I seem to have been playing off the comments all this week. Today is no exception. In the comments, Walt wrote that he was
starting to wonder to exactly what degree our “Frank Davis sample” is “self-selected” and therefore biased. We who hang out here are likely more likely to feel the way we do than the average run of smoker. So I started to think about my friends and acquaintances and reckoned the great majority have simply “adapted” and continue life as before.
I certainly don’t think that we’re ‘representative smokers’ round here. Most smokers, it seems, aren’t as angry as we are. Or as angry as I am. It’s something I’ve always been aware of right from the outset of the UK smoking ban, when a few straw polls I conducted inside the River indicated that most smokers weren’t too bothered about the prospect of a ban. ‘Oh, we’ll just nip outside’, they said.
So I’ve usually seen myself as one of the 10% or so of smokers who has been – and remains – really angry about this ban. Why 10%? Because from my conversations back then only about 10% of smokers expressed any sort of outrage.
Whether the guys who weren’t too bothered about the impending ban felt the same way when it came into effect, I really don’t know – because I never saw most of them again, once the pubs emptied. It simply wasn’t possible to conduct straw polls about anything, because there was nobody to poll.
But because they stopped going to pubs, I’d guess that the ban hit them far harder than they imagined it would. It certainly hit me much harder than I ever dreamed it would.
Did they ‘adapt’? I think that if you adapt to something, you cease to notice it. But every time a smoker gets up to go and smoke outside, he’s being reminded that he’s an outcast. I think the only way that a smoker can ‘adapt’ is to quit smoking. But quitting smoking isn’t ‘adaptation’: it’s surrender.
My personal ‘adaptation’ (which is no adaptation at all really) has been to sit outside. At the River, I spent the next 2 years sitting outside, beside the river, until the cold and rain drove me away completely.
I’ve often wondered how the smokers feel, who just carry on going to pubs, and ‘nipping outside’ for a smoke. On the face of it, it seemed like they had effortlessly adapted. But one evening I was in a landlocked city pub, using my e-cig, and got talking to a few of them. During the conversation, I said that I hated the smoking ban. “WE HATE IT TOO!” they cried. So now I think that they didn’t ‘adapt’ at all. If they’d adapted, they wouldn’t have hated the smoking ban.
But I only found out by talking to them about it. If they hadn’t told me how they really felt, I’d have assumed that they’d ‘adapted’, because it looked like it.
In a way, it’s obvious. No smoker likes smoking bans. And any smoker who says he does is deluding himself. You shouldn’t really even have to ask. They all hate smoking bans, and always will.
What was different between them and me was that I got angry, and they didn’t. Most of them, as far as I could see, thought that there was nothing that could be done, and there was no point fighting against it. It was the law, and it would never change. And so they just endured the ban. It was just another damn thing to deal with like all the other damn things that happened to them. There was a distressing fatalism and resignation to most of the smokers.
Why did I get angry? Because I lost too much. For me the pub – the River – was the only place to meet up with a few friendly souls and drink a few beers and play a few games of pool. Once it was gone, there was nothing. I was on my own. And that was too much to lose. But they probably weren’t as dependent on the pub as I was. They probably met up at smoky-drinky evenings in their homes. Some of them may have been married, and had a smoky-drinky home life. They didn’t lose everything, and so they weren’t that angry.
All the same, they probably lost far more than they’d ever imagined they would.
I think also that, apart from the fatalism, and the associated conviction that “nothing can be done anyway”, nobody wants to fight unless they really have too. People want to carry on enjoying their lives as best they can, and they’ll go to considerable lengths to carry on enjoying it. Even pretending to themselves that they’re enjoying life when they’re not.
My guess, these days, is that all smokers hate smoking bans. It’s just that the intensity of the hatred varies from one smoker to the next. I often think that if I was married to a smoker, and lived in a house with a built-in bar to which I invited all my friends every night, I’d not hate the ban very much because it wouldn’t really affect me at all.
But I think that if outside smoking bans and car smoking bans and home smoking bans are introduced, a lot more smokers will be pushed past their limit. The same is also quite likely to happen if their lives deteriorate in other ways, and what was once tolerable becomes intolerable.
Anyway, I don’t think anyone has ‘adapted’. I think smokers just endure it, and wish it would go away.
I could put it all another way, maybe. And that is that if you happened to meet me sitting outside some pub somewhere, and you didn’t know who I was, and we got talking about this and that, I probably wouldn’t start talking about the smoking ban. I’d talk about the weather, or the Lib-Con coalition, or the EU, or something else. I’d probably not talk about smoking at all, because it’s a painful subject. I can imagine that during World War 2, when people met up for a few drinks somewhere, they probably didn’t talk about the war, because that was something they wanted to forget about. And the smoking ban is something I want to forget about too from time to time. And so when you got up to go, you’d probably walk away thinking to yourself: “That Frank chap is a perfect example of how smokers have adapted to the smoking ban. He never mentioned it once!” And how wrong you would be.