When I’d set up last night’s poll, and remarked that I would click on nearly every single item on it, I didn’t really expect more or less everyone else to do the same. But that’s more or less what they did.
At the time of writing, with about 100 people having filled in the poll, 90% of them reported that they went to pubs less, and about 75% visited cafes and restaurants less, 65% avoided doctors, 60% went to clubs less and stayed in hotels less, and over 50% travelled less, visited cinemas and art galleries and museums less, and generally bought less (75% went home as soon as they’d finished shopping). On the social side, about 33% had fallen out with friends or relatives, and the same number had become recluses, and 60% had a narrower circle of friends.
Of these, I expect that the vast majority of people who voted were smokers. Why else does anyone visit my blog? The question that I found myself asking was: how representative are they of smokers in general? Perhaps they all belong (like me) to a lunatic fringe? Or perhaps they don’t? Perhaps my readers are all just perfectly ordinary people? Perhaps I am too? How can one tell?
And if they’re just smokers no different from any other smokers, then it’s a very dark picture that emerges from this poll. For it means that in the UK (and elsewhere where similar smoking bans have been enacted), smokers representing 25% of the population have deserted the pubs en masse (which we already knew), but are also spending less on more or less everything else as well.
It really does make it look much more likely than I had hitherto thought: that smoking bans have brought about an economic recession everywhere, as smokers have stopped spending on more or less everything. And in the very first comment under the poll, Wobbler2012 immediately wrote:
I do find myself with a lot of surplus cash
And James Burkes promptly also wrote:
I now have £50,000 just sat in various ISAs and bank accounts.
All of which contradicts the airy assertions of the likes of Deborah Arnott and Amanda Sandford that the money that isn’t being spent in one sector of the economy is simply spent elsewhere.
For clearly it isn’t being. Nor is there any particular logical reason why it should be. In my own case, spending less in pubs hasn’t been accompanied by spending more on something else. Although I spend much of my time at home, I don’t drink more or smoke more or eat more than I did before, and I don’t spend more on books or computers or entertainment. I got rid of my TV a few years ago, so I don’t watch that (saving myself the licence fee in the process). And although I’ve been plugging Lana Del Rey, I haven’t actually bought her album.
In fact, in an odd sort of sense, I’ve personally imposed something like extreme austerity on myself, because as a smoker I now regard myself as being unemployable, and therefore must make the few pennies that I have last as long as possible (i.e. for the rest of my life). Because if I’m not broke now, I very likely will be some day soon. One result of which is that I frequent the Special Offers counters in local supermarkets far more than I ever used to. So actually I’m spending even less than I might otherwise.
But on the social side of the poll, the picture was just as alarming. It’s extremely alarming that 33% of the smokers who responded have fallen out with friends and relatives, and that 60% report a narrower circle of friends, and that 33% count themselves as recluses. That signifies a very large scale disintegration of social ties (and bear in mind that when a friendship dies, there are two losers, not one).
But the highest percentages – over 95% – were reported for loss of trust in the media, and in ‘experts’ in general. One might also infer that the numbers avoiding doctors signals a profound loss of trust in the medical profession. And although the question wasn’t asked, we may safely guess that if respondents had been asked their opinion of the political class, similar levels of disillusionment would have been reported. There’s a complete loss of faith.
People are staying home, shunning friends, and stopping spending – all at the same time.
It’s not a scientific poll by any means, but it makes it all the more important that we get our Social Impact Survey under way, and see if we can talk to a great many more smokers all over the world.
But why can’t governments see what’s happening? The answer, most probably, is that they’ve been
taught brainwashed by Tobacco Control to disregard the opinions of smokers (just like everybody else), because they are simply diseased drug addicts with no minds or opinions of their own. Smokers are non-persons. They don’t count. And as soon as they are mentioned to any politician, they are immediately dismissed, frequently with a snort of derision, as being unworthy of any consideration at all.
It’s a bit like governments are airline pilots sitting in front of a large bank of instruments, with dials and pointers and numbers and lights. And you notice that one of the dials, which has “Pressure” or “Temperature” written under it, has its needle rammed right up on full scale deflection, and has steam coming out of it. But when you point to it, the captain laughs and says: “Oh that! Don’t worry about that! It doesn’t work. Hasn’t worked for ages. Pay no attention to it. Anyway, I’m trying to restart port engines number 1 and 2 right now.”
Darkness is coming.