Well, judging from the responses to yesterday’s post, we smokers do seem to be a very angry lot!
And, for those of us in the UK, this is anger that we’re still feeling well over four years since the UK smoking ban came into force. That’s a long time for people to remain angry.
Anyone would think that after four years, people would have got used to it, and made their peace with it. But I certainly haven’t. And I don’t think I’m ever going to. I look set to be permanently angry. Why don’t I get over it?
It’s not as if I’ve not been through a few psychological traumas in my time. Breaking up with girlfriends used to be a regular trauma. I’d be down in the dumps for months, sometimes even years. But then, somehow or other, I’d bob back up, and regain my equilibrium, and the world would start looking sunny again.
But in the case of the smoking ban, I’ve not been down in the dumps, feeling sorry for myself. I’ve been angry. More angry than I’ve ever been in my entire life. And anger is a different thing from sorrow or despair. In some ways it’s actually quite a positive, creative thing.
And these days I’m beginning to think that all smokers are angry. You may not see their anger, but it’s there all the same, bubbling away. Nobody likes to be expelled from society. Nobody likes to become a second class citizen. They’d be an idiot if they did.
I don’t approve of social engineering, and treating people like laboratory rats, but it seems to me to be a very bad piece of social engineering that ends up with a quarter of the population simmering with rage. If I was a fully-paid-up social engineer with a degree in Social Engineering (BSE?), I’m sure I’d think that a good piece of social engineering is one which works with hardly anybody noticing or getting riled about it. By that measure, the smoking ban has been a catastrophic failure.
I often wonder if the people behind the smoking ban – the Arnotts and Wests and Donaldsons and Gilmores – have any idea what they’re doing. Is this what they planned to happen? Is everything going exactly according to plan with the smoking ban?
I don’t really think they have a clue what they’re doing. Doctors – even senior doctors – are really only going to know anything about medicine. They’re not politicians or sociologists or psychologists. I don’t know what Deborah Arnott’s background is, but I have an idea she worked in television once. And if you work in television or in the movies, you’re essentially dealing in daydreams. And the (ex-)friend of mine who now works in ‘smoking cessation’ has a degree in French, Politics, and Philosophy. Really, who are these bums? They’re all nobodies. And they’re all way out of their depth.
Nor is it that I’ve ever seen any study which explores what smokers feel about smoking bans. The only thing any of these people seem to be interested in is whether smokers have given up smoking. That’s all that matters to them. There’s a complete absence of empathy with smokers. Smokers are non-persons. They are unhealthy people. They are drug addicts for whom the antismoking community feels absolute contempt. They don’t want to know what smokers think or feel. And so consequently they don’t know. They haven’t a clue. And that also is an indication that they don’t know what they’re doing. They’re ignoring evidence. In fact they’re not even looking for evidence.
It’s just like an engineer designing a bridge and ignoring the wind forces acting on it, because he thinks the wind doesn’t matter, and he can forget about it.
No, they haven’t a clue what they’re doing. But they believe the nonsense they spout all the same, and they’re puffed up with self-importance – and the government believes them too.
Disaster must be the only result. Just like when the wind blows, and bridges collapse.
The way I see it, what’s been happening in Britain over the past few years is that a formerly cohesive society is gradually dividing in two. On the one hand there are the excluded smokers, and on the other there are the obsessive hand-waving antismokers with the full weight of the government behind them. In between there are a large number of people who are neither on one side nor the other, but who will one day be forced to make a choice. But nobody sees this growing division, because nobody is looking.
In my own life, that social division means that I no longer know, or want to know, anyone who is in the least bit antismoking. And since I’ve been unlucky enough to have known rather too many antismokers (although most of the antismokers I knew weren’t in the least bit virulent) , that’s about 95% of the people I used to know. And, if that’s happening over the whole of Britain, that’s a pretty enormous social divide opening up.
But it goes further. I no longer watch TV or listen to the radio, because I’m not part of their society. And I don’t want to belong to their society anyway. I don’t want to know abusive and controlling people like them. And I don’t want to know what they think either. And I’m not going to vote for any of them – Labour, Conservative, or Lib Dem. They can all go to hell. I’ll never vote for any of them again.
And the division just gets slowly deeper and deeper.
I once asked mi amiga in Spain how Spain became divided in the run-up to the Spanish Civil War, and she said that the division ran through every town and every family. It wasn’t North versus South or anything. It was the complete fracture of society into millions of bits, and ultimately into two sides.
And this is what the smoking ban is doing in the UK. And I’m sure it’s what it’s doing throughout Europe. And it’s what smoking bans are doing in the USA. And it’s a division that runs through every town and every family, gradually tearing them apart.
In the comments yesterday, Mr A remarked that the ferment in the Arab world seems to have been consequent upon the introduction of smoking bans. I wrote about exactly this back in March. Life was probably pretty hard in Tunisia before they banned smoking, but when they did it got a whole lot worse. It was quite likely the last straw that broke the camel’s back.
If the same hasn’t happened in the UK and throughout Europe, it’s probably because there’s a) fewer smokers, and b) Europe is a lot more prosperous and comfortable than places like Tunisia. But when the Euro ‘rescue plan’ fails, and Europe descends into economic depression, and life gets harder for all Europeans (and everyone smokes more as a result) European smokers may not feel disposed to continue to cheerfully endure their constant humiliation.
We will see. And quite likely we will see very soon.