I’ve been out today doing the ISIS survey. And once again I came across no smokers at all. In a pub garden with about 15 people in it, none of them were smokers.

Actually, there was one. But I recognised him as someone I’d already surveyed.

I’m beginning to think that there are a lot fewer smokers around than 25% of the adult population. Or even 21%. 10% seems more like it. Maybe not even that.

Perhaps they’ve all died of lung cancer?

I did manage to find a couple yesterday though. And a very strange pair they were. Both filled in the questionnaire. And then one of them declared that tobacco was the most addictive thing in the world, and even more addictive than heroin, and that it should be completely banned. And this despite the fact that he had just ticked a lot of adverse impact boxes, and was actually smoking one of the damn things.

The other one agreed with him about the addiction, but didn’t think it should be completely banned. But, as if not wanting to be outdone in the shocking truths stakes, he declared that smoking a shisha pipe for an hour was equivalent to smoking 600 cigarettes.

“That’s not true,” I said.

He looked at me in blank amazement.

“But I read it in the paper!” he said.

“Well, you shouldn’t believe everything you read in newspapers,” I replied.

Tobacco isn’t actually burned in shisha pipes, so they don’t produce combustion products like cigarettes or pipes or cigars. They’re more akin to e-cigs than anything.

Anyway, it’s half the problem these days: people believe everything they read in newspapers, or see on the box. They absorb it all uncritically. And then proceed to repeat it.

Which means that, if you can get any old fabrication or lie into a newspaper, or onto some TV show, people will swallow it, hook, line, and sinker.

I expect when they get round to banning alcohol, I’ll find people sitting in pubs drinking beers, and holding them up and saying: “Did you know that just one pint of this stuff is enough to give you terminal elbow cancer? It’s true! I read it in the paper! They ought to ban the stuff!”

Leggy calls them drones. And it seems that quite a few smokers are drones too.

Also it was a bit of a job to get one of them to fill out the questionnaire. He wanted to smoke his cigarette, and do it later. I eventually managed, but it was such an uphill struggle that I came away from the encounter a bit drained.

It takes a bit of nerve to go up to complete strangers and ask them to fill in a questionnaire. It’s fine if they just quickly agree and do it. But not all do. Some ask lots of questions. Some ask questions about the questions. Some ask who I am, and what I’m trying to do. Some of them think that I’m the police. It can all be a bit wearing.

Incidentally, I should soon be able to say where my readers can go to fill in the online version of the survey. But I’m not entirely sure if Wiel Maessen has got it working perfectly yet. Perhaps if he’s reading this he’ll be able to advise.



About Frank Davis

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49 Responses to Drones

  1. Tony says:

    “Anyway, it’s half the problem these days: people believe everything they read in newspapers, or see on the box. They absorb it all uncritically. And then proceed to repeat it.”

    That is a superbly put and is very true, and until that changes we are doomed forever.

  2. Frank, you’re old enough to remember this… :>

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10LMdzJgIWQ (I read it in the Daily News)

    Too bad I can’t find an original, but I’ve got a few of his other classics below.

    The Daily News was quite a rag in its day. VERY editorially opinionated, and two of the standouts I remember were

    1) Socrates deserved the sentence he got because he kept asking too many questions and defied the government.

    2) The US should NEVER go on a joint space mission with the Russians because the Russians would probably try to kill the American astronauts when they were a million miles from Earth and no one would be watching.

    No, I am NOT making those up. It was 40 years or so ago so it’s *possible* my memory has colored it a bit, but I don’t think so.

    OK… more Paxton:

    And one from good ol’ Phil Ochs….

    Nowadays we’re heading toward a world where all you’ll have to do to get out of the draft is check off the box labeled “tobacco smoker.”


    • harleyrider1978 says:

      Mike if they bring in a draft,well its because they have no choise as the big shit done hit the fan!

      Then General washington,Pershings and several others over the centuries famous words will speak again…..ABOVE ALL ELSE SEND US OUR TOBACCO RATION!

  3. Wiel Maessen says:

    Frank, the best way to check if it is functioning is to test it. Try to store your outcomes using the interface provided. You know hot….

  4. timbone says:

    I used to believe everything I was told about passive smoking. I used to tell the kids in my PSE lessons that tobacco was more addictive than heroin. It was only after 1st July 2007 that I was introduced to online facts, and it is only because I use the internet as a source of knowledge that I have learnt the truth. As I said in an article I once wrote, I also believed in weapons of mass destruction.

    One thing that makes me very cross, and she knows it, is this. My wife is a smoker. She loves her cigarettes, and, like me, has no intention of forgoing this pleasure, and indeed, medication at times. Whenever we have a friend, family memeber, colleague or aquaintance however, who is giving up smoking, she says “well done”!

    • I don’t see the contradiction in that myself. My brother is an on-off smoker who strongly wants to be an ex-smoker and I encourage him wholeheartedly in his endeavour. He also brings me all my EU-duty paid tobacco. We respect each other’s choices.

      • timbone says:

        My own opinion is that if I say “well done” to someone giving up smoking, it is like saying that I agree with the alleged 70% of amokers who want to quit. By saying “well done”, I am congratulating a person for stopping something evil, more addictive than heroin. I am saying “well done” because I admire their strength to not do something which I am a slave to.

    • harleyrider1978 says:


  5. jaxthefirst says:

    I don’t doubt that there are just as many smoker drones as there are non-smoker drones. That’s why they’re still going to the pub; because they’ve been told that “it’s not that much trouble to nip outside for a cigarette,” that’s what they think – or at least that’s what they think they think.

    I also think there’s an element of the “good slave” about a lot of smokers. They know that the antis – as the slave-masters – hold the whip hand, and they hope that if they are good little boys and girls and do as they are told by their masters and go along with everything they say in a “Yes sir/no sir,” fashion, then those masters will leave them be. Which in and of itself indicates that deep down inside they know that the situation is unfair and, no matter what they say, they don’t like it one little bit; but they’re just too scared of the slave-masters to have the courage to confront them – not even by saying in a totally anonymous questionnaire that they don’t like the ban. It also, of course, indicates how little they know about the anti-smoking movement’s complete inability to leave any of their “slaves” alone for a second, no matter how obediently they might be thinking/acting.

    I think that most smokers have fallen for this at some stage in their lives. I know I used to, pre-ban and before I became acquainted with blogs like these which opened my eyes to the true nature of the anti-smokig movement. Often, when visiting, non-smokers houses, I would go outside for a cigarette, even if my hosts insisted that they didn’t mind me staying indoors. I always and without exception, only ever sparked up in smoking sections in pubs or restaurants – never, ever in non-smoking sections. And I restricted my smoking at work to the smoking room even back in the days when it was in fact still permitted and not frowned upon in other areas, such as the office. I guess I always adhered to the belief that all smokers were sort of ambassadors for the habit and that if I and my fellow smokers showed consideration and respect for some other people’s desire to avoid tobacco smoke then they’d in turn start to realise that, no, smokers weren’t all “selfish” and “inconsiderate,” and begin to realise that with a bit of consideration and respect then we could all rub along together perfectly amiably. But it wasn’t to be. Again, it seems the hysterical printed words in the papers or the spoken ones on the TV or radio were what formed the opinions of the non-smokers I knew, rather than their own experiences of the smokers they knew, like me. I guess it was at that point that I realised how gullible and unable to think for themselves the majority of the British public actually are. Either that, or they are virtually all incredibly mentally lazy …

    • Frank Davis says:

      no matter what they say, they don’t like it one little bit;

      I think that too. But I don’t know how to prove it.

      I think that, regardless of what they say, all smokers are angry at smoking bans. But, at the same time, they don’t want to be angry about them. It’s too much hard work. And it’s hard work being angry. So they’d rather not work hard at being angry. And so they don’t.

      Smokers who don’t mind smoking bans are like black people who don’t mind segregation. They’re saying, in effect, that, yes, niggers like us ought to be kept separate from decent, clean-living white folks. We shouldn’t be allowed to dirty things, massa.

      But I don’t think it’s… it’s… it’s… “sustainable” (there, I said the word!) in the long run to act or think this way.

      • Tom says:

        I was waiting for someone to use that word within the context of the smoking ban laws so I could introduce the possible use of a new word more apropro for today’s segregated and demeaned classes, something that came to me out of the blue about a week ago, but has anyone considered use of the word “ciggers” – to describe the kind of outlandish hateful propaganda and discrimination campaigns launched against smokers? I mean if you were looking for the perfect word to describe the situation, “ciggers” actually says quite a lot, all in one breath. (Sorry if that makes me a non-serious illogical idiot too for saying it, but I did want to pass that word along before I forgot it occurred to me.)

      • Dave says:

        Frank I just vacationed in a southern state in the U.S. a very tourist spot. I was pleasantly surprised at the smokers accomodations. I had no problem getting an Ocean front smoking room. The outdoor pool and spa was loaded with ash trays everywhere. Many families with kids sitting all around me and other smokers and not only did I not have any issues but people were very polite. It reminded me alot of the old days. I got to thinking again that the vast majority really do not care about this issue. I want to stress I was in an area that was more family oriented than a party type scene of people drinking. Other areas I went had no smoking in restaurants but bars were exempt and this seemed to work out well for many. I have always felt and this trip reinforced my feeling most of the general public do not care if you smoke or not and it is a small % of society who are just control freeks who need things to bitch about. Even some of the family type amusment parks I went too had bars/pubs in the park and I saw many families stop in while we were there whilethe parents had a drink and a smoke with the kids sitting next to them. This is how it used to be should be and at least still is some places. It was nice to feel like I was in a normal world for a change.

      • harleyrider1978 says:

        Frank its the perfect analogy…………..I wont say massa tobaco control please leave me a place to smoke,fuck em I will do peace marches and make the dirty bastards love me for being a smoker!@

  6. Frank Davis says:


    There are two methods of data entry.

    I have my own personal password-protected one, for me to enter my own paper survey data. That’s pretty much working, but needs a review/edit/delete facility (or did the last time I looked). I’ve used it to enter a couple of completed forms, including my own one, storing them as records 26 and 27. I also entered a bad record (no data in it) as record 28.

    There’s also the general purpose one, which anyone can use. I tried that out this evening, and it surprised me by giving me the same record number as had been assigned to me (number 26) .when I’d used my personal data entry. i.e. it seemed to know who I was, and wouldn’t let me create a new record.

    Which is kinda cool. But it means that I can’t test out the general purpose data entry, because apparently I’ve already been identified as someone who has used the system. I can’t pretend to be somebody else. Like, for instance, one of my readers.

    That’s how it should be when it’s all working. But not when you’re trying to test it. Someone who is carrying out tests on something isn’t an ordinary user, just like guys who repair roads aren’t ordinary drivers.

  7. legiron says:

    Smoker non-drones aren’t commonly found in pubs any more. They are outside places of work these days and in leisure time, in smoky-drinkies..

    Also, there is the problem of paranoia – are you trying to catch me out as a smoke-promoter?

    The drones are still fun though, and always will be. This bout of prohibition might end in my lifetime but now I now the depth of gullibility available, I will use it for laughs.

  8. Actually…. Frank, I think there may be a way to test your theory AND have a bit of fun along the way!

    You’ve been getting email and home addies from many of these smokers. Send out an email to 20 or 30 within ten miles of you and invite them all over for a smoky-drinky evening! Try to have a roughly equal male-female split just for good atmosphere (unless you’ve been meeting a lot of gay smokers… that wasn’t part of the ISIS project though…) and invite them all with two caveats:

    1) They need to bring either a bottle of booze (sixpack of beer whatever) OR a smoking friend who does NOT normally go to pubs anymore (regardless of whether they ever went in the first place!)


    2) They respond to you within X days as to whether they’re coming (With the X leaving you enough time for a second emailing that will produce the desired and advertised size of the gathering.)

    You could even load the sexual balance dice a bit toward evenness by asking that first round to commit to bringing a member of the opposite sex if you’ve been finding that most of your ISIS folks are male.

    If you could host a smoky drinky with about 25 people that would give you up to a dozen new smokers who do NOT go to pubs at this point, and THAT would allow you to have some “correction” for your skewed sample!

    Michael, who’s full of random ideas even if not so hot on questionnaires…

    P.S. And if you can’t host an SD party at your place, maybe you could do a first round of emails “reporting” on how the survey’s gone so far and PROPOSING a SD gathering if someone wanted to volunteer to host it! As long as you include the social proposal simply as an addendum to a mailing giving folks a legitimate update report on the survey they filled out I don’t think anyone would mind, and you might end up with a whole new social life!

  9. beobrigitte says:

    Anyway, it’s half the problem these days: people believe everything they read in newspapers, or see on the box. They absorb it all uncritically. And then proceed to repeat it.

    For about 30 years now people have been subjected to this constant drivel of “health” … “living longer” … “smoking kills” … “experts say” and blah-blah-blah on a day to day basis.
    It seeps into the subconscious mind and perhaps people say what they think they are ‘supposed’ to say rather than what they really think.

  10. prog says:

    The most pathetic smokers are those who stand outside their own front/back doors. I can hardly imagine many of them really hating the ban – and there’s one hell of a lot of them. This phenomenon must be the result of one or a permutation of several things – they have children/live with non smokers and believe the SHS crap, and/or have anti smoking partners, they don’t want the smell in their own houses, or they see it as a way of cutting down/quitting. Smoking outside a pub would thus be no great inconvenience. In any event, they have succumbed to a key part of the denormalisation process. They are, in effect, passive smokers. It would, however, be interesting to see how they’d react to plain packaging, prohibition in cars and public open spaces.

    • Rose says:

      I used to love smoking outdoors on a sunny day, outside a cafe or a pub, or just somewhere with a pleasant view to contemplate.
      I don’t do it now incase someone thinks I believe in the SHS theory or that I am meekly obeying a law I deeply resent.

      I do smoke while sitting or walking in my garden though, my neighbours know better than to jump to such unlikely conclusions.

      • XX I don’t do it now incase someone thinks I believe in the SHS theory or that I am meekly obeying a law I deeply resent. XX

        YESSS! Exactly! I will not be SEEN to give up a principal. Even if I HAVE.

        Thanks Rose, you have crystalised in words what I have been abstractly thinking, and trying to work out a decent definition for, for a long time.

  11. Margo says:

    Re smoker drones and the depressing survey results: I think there are a few things going on:
    1. Anyone under 40 has been totally conditioned since birth to believe smoking is evil in a million ways. Older smokers can remember the 40s/50s/60s and may not have been fooled by the anti-smoking message so completely, if at all.
    2. Being an angry miserable git is not ‘cool’ these days. I think quite a lot of smokers are behaving like the bullied kid who keeps smiling and makes himself not mind, because he thinks, ‘If they know they’ve upset me, they’ve won.’
    3. As someone here pointed out (sorry, I’ve forgotten who), the openly angry smokers are rarely in the pubs. They’re in their homes, smoking and being angry. An online survey might find them.

    • Frank Davis says:

      I don’t think the survey results that I’m getting are at all depressing.

      I think I’d find them depressing if the smokers I’ve been encountering were the way the antis portray them: loving the ban, and wanting more bans.

      But real smokers aren’t actually like that. None of them actually like the ban. None of them are saying, “It’s the best thing since sliced bread,” or anything like that. The most they’ll say is that it has no effect on them, and doesn’t bother them. But a lot of them are reporting adverse effects, and sometimes severe adverse effects.

      And really, in my 64-year-old life, antismoking has been a constant. It’s just that back in the 50s and 60s it was much more muted than the current howling din.

      • Bandit 1 says:

        I’m under 40 and I’m a smoking non-drone. Not to blow my own trumpet but I think it’s simply a matter of intelligence, rather than age. Lots of people are thick and lazy and emotionally underdeveloped. Perfect drone material.

    • smokingscot says:


      There’s a lass over the street from me who had her 18th birthday bash in July. I believe she had 12 of her friends over, all about the same age. Around midnight they disgorged and 4 of them promptly lit up. I was surprised because they’re all upper middle class from expensive schools and none of them have known anything but a total ban.

      The lass in question doesn’t smoke but her boyfriend does. Seems it’s the height of kool to have a 25 gr pouch poking up from the rear pocket of your jeans. Golden Virginia Green to be precise.

      When I spoke to her mother about the lad she waxed on about how lovely he is etc etc. On the subject of smoking she said “I’d prefer he smoked tobacco… than something else” (with a knowing glance, meaning hash, which is off a log easy to get in Edinburgh).

      Got a goodie from the guy who does baked spuds (tonights supper).

      “Homosexuality was illegal until I was 21, then the law was changed.

      Now they can get married and can adopt children

      I smoke and now I’m the queer.”

      I laughed with him because he was incenced. He was absolutely livid – and must be 70. Unfortunately he doesn’t have a computer. Bummer.

      On the other hand there’s no way he or his family will vote for independence. Cannot abide Salmond or the whole devolution business. Great character!

  12. Fredrik Eich says:

    In defence of drones.

    The world is a complicated place and putting trust in others to interpret evidence makes life simpler and therefore less vexing.

    Take for example these two statements

    “Passive smoking kills”


    “The majority of passive smoking studies largely fail to reject the null hypothosis. This does not mean there is no risk from passive smoking it means that the idea that passive has no effect has not been disproven in the majortiy of studies”

    Which one is more effective at getting the message accross?

    Clearly the former because despite the fact that it is intellectually lazy – it is easier to understand. If you like the idea that millions of smokers are forced to subsidise smoke-free pubs and restaurants then the former message will work a lot better for you.

    This is why instead of trying to explain to people why aggregating studies that largely fail to reject the null hypothosis is a shakey foundation for public health policy making I stick to easier an argument to understand.

    “Passive smoking is safer than shift work for heart disease and we have no banket ban on shift work”

    That is easier to understand and puts any risk (real or not) in to perspctive it shows how safe passive smoking is because shift work is pretty safe – I have survived it on many occasions. But this argument only gets results when you helpfully point out that this could be implemented in the hospitality industry by closing all pubs and restaurants during the evenings and weekends. This way staff could work normal hours in a smoke-free environment just like the majority of people do. A draconion measure but then so is the blanket smoking ban.
    The important point is specifying restaurants because many people and people in the tobacco control industry would love nothing more than to see more pubs closed or don’t care if they do. But threaten to close their smoke-free restaurants and they hate that. In my experience if you make this argument to people that are not very informed on the subject they often just change their mind on the smoking ban or if they are informed on the subject they choose to ignore it and change subject.

    That is a win in my book.

    • harleyrider1978 says:

      The null approach would simply lead to the forced closures of all things that emit smoke or vapor.
      Even human beings as they exhale VOX’S

  13. Rose says:

    You have to admit that getting the public to stand in the rain outside pubs and acting just like the bunch of desperate addicts that ASH say they are, must be a whole lot cheaper than paying for professional photographs of child models pretending to smoke.

  14. Rose says:

    That said, an old friend of mine can sometimes be seen on a sunny day, standing outside the pub in the middle of the high street.
    He exudes such an air of confidence and is on nodding terms with so many, that you would think that he owned the street and was just stepping out for a breath of fresh air.

    There are always exceptions.

  15. Rose says:


    This just in.

    Haryana government to ban food articles containing nicotine and tobacco with effect from August 15

    And the aforemention drones are already cheering them on.


    “Nicotine is an alkaloid found in the nightshade family of plants (Solanaceae), predominantly in tobacco, and in lower quantities in tomato, potato, eggplant (aubergine), and green pepper.”

    This is why real science is so important.

    • harleyrider1978 says:

      Rose can you see it! TC just hung themselves…………

    • Tom says:

      Although I may be considered a non-serious illogical idiot (by some), the story out of India did cause me to think a few things, which I will comment, if I may.

      – The announcement is dated August 12 and the full ban on all nicotine begins August 15, just three day’s warning, rather short notice and very heavy-handed/dictatorial, since it reeks of no public input or acknowledgement of what citizens might have to say on the matter.

      – It doesn’t say that NRTs will be banned (of course not, they’re not food and they’re not tobacco) and India is home to many pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities.

      – The number of “chemicals” in tobacco smoke, always stated as 4,000+ prior to bringing in smoking bans, seems to have been magically adjusted upward overnight to 7,000+, which must be the new magic number the Anti-Smoking Industry requires, in order to justify a total prohibition on selling and possession with the potential for hefty fines and imprisonment.

      – “Tobacco is the foremost preventable cause of death and disease in the world today,” is a copy and paste exercise, right out of TC’s documented guidelines.

      – “Rakesh Gupta while inaugurating an orientation-cum-sensitization workshop,” sounds more like an “Asian gay love-fest” than it does a TC meeting.

      Maybe the good doctor should stick a big Havana cigar in his mouth and spend less time planning on “cum-sensitization workshops”. He might fare better that way.

      • Frank Davis says:

        Although I may be considered a non-serious illogical idiot (by some)

        Like who?

        It’s not a perception I share.

      • beobrigitte says:

        – It doesn’t say that NRTs will be banned (of course not, they’re not food and they’re not tobacco) and India is home to many pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities.

        – The number of “chemicals” in tobacco smoke, always stated as 4,000+ prior to bringing in smoking bans, seems to have been magically adjusted upward overnight to 7,000+, which must be the new magic number the Anti-Smoking Industry requires, in order to justify a total prohibition on selling and possession with the potential for hefty fines and imprisonment.

        NRT contains NICOTINE – of course it has to be banned!!! If it isn’t, I’d have a few questions….

        It is miraculous how quickly and easily the “chemicals” in tobacco smoke can rise from 4000 + to 7000 +, isn’t it?

    • beobrigitte says:

      AHMEDABAD: Haryana government has decided to clamp a complete ban on food articles containing nicotine and tobacco in public interest with effect from August 15, 2012 all over the state.

      As Tom already wrote: 2 days prior to implementation the public being told that there will be a ban on anything containing nicotine is nothing short of dictatorship.

      Just curious, how many of the Haryanan residents know that nicotine is also found in Potatoes, tomatoes, aubergines, green peppers?

      Will they be imprisoned for consuming these foods?

  16. Rose says:

    The Indian’s already have enough trouble over aubergines (brinjal), which apparently contains the highest amount of nicotine except for tobacco and is also used as an important ancient medicine there.

    Aubergine wars reignite GM food debate – 2010

    A row over Indian aubergines has brought genetically modified food back into the spotlight.

    What’s causing trouble in India?

    “The humble aubergine. There will be no genetically modified brinjals (as they are known), or other food crops in India – for now, at least. Last month the environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, ruled that he would not allow GM aubergines – “Bt Brinjals” – to be grown or consumed in India. His announcement overruled the decision by India’s GM regulator last October that Bt Brinjal was safe. The GM debate has been closely followed in the Indian media. The aubergine is a major crop that has been grown in India for 4,000 years. India dedicates 500,000 hectares of land to its cultivation. It is also an integral part of the Indian diet and culture, particular among the poor.”

    Ramesh said Bt will destroy brinjal’s ayurvedic value, experts beg to differ

    “One of the claims Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh made to justify his freeze on Bt brinjal was that the Bt gene would “destroy the medicinal properties of brinjal” which is used in several “traditional” forms of medicine.

    This claim, too, is being contested by experts as Ramesh comes under increasing pressure from within his government — the Prime Minister has called a meeting after Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar warned against “ad hoc” decisions on GM food that could set the “clock back” and demoralise Indian scientists.

    “I have also been informed that Indian systems of medicine, including ayurveda, siddha, homeopathy and unani, use brinjal as a medicinal ingredient both in raw and cooked form for treatment of respiratory diseases and that the entire brinjal plant is used in such preparations,” said Ramesh in his written statement while announcing the freeze.

    “There is fear that Bt brinjal will destroy these medicinal properties due to loss of synergy, differences in the alkaloids and changes in other active principles.”

    The comments on both articles are very informative, especially over the thousands of farmers who have committed suicide after the failure previous GM cotton crops.

  17. Pingback: ISIS Survey Data Entry | Frank Davis

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