It was sunny today, and I went and sat out in my favourite pub garden with a beer and a cigarette, and mulled over my latest idea: Smokernet.

The all-volunteer International Social Impact Survey that I’m helping to set up should be able to reach several hundred smokers (and maybe even several thousand) and find out what smoking bans have done to them. In the process we’ll be handing out a website address where news of developments and progress will be posted, and where most likely the final report will be published. We’ll also be asking for email addresses of the smokers we interview, in order to send them updates of news. Something like this might serve as a new centre where smokers can go (along with Forces, F2C, TICAP) etc.

But what I was thinking about today was a quite different idea. It was for a mobile phone app in which smokers could keep the email addresses or phone numbers of other smokers they knew. If there were enough smokers with this app, and they were all connected together in a net of friends of friends of friends of friends, and it was also possible to propagate messages automatically through this network, you’d have a smokernet, which would be just like the internet, except just for smokers. The smokernet could be used to survey smokers, and send advice/information/etc.

How could it be arranged to only include smokers? Smokers would be asked to only invite other smokers onto the smokernet, and the certainty that someone on it actually was a smoker would be measured by the numbers of invites that a person had received. An invite to someone would be a way of saying “This person is a smoker”. If one person says “This person is a smoker,” then they might or might not be. But if 100 people say “This person is a smoker,” then he or she probably is one.

The concern here is that antismokers might manage to infiltrate the smokernet, and cause havoc. In fact, they would almost certainly try. But if they did manage to get on, they’d probably only be able to do so by taking up smoking, and becoming recognised as smokers. How many antis would be prepared to do that?

But if this happened, and somebody recognised an email address or phone number as known to belong to, say, Deborah Arnott, they could be denounced, and their recognition removed, and evicted from the smokernet. Maybe anyone who denounced anyone else would have to lose recognition as well, to deter casual denunciations.

Anyway, these considerations aside, what was attractive about this idea was that the smokernet could grow very quickly, and include millions and millions of people, all on a friend-of-a-friend basis. Smokernet would create a swarm of smokers, with information being passed between them. And I’m all for creating a huge swarm of smokers – preferably angry ones.

And the smokernet would have no centre. There’d be no smokernet central hub. It would just connect up smokers.

As I thought about it this afternoon, it was very much as a mobile phone app which could rapidly propagate messages. But it could equally be an internet application.

And then when somebody like Deborah Arnott says that 75% of smokers love smoking bans, the smokernet could be consulted, and the actual figure retrieved, and it would be 0.5% instead. The smokernet would allow smokers all around the world to be consulted.

The smokernet could also become politically powerful. Politicians might start to be concerned if, for example, 70% of smokers in their country were considering voting for someone else. Smokernet would weld smokers together into a political entity.

Incidentally, quite a few smokers don’t like being called “smokers”. I’ve heard it said that “smoker” is a word that was invented by antismokers. But I don’t think this is true. I’ve got a Collins English dictionary that was published in about 1980, and it’s got the word “smoker” in it. I don’t think it’s something that antismokers have introduced. And I don’t remember the word “smoker” suddenly appearing. It was always around, and I bet that if someone’s got an old dictionary (US or English) from 1920 or whenever, the word “smoker” will be found in it. It’s an ordinary English word, no different from butcher or baker or candlestick-maker. And I bet the same is true in German (raucher) and French (fumeur). So I’m quite happy to be called a smoker, and for a network of smokers to be called a smokernet.

Anyway, that was the gist of the idea. It’s one I’ve been toying with for a few weeks. Perhaps there’s some obvious flaw in it that I haven’t thought of.

Which is why having a blog that is read by about 800 people a day is so handy for tossing out ideas.

So, go on, tell me what’s so completely and utterly and laughably stupid and wrong-headed and unworkable about this idea.

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51 Responses to Smokernet

  1. forcesnl says:

    It’s a comparable idea as GlobaLink ( is for anti-smokers. They have a central website however and I understand you don’t want that. But there too, you are allowed access only on recommendation of several known anti-smokers that are a member of GlobaLink and will be expelled when you don’t follow the anti-smoker dogma anymore (like for instance Michael Siegel experienced).

    But it can be an interesting approach: a closed BOF network for smokers only. A nice place to set up guerilla actions ;)

  2. Frank Davis says:

    One problem I thought about for a while was what to do when the smokernet straddled regions where people spoke lots of different languages. An English language message would be incomprehensible to most Chinese smokers. My suggested solution: communicate with pictures. Create a universal picture language. You don’t have words like ‘kettle’: you have the picture of a kettle.

    A bit of a tall order, maybe.

    • harleyrider1978 says:

      Frank Id say we use google translator on the site just click your language and voila! The whole site becomes their tounge. Ive seen this type of thing done on a few sites before,it can be done.

      • Frank Davis says:

        It’s not a ‘site’. It’s a network. If Google translate is used, it would have to be as another phone app (and that would be a considerable overhead) which could translate any message in any language into any other language.

        Anyway, I’ve started working in a picture language. Here’s one example: :-)

        • harleyrider1978 says:

          Yahoo! Babel Fish – Text Translation and Web Page

          Frank right here you can translate an entire website just drop in the link I just did you:

          Into Greek

          Βαθύς καπνός 2Smokernet
          Τοποθετημένος στις 22 Μαΐου 2012 από το Frank Davis
          Ήταν ηλιόλουστο σήμερα, και πήγα και κάθισα έξω στον αγαπημένο κήπο μπαρ μου με μια μπύρα και ένα τσιγάρο, και θέρμανα πέρα από την πιό πρόσφατη ιδέα μου: Smokernet.

          Η πλήρως εθελοντική διεθνής κοινωνική έρευνα αντίκτυπου που βοηθώ στην οργάνωση πρέπει να είναι σε θέση να φθάσει σε αρκετούς καπνιστές (και ίσως ακόμη και αρκετοί χιλιάδες) και να ανακαλύψει τι οι απαγορεύσεις καπνίσματος έχουν κάνει σε τους. Στη διαδικασία θα διανέμουμε μια διεύθυνση ιστοχώρου όπου οι ειδήσεις των εξελίξεων και η πρόοδος θα ταχυδρομηθούν, και πού πιθανότατα η τελική έκθεση θα δημοσιευθεί. Θα ζητάμε επίσης τις διευθύνσεις ηλεκτρονικού ταχυδρομείου των καπνιστών που παίρνουμε συνέντευξη από, προκειμένου να τους σταλούν οι αναπροσαρμογές των ειδήσεων. Κάτι παρεμφερή να χρησιμεύσουν ως ένα νέο κέντρο όπου οι καπνιστές μπορούν να πάνε (μαζί με τις δυνάμεις, F2C, TICAP) κ.λπ.

          Αλλά τι σκεφτόμουν για σήμερα ήταν μια αρκετά διαφορετική ιδέα. Ήταν για ένα κινητό τηλέφωνο app στο οποίο οι καπνιστές θα μπορούσαν να κρατήσουν τις διευθύνσεις ηλεκτρονικού ταχυδρομείου ή τους αριθμούς τηλεφώνου άλλων καπνιστών που ήξεραν. Εάν υπήρξαν αρκετοί καπνιστές με αυτό το app, και όλοι συνδέθηκαν σε ένα δίχτυ των φίλων των φίλων των φίλων των φίλων, και ήταν επίσης δυνατό να διαδοθούν τα μηνύματα αυτόματα μέσω αυτού του δικτύου, θα είχατε ένα smokernet, που θα ήταν ακριβώς όπως το Διαδίκτυο, εκτός από ακριβώς για τους καπνιστές. Το smokernet θα μπορούσε να χρησιμοποιηθεί στους καπνιστές ερευνών, και να στείλει τις συμβουλές/τις πληροφορίες/το κ.λπ.

        • Frank Davis says:

          Yes, but is that Good Greek? (Nisakiman or Lysistrata will be able to tell us pretty quickly).

          Reinhold and me (and Brigitte) had to slave like mad to translate Grieshaber into English, and that was with the help of Google Translate.

        • harleyrider1978 says:

          Here you are in Russian

          Вывешено 22-ого мая 2012 Франк Davis
          Было солнечный сегодня, и я пошел и сидел вне в моем любимейшем саде pub с пивом и сигаретой, и mulled над моей самой последней идеей: Smokernet.

          All-volunteer международный социальный обзор удара который я помогаю setup должен мочь достигнуть нескольк 100 курильщиц (и возможно даже нескольких тысяч) и узнать чего куря запреты делали к им. В процессе мы будем вручать вне адрес вебсайта где будут вывешены новости развитий и прогресс, и где наиболее вероятновероятн заключительное сообщение будет выходило в свет. Мы также будем просить адресы электронной почты курильщиц мы интервьюируем, для посылки ими новых версий новостей. Что-нибудь подобное могло служить как новый центр где курильщицы могут пойти (вместе с усилиями, F2C, TICAP) etc.

        • harleyrider1978 says:

          Frank all I did was google translators and that came up for a whole website,Who knows what else is available for free!

        • nisakiman says:

          Yes, Google translate is a handy tool, but it has its limitations. As soon as you start using idioms, then it starts to get confused. A good way to check is to translate something from English to Greek, say, and then to do a reverse translation to see what you get. Here’s Harley’s Greek translated back into English:

          “Deep tobacco 2Smokernet
          Posted on May 22, 2012 by Frank Davis
          It was sunny today, and I went and sat outside in the garden favorite my bar with a beer and a cigarette, and warm beyond my latest idea: Smokernet.

          The all-volunteer international social research impact in helping the organization should be able to reach many smokers (and perhaps even several thousand) and find out what the smoking bans have made them. The process will distribute a website address where the news of developments and progress will be posted, and where probably the final report will be published. We also ask for email addresses of smokers we interviewed, sent to the adjustments of the news. Something like this can serve as a new center where smokers can go (along with the forces, F2C, TICAP) etc.

          But what I was thinking about today was quite a different idea. It was for a phone app where smokers could keep the email addresses or phone numbers of other smokers who knew. If there were many smokers with this app, and all were connected in a web of friends of friends of friends of friends, and it was also possible to automatically propagate messages through the network, you would have a smokernet, that would be just like the Internet other than just for smokers. The smokernet could be used in smokers, research, and send advice / information / etc the

          Which isn’t too bad at all, actually, but I have seen some real howlers using online translators. It’s not a perfect solution, but it has its uses. My wife posts stuff on e-bay all over europe, and uses Google translate to write a description in the local language. We always reverse translate, and often have to re-phrase the English for Google to be able to translate it accurately.

          My Greek isn’t really good enough to pick out any grammatical errors in Harley’s translation. I’m comfortably conversational in Greek, and can read and write it, but I’m not what I would consider fluent.

        • Frank,Harleyrider

          the translation from English to Greek is decent,but it certainly needs some adjustments

          I can fully translate into Greek if you need anything guys since I am of Greek decent (although living in UK)

        • Frank Davis says:

          Thanks. I’ll bear that in mind, Dimi.

  3. reinholdfrombavaria says:

    I have a Duden (the most common German dictionary), impression of 1951, it’s got “Raucher” in it, too.

  4. james101 says:

    Sounds like a good idea to me. A mobile app like whatsapp messenger or Facebook chat the works across Iphone,blackberry and android. It would take a lot of development but be well worth it, in the end. Could prove costly though.

  5. harleyrider1978 says:

    Frank I think I could spam it around the net smokernet…………I got I reckon 400,000 posts to date after 5 years on………YES its time to organize and get marching orders to attack when and where just as the nazis do via global link. Just as you state smokers supporting a smoking ban,thats about as crazy as supporting your own demise,its insanity to say the least.

    I gather if ARNOT ran a poll for pedophiles shed come back with results that 70% of pedophiles support the death penalty or life imprisonment for molesting lil kids. It just aint gonna happen that they would support such measures or laws.

    But im sure she would run a study that states 70% of pedophiles are smokers!

    We could run one that says 70% of pedophiles work in tobacco control research!
    If I recall there was a case of that in North Carolina where a tobacco control researcher head was busted for pedophillia…….must look it up

  6. Frank Davis says:

    forcesnl wrote: It’s a comparable idea as GlobaLink ( is for anti-smokers. They have a central website however…

    It’s actually inconceivable that antismokers do anything else. Theirs is an authoritarian top-down view of life, and mine is a libertarian bottom-up view of life. They have to have central website, and a command structure. They’ve probably all got uniforms as well – which I sort of imagine are all black, and with death’s heads on the front of their peaked caps -. The antismokers want to control people, and they want to be at the top of the command structure.

    But what I’m interested in are systems that organise themselves from the bottom up, in the absence of a command structure. There’d be no telling what might come out of a smokernet. As far as antismokers are concerned, the internet is already bad enough.

  7. James101 says:

    Well then I think that a simple mobile app that could be adapted to work across Iphone,blackberry and android is the way forward. Its easy for things not to get noticed on the internet, but put it in an apps store it would become smokernet very quickly.

  8. Frank Davis says:

    simple mobile app

    I don’t know how simple it is or isn’t. I can write a bit of Java, but I’ve yet to even write a “Hello World” android app yet. But I know that Fredrik Eich has written one! He’s streets ahead of me.

    • harleyrider1978 says:

      Might be time to buy him a pint!

    • forcesnl says:

      Java has a steep learning curve. It’s a complicated OOPS (Object Oriented Programming System) . But very powerful indeed.

      • Frank Davis says:

        Java has a steep learning curve. It’s a complicated OOPS (Object Oriented Programming System) . But very powerful indeed.

        I write all my programs in Java, and have done so for about 20 years. But I don’t think I’m a very good Java programmer. Nobody has ever hired me to write any. But whenever I say here that I’ve written a program to do something, it will have been written in Java.

        And furthermore, it will have been laboriously hand-written in Java, without the aid of packages like Eclipse. Although I was very proud, a day or two ago, to have opened a window for a Java application called “Hello World”. Once you can write a “Hello World” application, you can do anything.

  9. james101 says:

    One hell of an idea.

  10. Frank Davis says:

    My picture-language idea was probably prefigured by the great German philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Somewhere or other, he wrote that we thought in terms of pictures. And I agree: I think with pictures.

    The Germans always get there first, just like with the hotel swimming pools!!!

    And Egyptian hieroglyphs are pictograms. The throne of Isis is a picture of a throne, and so are all the other hieroglyphs – Ra, Horus, etc. The Ancient Egyptians thought in picture terms. Do we need anything else?

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  12. gimper30 says:

    I just love your thought processes—lay on, Macduff!

  13. Rose says:


    Have you seen Angry Exile’s cigarette packet design, yet?

    Now why didn’t I think of that.

  14. Andy Dwelly says:

    For a rapid start, Osiris sps might fit the bill. It’s web based so it would work on ios and android. Worth looking into in any case.

    Given this, all you really need is a mobile app for passing the link around. I could run that up for ios no problem – its a few hours work. Ironically, as a lifelong non smoker I would be forever excluded from the system. Pity.

  15. ptbarnumthe2nd says:

    Love the idea of an international communication tool for the smokers’ fightback, but I have a couple of quibbles.

    My ISP runs surveys of its customers and its most recent one asked which smart phone platform people used. Nearly 40% replied saying they didn’t have a smart phone, amongst them me. It’s a tech that I’ve toyed with and rejected as gratuitously complex and expensive for what you get (but that’s just me) but smart phones may not be as ubiquitous as you need them to be.

    On the language issue, English, in all her variants, is genuinely the universal language, whereas a pictorial language has been shown in semiotic studies to be culturally dependent, ie someone from Africa or the Far East will likely not to recognise or understand your ‘kettle’ as transparently as you assume. English has been described as easy to learn to speak, hard to learn to speak well, but having hung out in enough Tower of Babelesque chatrooms (usually attached to live streams of major cycling events) people from across the globe, with very different levels and kinds of English, manage to converse in a lively and coherent manner. So why reinvent the wheel?

    • Frank Davis says:

      Nearly 40% replied saying they didn’t have a smart phone, amongst them me.

      And until last week, me as well. But if 40% don’t have them, 60% do – which seems to me to be a quite extraordinary market penetration.

      On the language issue, English, in all her variants, is genuinely the universal language

      I wonder if as many people can speak English as have smart phones?

      ie someone from Africa or the Far East will likely not to recognise or understand your ‘kettle’

      You may not have to go that far. When I went to stay in the house of mi amiga in Spain, one of the first things I noticed she didn’t have was a kettle. A kettle is, as far as I am concerned, one of the necessities of life. So the next time I went, I brought with me a whistling kettle for her hob. It was received with gratitude, and put in a cupboard, and never used.

  16. harleyrider1978 says:

    Wholesalers have branded the tobacco display ban at their depots “a right pain in the a***”.

    The ban, which came into force just over a month ago, means wholesalers have to ensure all tobacco products they sell at their depots are covered on their way from tobacco rooms to checkout areas.

    All tobacco products have to be hidden from view in transit to prevent them from being seen by non-tobacco retailers. This means that all products leaving tobacco rooms must be concealed by either a cover, a box or a bag. This must be sealed when a customer leaves the tobacco room and then reopened to be processed at the checkout. Products must then be resealed and covered before leaving the depot. Tobacco room windows also have to be covered to hide products from view.

    The whole process was “a complete nightmare”, according to a source at a leading wholesaler. “It’s a right pain in the a*** because we have to cover products up from the tobacco room to the checkout and change the bags into boxes. It’s driving us mad.”

    The source added that he knew of wholesalers that “were putting two fingers up to it all and not doing it”, claiming that Trading Standards had not “got to grips with it yet”.

    Wholesalers are against the display ban because their depots are only used by the trade, and not by members of the public.

    The ban was implemented to discourage children from smoking, but the vast majority of wholesalers do not allow children into their depots.

    Another wholesale source said: “It is a nightmare, but it could have been a lot worse.”

    The Grocer reported in December last year that wholesalers had been left baffled by the “over the top” display rules, with one source branding the ban as “ill thought-out and burdensome”.

    • Callie says:

      If the big boys (asda, morrisons, tescos etc ) lobbyists had told the government it was a stupid idea and they weren’t complying with stupidity the law wouldn’t have happened. I don’t buy many with UK tax on but if I have to, I refuse to buy from anywhere that has them covered and encourage everyone I know (and some I don’t know) to do the same. We don’t buy papers or tips or anything cigarette related from them and give the small shops our business instead.

    • truckerlyn says:

      Besides all the above, what better way to encourage children to start smoking? Hid it away, make it taboo and the first thing the kids want to do is TRY IT! That is the mentality of kids and pretty well always has been!

    • Jocelyn Erskine-Kellie says:

      It’s insane isn’t it. The way TC carries on, you’d think they were dealing with highly radioactive nuclear waste.

  17. Den says:

    I have no idea why a ‘smoker’s only’ bar/club (staff and customers) should not be allowed. … You are all adults and all entitled to do as you please. Any establishment should be allowed to make it own rules. The whole system is a fucking farce (I am a non smoker .. just I can think for myself)

    I say go for it .. make membership £1 – £5 a pop to mount a legal challenge against the system.

  18. mummybest says:

    In my opinion it is the slightly older generation of smokers that are the most pissed off with the ban.
    Not many older people have all the smart phones etc. and just have a ‘normal’ mobile phone for emergencies.

    I am 100% p.c. ‘literate’ but I have no idea what an iphone or android or smart phone is or what they actually do.

    • truckerlyn says:

      Likewise, mummybest.

      You are also, I think, bang on with the older generation and it doesn’t just concern pubs and clubs, many of the older generation used to love a night out at bingo, now many bingo halls have closed and those that are left are well down on their numbers, in the main.

      As a result, many of the elderly now have nowhere to go to socialise and end up being isolated in their own homes which leads to all sorts of REAL medical problems!

    • Mentesabiertas says:

      Me too. I’m 100% computer literate but I have no idea what a smart phone is or what one actually does. I just have a basic mobile phone for emergencies, and communicate mainly by email. I like the idea of a smokernet, but is there any way this could be applied for those who don’t have smartphones? Sorry, I’m quite savvy with computers and cameras and iPods, (love photography and music!), but when it comes to mobile phones I’m afraid I’m all thumbs!

  19. fredrikeich says:

    I beleive that with globalink to become a user you need three people from the tobacco control industry to nominate you. I assume that this is to keep the tobacco industry out of their club.

  20. quite a few smokers don’t like being called “smokers”
    These days, I call myself a ‘tobaccoterian’.

  21. Martin says:

    Good idea, although I’ll have to get a smart phone!

  22. Pingback: Connecting Up Smokers | Frank Davis

  23. Pingback: Smokernet | Smokernet

  24. Yokel says:

    A couple of suggestions:
    1. Watch what you routinely put through the Google Translation machine (or perhaps any other equivalent). Google keep more records than the Stasi on individual internet users, and will spill all when pressed with a court order. As this is to fight a State sponsored clampdown, don’t expect to get a fair hearing when opposing the court order to produce records.
    2. What about . an invisible internet.

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