As I see it, the smoking ban has created a divided society. After all, when one bunch of people is “exiled to the outdoors” (as Deborah Arnott put it, months before the UK smoking ban came into force), while everyone else stays put inside, society becomes de facto divided into ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’, the welcome and the unwelcome. And because this division has been simultaneously imposed everywhere, the whole of society has become divided, all over the world. And further restrictive antismoking measures will only deepen the divide.
I think this is already a very deep division, and that it’s going to last for a very long time. And when smokers get their own pubs or their own smoking rooms back – as they eventually will – the division will endure. There’s going to be a permanent division of society between smokers and antismokers, much like there has been a permanent division of society between Catholics and Protestants, or Christians and Muslims.
But I think that most smokers – and most antismokers – don’t see it this way. The smokers hope that, in time, some sort of accommodation will be reached, and people will see reason, and society will cease to be divided, and things will go back to something like the way they used to be, with everyone getting along as happily as they once did. And the antismokers hope that, in time, all smokers will quit smoking, and that if they don’t do so voluntarily they will be forced to. Neither smokers nor antismokers contemplate a permanently divided and embittered society.
I think that both of these aspirations are unrealistic. The antismokers’ aspiration is insane. And smokers are going to have to recognise that there is never going to be any accommodation. The antismokers don’t do accommodation. And they don’t do reason either. And so things will never return to being like they used to be, if only because the damage is already far too great. Smokers everywhere are going to have to make up their minds whether they will surrender to the onslaught upon them, or whether they will fight. There will be no escape for anyone from that choice, between ignoble surrender and fearsome war.
And it is a war because there is no compromise in sight. There is zero tolerance for smokers on the part of antismokers, and they only ever become more intolerant. And in time there will also be corresponding zero tolerance for antismokers by smokers. The antismokers don’t want to know what smokers think: they just want to get rid of them. And soon that’s how smokers will feel about antismokers, if they don’t already feel that way. There is no scope for dialogue, and there never has been any dialogue. The antismokers never wanted a debate in the first place. And so there never will be any debate.
For myself, my world is already divided, and I am past the point of zero tolerance for antismokers. I utterly detest them. I don’t want to know any of them, and I don’t want to meet any of them, and I don’t want to even speak to any of them. I simply want to destroy them, just as they want to destroy me. I’m now no more interested in any compromise than they are. They’ve got to go. All of them. And I think there are going to be more and more people like me, as more and more smokers (and quite a few non-smokers) draw the same conclusions. It is not a war that we wanted: it is a war that has been thrust upon us.
Down what path that war evolves, and what tactics will be employed, remains open to debate. There are countless numbers of ways it could be conducted. But what seems to me crystal clear is that the war will be fought. For everything is coming into place, as one army lines up in front of another, filled with implacable resolve. There is an ineluctable logic being played out.
In my view, the antismokers have launched a crazy and unnecessary and unwinnable war on smokers. There are at least a billion smokers on the planet, and maybe even two billion. That’s one hell of a lot of people to bully and bludgeon into adopting their puritanical doctrines. Particularly when those amiable and easy-going smokers are now starting to get angry, and are set to get angrier and angrier as time goes by. By contrast, there are far fewer dyed-in-the-wool antismokers, because most non-smokers simply don’t give a damn about smoking (although even they will probably eventually be forced to take sides). But because antismokers control governments and media, and are very well funded, their numerical disadvantage isn’t a serious liability at present. So it’s an asymmetric war. The antismokers have the money and the guns. The smokers have got the numbers.
It’s sort of crazy that something like this is developing in the 21st century, but it’s what’s happening, and it’s what’s going to go on happening. It’s an enormously self-destructive thing for a society to do to itself. It’s positively mediaeval. In a few years time the irresponsible politicians who cheerfully (even proudly) introduced smoking bans will rue the day that they did so, as social divisions widen and deepen in the communities they were supposed to represent. They’ll will wish they never let this particular genie out of its box. And too late they will probably try to undo the enormous social and economic damage that has been done. But they will most likely be unable to put out the fire that they helped light. If almost all of them are at present completely oblivious to the growing divisions, it’s because of the antismokers’ almost complete monopoly of the media, which allows them to present a bright picture of tremendous success of smoking bans and universal compliance with them. They will only gradually learn, via the internet and by word of mouth, that everything is very far from well, and that the antismokers have been lying to them.
It’s going to be a long war. It will last for decades. It will very likely blend in with other conflicts. But I’m confident that the war will end with the complete suppression of all antismoking organisations, and the confiscation of their assets, and the imprisonment of many of their officers. It will also most likely end with the destruction and re-organisation of the medical profession, many of whose members have been antismoking’s driving force. And in the end it will leave a society deeply divided, and deeply embittered.
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