Great news (which you all know, of course) The Swiss decisively rejected an initiative that would have resulted in a UK-style total smoking ban throughout Switzerland. Only 34% of voters were in favour.
It’s perhaps simply a reflection of what happens when the people are given a democratic choice. The same thing happened in California when voters rejected Proposition 29 a few months back. Most people aren’t zealots. And so zealots usually have to get their way by deceit.
Like with the UK smoking ban. The Labour party manifesto, on which a General Election was fought, said that a Labour government would only ban smoking in pubs where food was sold, and not in other “wet” pubs. But when Labour won the subsequent election, they reneged on their manifesto promise, and brought in a total ban, in part from pressure from the Government Health Officer – the antismoking zealot Liam Donaldson -, and in part from a write-in campaign by ASH and other antismoking organisations to create the impression that there was a tide of public opinion in favour of a ban. In fact 70% of Britons wanted there to be a choice available.
One canton – Geneva – did vote narrowly in favour of a total ban. Christoph Suter, in the comments, pointed out that Geneva is also the headquarters of the WHO. I don’t know how many employees the WHO has in Geneva, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it runs into the thousands, and most of them will be living in the Canton of Geneva, and be expected to vote in favour of a total ban.
I remembered today that, 500 years ago, Geneva was where John Calvin introduced Calvinism. I don’t know much about Calvinism, but I have the idea that it is (or was) strongly puritanical. It set me on a new line of inquiry.
James I of England – author of the Counterblaste To Tobacco – was a Calvinist.
Calvinists showed up in New England too.
Historians of generations past and journalists and government school ma’ams today, tend to dismiss the seventeenth century American Puritans as somber cranks and kill-joys who, thankfully, evolved into practical and realistic Unitarian Yankees (“people who believe in one god, at most”). Dressed in black, the Puddleglum snoops peered in their neighbors’ windows to ensure compliance with the rigid and ridiculous ethical pruderies of the Calvinist theology imposed on them by their inquisitional, witchcraft-obsessed ministers. The obdurate cynic H.L. Mencken described Puritanism as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”
Calvinists were obsessed with witchcraft? And conducted witch hunts?
C Everett Koop, US Surgeon General and antismoking zealot, is a Presbyterian. Presbyterianism is an offshoot of Calvinism.
So was anti-tobacco campaigner Lucy Page Gaston, (1860–1924)
The Reverend George Trask, [1798-1875], “anti-tobacco apostle”, was raised by Calvinist parents. I haven’t managed to discover whether he continued to be a Calvinist.
“There is a very close connection between being a doctor and being a politician,” Brundtland observed the next day, speaking in the earnest, faintly academic style that betrays both her Harvard degree and her Calvinist roots. “The doctor first tries to prevent illness, then tries to treat it if it comes. It’s exactly the same as what you try to do as a politician, but with regard to society.”
I wonder whether it’s entirely accidental that Geneva is where the puritanical WHO has built its headquarters. I imagine that the Calvinist legacy has lingered on in Geneva down the centuries. It’s rather hard, after all, to imagine the WHO setting up shop in, say, Las Vegas. Perhaps one of my Swiss readers (I had over 50 hits from Switzerland yesterday) might enlighten me on how Calvinistic Geneva is these days.
One of the doctrines of Calvinism was that of Predestination. A few people – the Elect – were predestined to be saved, while the remainder would be damned. If there is a touch of Calvinism about antismoking zealots, it’s perhaps that they see themselves as a new Elect, and us depraved smokers as the new damned. It is perhaps with our cigarettes we prove that we do not belong among the Elect, but are predestined to an early grave.
Is the religion of antismoking a secular variant of Calvinism?
But then, antismoking zealot and NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg isn’t a Calvinist.
And Richard Doll (according to this very interesting biography by his colleague Richard Peto) was an atheist.
We tend to discount religion in our secular modern age. Perhaps we’d learn something about antismoking if we studied Calvinism a little. Churchmouse would probably be a fund of information.