously the atomised society in which nobody knows anybody else, and everybody stays at home.
And, who knows, perhaps this is what these antismoking health professionals would really like to see?
But let’s look a little more closely at what happens when communities disintegrate. These communities do not consist solely of shared friendships, but they also provide a network of mutual support. In these communities people actively help each other out in all sorts of ways, doing shopping for each other, lending things to each other, repairing things, cooking food, checking to see how people are. It’s not all just sitting in the pub talking about football. And when a community disintegrates, a network of support disintegrates too. People are left entirely to their own devices. And in the case of the elderly, their devices may be very limited, if they can no longer walk or read or hear. For such people, the death of the community is quite likely to be the death of them.
Nor is it that friendships and acquaintanceships are not important. A marriage is probably the greatest friendship that many people find. In marriages families are bound together by strong bonds. It is in these marriages and friendships and acquaintanceships that many people find meaning in their lives. Take away their marriages and friendships, and their lives become meaningless.
And in an even wider sense, it is through language and writing and music and art that human society is bound together. When people speak, it is so that someone else may hear. And when they write, it is so that someone else may read. And when they play guitar it is so that someone else may listen. Destroy society, and there is no point in anyone speaking or writing or painting or playing music, because all these activities are essentially and inherently social activities.
Smoking bans do not just drive pubs and cafes out of business. Nor is it even that they shatter communities. Smoking bans strike at the very heart of human society itself, and all its wealth of speech and literature and art and music. Smoking bans attack the core interconnectedness of human society. They are an assault upon humanity itself.
The foundations of human society do not lie in universities or government departments or shops or cinemas. The foundations of human society lies in the networks of millions upon millions of bonds of marriage and friendship which tie communities together. Shatter these bonds, and you shatter human society just as surely as you may fell with a power saw in a single afternoon a mighty oak tree that has taken hundreds of years to grow.
It’s not just that smoking bans don’t even improve “health” (even in the narrow and dwindled sense that antismokers use that word) at all. People carry on smoking and drinking anyway. They just stand outside and do it, and catch their death of cold. But what smoking bans do achieve is the destruction of communities, and the breaking of millions of bonds of affection and aid and support which go to make up the edifice of human society.
The antismoking “healthcare” industry is no better than a band of wolves which has been unleashed upon humanity to rend and tear it apart. Or else they are vandals armed with chainsaws. We have, as a matter of dire necessity, to rid ourselves of these people and all their works. For if we don’t there will no longer be any “we” to speak of.