A comment by Iro Cyr sent me to watch her deliver a statement on behalf of Professor Robert Molimard at the 1st TICAP conference in 2009. And via that link I gradually discovered all the other videos and papers from 1st TICAP conference, and also the 2nd TICAP conference in March 2010.
I’ve been spending the day watching the videos. Watching videos online has only been a relatively recent pastime of mine, because for most of the time when I was living in Devon I only had dial-up internet access, and when I did get broadband installed, it was only about four times faster than dial-up. Now however, I have a 7 Mb/sec broadband connection, and video is no longer a problem.
So it came as a bit of a shock when I was watching the start of the afternoon Q&A session of the 2nd TICAP conference, to hear my name being mentioned, asking a question online:
In retrospect, given the upheaval in the Islamic world over the past few months, my question seems almost prophetic.
CS: I think we’ve got a question from the live blog.
DP: Yeah, it’s from Frank Davis who writes his own blog. Some people may have read it. He says: Dr Chaouachi said that the social lives of millions of muslims has been attacked by false science. Does he know how smoking bans have been affecting those countries where they have been introduced. Can he describe some of the effects? There’s very little news about smoking bans even in Europe, but next to none from Iraq and Morocco.
KC: You’re mentioning the ban in Iraq and other countries? Recent bans? Yes? The bans are now multiplying all over the world, including in the Middle East, and this is very new, and this is very important, because this is a very centuries-old tradition in Middle East countries. So, for instance, when you ban smoking in Syria, as recently, this is a great shock that even causes unrest, social unrest in these countries. Because you have seen these families for example with their children on the slide[show]. So what do you say to all these families. Go away? Go back home? It’s impossible. So they have softened now the enactment of the bans. For instance, I read recently that in Syria the bans are not enacted so … I think that they will be lifted soon. It happened, for example, there has been a ban in Iran, and then it has been lifted one month later, because the hookah coffee shops there, traditional coffee shops, they organised a protest, and immediately the government lifted the ban. So I have said in my address that the antismoking organisations have faced the biggest problem with prohibition in Islamic countries, let’s say. And in Asia. In Africa.
The video of Kamal Chaouachi’s presentation isn’t available, but the text is.
Prohibition is an assault on identity. For cigarette smokers, this is quite clear. For hookah smokers, this is also an attack on a collective lifestyle (gatherings, etc.). From a political anthropology perspective, hookah has a libertarian dimension because the alternative values it suggests (talking, idleness and play) are revolutionary in the sense of the French Situationists who, through their political programme of ludic playful urban “situations”, paved the way for the May 68 revolt in Paris. Instead of the modern mottos “Gain time” or “Buy time”, hookah suggests: “Dare waste your time”. This is a revolutionary libertarian message indeed.
In Tunisia, a smoking ban was imposed in March 2010. In December, the Jasmine Revolution erupted. Did the one cause the other? Probably not. But it was probably a contributing ‘risk factor’.
Anyway, although the last TICAP conference was over a year ago, it might as well have happened yesterday as far as I am concerned, and I’ve been listening to all of it. Does anyone know if there’s another one planned? A year ago, reading Dick Puddlecote’s live blog from the conference, and asking a question through him, I began to wonder whether it was really necessary for people to meet up and have conferences, and whether it could all be done more easily online, with digital video cameras and mikes.
On the other hand, there’s a lot to be said for actually meeting people face to face, and having a drink or two (as I did last year with Dave Atherton and Mark Wadsworth at the UKIP conference, and Juliette Tworsey at a Firebug gig in Swindon). People only ever become fully ‘real’ that way. Nevertheless, after watching a number of the TICAP videos, people like Chris Snowdon and Michael McFadden and Wiel Maessen and Pat Nurse and Dick Puddlecote have become recognisable faces and voices.
I must dig out my digital video camera. I bought a cheap one that clips onto a computer screen a few years back. I’ve got a mike somewhere too. I used both briefly (and successfully) with dial-up a few years back to chat online with a friend.
If I got chatting online to people that way, while having a beer and a cigarette, who knows, it might be just like being in a smoky pub again?