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.



About Frank Davis

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21 Responses to Adaptation?

  1. harleyrider1978 says:

    Frank it will end,just like all the times before. We just always have to remember the bans are only a sympton of a much deeper political cancer called socialism.It eeks out from the UNITED NATIONS,EU, WASHINGTON ETC…….I believe the deeper comparison can be made all the way back to the last progressive movement in about 1900. It seems these same control freaks/progressives/victorians or whatever were really busy trying to create a world according to their dictates too. From Wilsons League of nations to alcohol control to tobacco control to destroying corporations and monopolies. They forced thru there programs and probably even had a heavy hand in creating the great depression. I think we all know that socialism has its greatest advantage at success when economics and life hardships have created a hopeless environment. Its from those destructions I believe, created on purpose that a firm foundation for the socialist movement can take off from leading to the enevitable totalitarian goverments of hitler and mussolini!

  2. harleyrider1978 says:

    ADAPT to unjust laws,NEVER!

  3. I agree with Harley’s ending point strongly: “ADAPT to unjust laws, NEVER!”

    Frank, you wrote, “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.”

    Very true, and when I was over wandering your countryside back in 2006ish, just a month or three after the Scottish ban had come in, Belinda Cunnison took me to a wonderful little Scottish pub about the size of a basement rec room, and I saw the devastation that was taking place there. They had a folksinger type who the regulars gathered around, just a strum guitar and his voice and tales, and a fairly wonderful time … except, that every 30 or 40 minutes or so he’d take his break from playing and, instead of sitting there chatting with everyone, he was going outside and standing in the cold for a smoke break. And of course, during the evening, most of the regulars were also heading out several times and interrupting their conversations/enjoyment and were probably just a bit less likely to come back and enjoy themselves as often as they had done before the ban.

    What disturbed me the most was that when I spoke to the guitarist and couple of other folks about it, it seemed that they didn’t even think of it as a law — much less a battle against a law. It was more like they took me to be complaining about the weather: something to bitch about, but obviously nothing that could be blamed on anyone or that anyone could DO anything about. Very depressing.

    Today over here in the US I generally avoid almost all pubs that go along with the ban and go to the ones that are either exempt or resisting in order to show my support. When I *do* go to the pub I’ll almost always bring a couple of copies of “The Lies…” booklet ( ) and make sure the smokers/owners/staff get a chance to see them and open them up. They may not spark an instant revolution, but they DO help keep the acceptance of the ban as simply being part of an unchangeable “climate problem” from settling in.

    Frank, have you ever gone to or experimented with the “smokey-drinkey” places people set up in their homes? MervinToot’s YouTube videos come to mind. Ever thought of doing such a thing yourself? Finding a few similar rebel spirits to help establish the atmosphere, maybe even providing a regular rotation of places, and possibly unearthing a few guitarists and such to add to the mix?


    • Frank Davis says:

      Frank, have you ever gone to or experimented with the “smokey-drinkey” places people set up in their homes?

      No, I haven’t. To go to one of them, you have to be invited. And if you are going to be invited, you have to know people. And I pretty much don’t know anybody anymore.

  4. Walt says:

    I think by “adapt” I meant more or less what Michael just described as well as what Frank noted in his blog– an almost affectless “this is the way things are.” and ” so what’re ya gonna do?” In a way like accepting a physical impairment. No choice; just get used to it; live with it; don’t let it stop you. And even a few notes of, “Hey, you can go inside and you can actually pass for Normal.” which itself accepts the premise that smokers are not Normal. My reaction is FU.

    That I don’t shrug and accept it seems to go well beyond my own smoldering anger into my adamant refusal to accept the tacit premise which would ask me to accept and acknowledge that I’m Lesser, not fit for polite society (I was never that polite but then neither was society), not fit to eat with pigs (and, man, take a look at some of the pigs in that pub); and that what I am and do is suddenly contemptible, regardless of whatever else I am and do. I’m not just angry at the ban and its makers. I’m angry at the people (9/10th of my city) who favor, or don’t really mind, the ban, or who believe its justification, and I don’t want their company. I don’t want to be part of that “inside society” that’s so stupidly manipulable and glibly intolerant and vacuously fashionable and even worse than that, self-righteous about it.

    About 20 years ago I met an older black guy who told me he’d gone to Paris in the 1950s, a time when America was openly racist and France didn’t care. I remember his saying that just walking down the street and being allowed to be himself and at once perfectly Normal made him want to embrace the city and everybody in it. Instead of back in America where he’d walk down the street thinking angrily FU.

  5. Neil says:

    I was in my local last night in the company of 7 friends.
    I was the outcast when they left me sat at the bar as they all went out for a smoke. I gave smoking up due to serious surgery but wonder if it’s worth it!
    It’s weird when I’m outside with smokers as I feel like Billy No Mates. I enjoy the aroma and find it satisfies that yearning for a smoke but maybe I should try e-Cigarettes just to feel part of the crowd?

    • Frank Davis says:

      It’s an important point that tends to get lost (particularly by smokers like me) that the forced division of smokers and non-smokers has an equally grim effect on non-smokers as it does on smokers.

  6. Lou says:

    The chap sailing that vessel over the Pacific called “Junk” said something that resonated. Goes a lot like this:

    “If you know something’s wrong, you’ve got to do something about it. If you don’t then you become an accessory.”

    Before Sad Ireland went into hibernation, he conducted a poll showing less than 33% of Irish smokers went out pretty much the same as before. The other 66% stopped going out or reduced their visits to leisure facilities very dramatically.

    I’ve never taken the view that, by refusing to validate the ban, we’re cutting off our nose to spite our face. Very few people who elect to centre themselves around their house are sitting there hoping it will go away. In most cases their reaction has been very positive with some making arrangements to have a night out by rotating visits to each others’ houses, or scratching the itch to be in touch with others by arranging to meet for lunch Al Fresco style.

    One thing that has happened that’s massively constructive has been the explosion of Blogs. One way or another, they’re all saying it in their own way. “I will not become an accessory”. What’s even more remarkable are how many have shot to prominence and even have the ability to galvanize others (Mr. Puddlecote & SS).

    What’s brilliant about this is, when the ban is tweaked (as happened in the Netherlands), normality returns very fast.

  7. Brigitte says:

    “Adaptation” is something the anti-smoking lot was banking on: No-one will miss that at one time you could smoke inside pubs and therefore non-smoking will be the norm”
    4 years on people still vote with their feet instead of just accepting this nonsense ban. Actually, if anything, smokers as well as their non-smoking friends, are getting angrier.
    Another thing I have noticed around here: when you see a person smoking outside, you best give them the “smile and nod”, indicating that you are a smoker, too. That way you won’t be stared at aggressively. Btw, the “artificial coughers” seem to have disappeared; perhaps they are too scared now to get a good reply. Not much of “adaptation” round here, but ever-growing anger.

  8. NEIL (2) says:

    My wife and I have been pub regulars all our life, (we are now both retired). When the ban first came in it was quite a novel experience in a way. It was a happy crowd outside under the pathetic approved shelter, but gradually smokers dropped off coming in. We gave up going to the pub 12 months ago as Winter was approaching, it’s no joke walking to the pub in the cold and rain because of drink driving laws and having to go outside for a smoke. We kidded ourselves we would return in Summer, but we never have.

    Another deciding factor was the price of drink. For 50 years or so, this was never a consideration as the advantages of the pub as a social centre outweighed this. When we started drinking at home last October, I got the calculator out and found out that the cost of Stella equated to £1 a pint from the supermarket as opposed to the £3 a pint in the pub. That was the deciding factor for us. Who in their right mind is going to pay £3 for a pint and be made to feel like an outcast. What makes it worse is that our legislators ignore the laws applied to the general population.

    A few observations.

    Leeds main bus station has a smoking area as far away from the terminal building as possible. I found this out when I stepped outside the terminal building to have a smoke and was directed to this area by some official with a peaked cap. The smoking area is free from bus diesel emissions which is not the case in the area just outside the terminal building.

    Leeds has some doorways with “This is a non smoking doorway” notice.

    A pub I went in in Guernsey had a smoking area, but it wasn’t open ( the smoking area, that is). The pub doorway opened directly onto the street. A large notice said that it was not permitted to take glasses and drink outside the pub. So you could drink in the pub and not smoke, or smoke in the street and not drink. I occasionally wonder if this establishment is still open.

    In this part of Leeds where we live, 30 yrs ago there were 12 lively locals all within 10 mins walking distance. Now there are 7, some on there last legs.

    Happy days.

  9. Rose says:

    On the subject of notices, something I have never understood.

    Though it was the law that non smoking signs had to be stuck everywhere including churches and bus shelters, as far as I know there was no penalties for sticking a notice above them saying “The management regrets …”

    It would have changed my attitude considerably.

  10. Neil and Frank: “the forced division of smokers and non-smokers has an equally grim effect on non-smokers as it does on smokers.” Very much so. There’s a big stir going on over here right now in Ohio. Elizabeth Klein et al, the good folks who claimed a big study in 2009 showing “Bans do not hurt bar and restaurant employment” (The trick of lumping them together hid the devastation of the bar employment stats.) came out with a cheery new study showing that most smokers and nonsmokers were going to the pubs just as often after the ban as before the ban.

    Of course those were the HEADLINES. Looking a bit more closely revealed that almost 40% of smokers AND almost 20% of nonsmokers were going out LESS after the ban. (7% of nons said they were going out more, but that hardly makes up for the 20% loss — particularly when the 20% probably had a lot of “regulars” while the 7% probably had a lot of “Oh yes, Freddykins and I wandered down to the pleasant smoke free pub just last summer and had a couple of Sasparilla Sodas one afternoon! It was SO nice without all the nasty smoke!” types.

    – Michael

  11. Mike_Iver_Bucks says:

    My local did it’s best when the ban started and installed a large heater and umbrella in the back garden, which is also fairly well protected against the wind. But this pub and the other one across the road are getting quieter and quieter as time goes on (this IMHO is a snowball effect as less people come out, less people still, come out). This week Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday us smokers (6 of us) were outside the whole evening whilst inside there were only 2 people! I personally find that I feel very uncomfortable being inside the pub now and much prefer it outside. This coming winter will be hard, as I am not sure whether I can stand to be outside or inside either!

    Frank’s comments about shopping are most certainly correct – my partners says there’s no point buying a new dress as she never gets the opportunity to wear it, as the British “summer” is too damm cold

    We now go on holiday to Portugal, buy all our cigs there, and spend any spare cash we have in that country

  12. Brenda says:

    Most of the people that Frank is talking about seem to be blokes.
    Perhaps they are more equipped to be able to stand outside pubs and are the people that have ‘accepted’ it.
    Woman make up probably half (maybe more) of the smokers and there must be around 6 million female smokers in the U.K.
    Woman do not physically cope with the cold as well as men. They usually have built in thermometers that dictate ‘optimum temperature’ that does not take kindly to running out from a warm pub into the cold night air.
    Older women have been brought up to believe that it is not ‘ladylike’ to stand on the street smoking.
    Women spend time doing their hair and applying make up to go out and the wind and rain outside a pub destroys that. (Maybe some blokes do ?)
    Woman usually go out in footwear that is suited to indoor wear and standing outside is not comfortable.
    Woman are not always used to standing in a crowd of strangers outside as a bloke may do at football matches etc.
    There are many reasons therefore that I think that the women smokers are the angriest and are less likely to bother going out any more.

    • Frank Davis says:

      You’re quite right. They were indeed mostly blokes. I’ve seen very few women standing outside pubs.

      And quite often these were men who worked outside anyway. As telephone engineers and tree surgeons and the like.

  13. Jax says:

    I think that one of the reasons why so many smokers don’t get fired up about the ban is because they simply can’t see beyond it. I never cease to be amazed by the small-mindedness of the vast majority of people – both smokers and non-smokers – I speak to. It’s one of the reasons why it’s such a relief to visit blogs like this one, because it’s heartening to know that there are other people who can see beyond the superficial fact of the ban – even if they live thousands of miles away, as some people on here do, it’s still good to know that they exist!

    But elsewhere than on here, many of the smokers I know who are angry about the ban are often angry simply because they don’t like being told to “sit on the naughty step” or to go out into the rain; whereas I’m angry at the whole principle of the ban – the frightening precedent that it has set, the lying and devious means by which it was pushed through Parliament, and, perhaps most of all, the kind of message which it sends out to any would-be puritan, bully or holier-than-thou merchant that it’s OK to be like that. It’s true to say that the fact that the ban has affected me personally in an extremely negative way has probably sharpened my anger, and the fact that I am reminded about that negative effect everywhere I go and in everything I do has served to keep it as red-hot today as it was on 1.7.07, but it really is the deeper side to the ban that makes me boil with fury. And it makes it all the more disheartening when you realise, on entering into conversation with many smokers – even fed-up ones – that it is simply beyond the bounds of their intellectual capacity to see that the smoking ban is about so, so much more than “just smoking.”

    And those limits don’t just apply to smoking, either. Listen to any radio phone-in programme on any subject, and you’ll almost never hear a single caller mentioning the words “principle” or “precedent” or – heaven forbid – suggesting that there may be any kind of onward ramifications from supporting (or opposing, as the case may be) whatever course of action is being discussed. All they’ll be doing is prattling on about their own insignificant little one-off experiences within what is usually a huge and complex issue under discussion – as if theirs is the only possible experience and thus their opinion is the only possible valid one.

    I think the trouble is that most people really, genuinely can’t see beyond their own little lives. That’s probably why the anti-smoking movement hit such paydirt when they invented the whole concept of “passive smoking” (because it made non-smokers believe that it was affecting them personally). More positively, however, the very negative personal affects which non-smokers are now clearly experiencing in the wake of the ban – the closure of their local pubs, the lack of atmosphere at social events – as discussed here over the last few days, might explain a lot as to why smoking-related health-scare stories now generate so little public interest. Just as before the ban people were prepared to ignore the fact that they were being lied to and manipulated and duped, and to go along with that provided that their lives weren’t going to be negatively disrupted, now they aren’t prepared to go along with it any more because the penny is finally dropping that their lives are being, and will continue to be, negatively disrupted, if they do. Which may be one reason why the anti-alcohol movement geared up so swiftly in the wake of the ban – duping and fooling an unsuspecting, gullible public who haven’t yet quite realised how it was done before is a whole lot easier than duping and fooling a public which has had its fingers burned and – most importantly of all – has (eventually) come to recognise how and why it was done last time.

  14. harleyrider1978 says:

    Is the New World Order unraveling?

    Posted: October 13, 2011
    2:40 pm Eastern

    © 2011
    With Greece on the precipice of default and Portugal and Italy approaching the ledge, the European monetary union appears in peril.

    Should it collapse, the European Union itself could be in danger, for economic nationalism is rising in Europe. Which raises a larger question.

    Is the New World Order, the great 20th century project of Western transnational elites, unraveling?

    The NWO dates back as far as Woodrow Wilson’s League of Nations, which a Republican Senate refused to enter. FDR, seeking to succeed where his mentor had failed, oversaw the creation of a United Nations, an International Monetary Fund and a World Bank

    Read more: Is the New World Order unraveling?

  15. Iro Cyr says:

    Excellent comment Jax. Do you know what fires me up and keeps me fighting with the same anger and passion as the first day there was talk about a smoking ban in Quebec? Stories like this one:

    They make me forget that I can no longer put on my high heels and fancy clothing and go wine and dine in the town. They make me realize that some people genuinely need my help. If I only knew how to help them!!! I suggested an e-cigarette to this poor lady, but she was told in no uncertain terms that they would not allow them because Health Canada has banned them due to health reasons. They of course offered her the patch instead !!!! I am not one to swear but stories like this one (and many others like it that have led elderly people to death due to hypothermia in Canada) make my blood boil and my resolve to fight with all my might to one day see these pharma whore bastards in the poor house begging for forgiveness and food, even stronger.

    Thanks for reading me. It’s on bad days such as today that I am glad I can speak to people who understand my anger.

  16. Jax says:

    What a terribly sad story that is, Iro. It really is frightening to see how callous many of the so-called “caring professions” have become when it comes to smoking. There is a very strong resemblance in their abuse of their positions to that of a child-beater saying meaninglessly to a little kid – just before beating him black and blue: “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you. Remember, I’m only doing it because I love you,” when the fact is that he/she has to say that in order to “make permissable” something which they know, deep down inside, is cruel, unfair and plain, downright wrong, but which they are driven by their own inner demons to do anyway.

    So it is with these anti-smoking “care professionals.” They make the excuse that they are “only doing it for the patient’s own good,” when the truth of the matter is that stopping a smoker from smoking simply gives them the opportunity to indulge in a bit of gratuitous bullying which they aren’t permitted to express in any other area of life. Which is, in and of itself, bad enough, but perhaps even more worryingly, one has to wonder why people with such a latent instinct to bully, and – given their enthusiasm for the task – clearly to enjoy it, ever entered a field bearing the name of “Care Work” in the first place. One would have thought that the very title in and of itself would make such a field of endeavour extremely unattractive to them.

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