Switzerland Snubs Tobacco Control

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.

Gro Harlem Brundtland (about whom I have written before), another antismoking zealot, who was instrumental in steering the WHO on an antismoking, healthist course, was also 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.

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27 Responses to Switzerland Snubs Tobacco Control

  1. harleyrider1978 says:

    I am which is me merely wants peace and harmony within the realm of my freedom.
    I ask not for a right which is already granted me by god,but to live that right as I see fit.
    Freedom is each mans right,the freedom to smoke,laugh and enjoy that which is ours already shall never be surrendered. I retain the right to fight for that right which is mine by gods hand.

    To hell with any son of a bytch that gets in our way to enjoy our rights as ”FREE MEN”

  2. nisakiman says:

    I noted that the Daily Telegraph (which I tend to read online with my morning coffee) appeared to have completely ignored this rejection of the ban in Switzerland, even though they reported such non-news as dogs being poisoned in Moscow and a toga party in Italy. I even put “Switzerland” in the search engine and got the DT’s “Swiss news – All the latest and breaking news from Switzerland”. Not a mention of what, in reality, is a big story.

    I haven’t checked the other UK dailies – have they done the same and downplayed this story? Is this a cover-up? Seems very strange that a story like this should go unreported.

    • Jay says:

      YesterdayBeeb’s R4 reported on the news that Switzerland was voting; today on the news, as yet, no mention of the result. I’m sure it would have been mentioned had the vote gone the other way.

      • jaxthefirst says:

        I’m not so sure about that, Jay, although I understand your reasoning. I’ve long believed that this Government made up their minds from the moment they took power that the smoking ban (even in the rest of the world) must become a non-issue. I think that in their heart of hearts, and despite all their brave-sounding rhetoric, they know that the ban has become increasingly unpopular as the years have passed, has shone an uncomfortable light on how intrusive Governments can be if they want to, and has been a major contributor to one of the worst recessions that the country has found itself in for decades. But they’re aware, too, that there’ll be considerable loss of face and howls of outrage from the health lobby if there are any moves to relax it. So they’re simply not touching it with a bargepole, and they’ve instructed the media to do the same.

        I’ve certainly noticed the almost complete absence of smoking-related news since the ban came in. Despite increasingly desperate claims from the anti camp, ranging from the on-line bullying accusations, the proposed smoking-in-cars-with-children ban, proposed outdoor bans, and increasingly tenuous – almost pleading – links to even those illnesses which have a proven track record of a positive association with smoking (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, MS, ulcerative colitis, ectopic pregnancy, gout, eczema), the media – previously enthusiastic reporters of anything and everything smoking-related (as long as it was bad news for smokers) – have them given scant, if any, coverage.

        Little snippets picked up via the internet of the cuts in funding made to the likes of ASH, the sacking of two prominent ministers who just, coincidentally, happened to also be rabid anti-smokers, the disbanding of the National No-smoking Day charity etc just add to my conviction that the Government is, quietly and without fanfare, distancing itself from all things anti-smoking. Just, indeed, as we all said they would as soon as the lobby groups’ usefulness as a “front” for getting the ban through was finished. As Leg Iron regularly says, “useful idiots” indeed!

        Rather irritatingly, however, this gagging of the press means that good news stories like these don’t get reported either – because that would just draw attention to the whole business all over again, i.e. just what they don’t want. Although the press in Scotland reported on the petition for a repeal of their ban, to my knowledge none of the MSM south of the border made any mention of it at all. So perhaps it isn’t surprising that the Swiss vote (or, indeed the California one) went virtually unheeded by the press here.

        Even the cringingly embarrassingly-named “Stoptober” campaign doesn’t seem to be as intrusive and in-yer-face as I thought it was going to be. So far I’ve only heard/seen about three adverts for it and (tee hee!) their big “stop sign” of a red circle also happens to have coincided with one of the big supermarket’s similar “red circle” TV campaign highlighting reductions on their products, which detracts from the impact a lot (Thinks: “Hmm. I wonder if the supermarket – whose adverts appeared first – will consider suing…?”) Maybe they’re going to up the ante in the run-up to October, but with only a week to go, they’re leaving it to the last minute a bit …

  3. waltc says:

    Too lazy to google it, but didn’t the Calvinists invent the concept of The Elect? Certainly, all TCers consider themselves Elect and so, by proxy, do their hordes of hangers-on. Being too delicate to abide ETS is the characterizing trait.

    Don’t be so quick to bet on any reigning sanity in las Vegas. Nevada, including Las Vegas, has a ban. Recently, they just slightly relaxed it but I believe (too lazy to google it) that it was actually voted in by the public, not just the legislature. And certainly in too many places in America, the issue’s been on the ballot and won by a not-insignificant margin. You can’t trust The Public who’ve been brainwashed for two decades and who consider the very fact of their not being smokers to be their claim (often their only claim) to superiority and their passport into gentility if not into Calvinist heaven.

    What surprises me is that the French cantons went now, and in the past, for the ban. What in the hell became of the French? Paris used to be my favorite city; France, my favorite country. Geneva’s the only place I’ve been to in Switzerland but found it, with the exception of the small old quarter, to be unexpectedly sterile but I’d blamed that on the Swiss not on the French.

  4. smokervoter says:

    A little birdie told me that the Swiss were going to vote this ban down. Just a hunch based on my perception of the Swiss as Don’t Tread on Me folks. Never been there nor anywhere even near there. I’ve never seen the eastern US, so I’m no euro expert, but I had a feeling and I’m glad it worked out.

    All through the run up to Prop 29 vote day the news outlets, both online and analog, gave everyone the impression that 67% of all Californians had originally favored the tax. That was totally false, it was 67% of Democrats but the blogs and the TV and radio kept repeating this figure to give the impression that resistance was futile.

    On election day I was a bit nervous at first but again a little birdie told me that we were going to win, just like yesterday in Switzerland.

    Defeating these bastards is such a pleasure. I look forward to their ultimate total destruction.

  5. john problem says:

    Look. Over here we’d better stay with the ban. Any attempt to change it will no doubt result in air being taxed. George, in his desperate attempt to fix the economy and to save his non-economical face, will tax anything that moves.

    • beobrigitte says:

      Look. Over here we’d better stay with the ban. Any attempt to change it will no doubt result in air being taxed.

      Look. Over here we should take a leaf out the Swiss book.

      Frank, it does not come as a surprise that the cantons bordering Bavaria showed the highest rejection rate. People living near these borders frequent now the Swiss side pubs, so the damage of this ban is obvious.

      • Reinhold says:

        The cantons bordering Bavaria, Brigitte? ;-)

        • beobrigitte says:

          Lol – I didn’t check too closely – for once!!!! The Bavarians living near non-smoking ban boarders tell me they go there for a drink………….

          On revisions; I am glad to see the Swiss almost overall were informed!!!!

        • Reinhold says:

          The Bavarians living near non-smoking ban boarders tell me they go there for a drink………….

          Surely they mean Austria or Czechia. :-)

        • beobrigitte says:

          They do – much to the annoyance of an Austrian carpenter wielding his pepperspray.


          So we don’t need shared experience (across boarder influx customer increase reports) of pub owners anymore. News of the total smoking ban damage travels fast…………..

          Glad the Swiss cottoned on BEFORE they could face what the e.g England, Scotland et al and – in Germany – Bavaria is having to endure.

  6. Frank Davis says:

    There’s a nice interactive map of Switzerland showing the results from all the cantons. Highest rejection rate was Appenzell Innerrhoden with 76% no.

    I’ve always supposed that Switzerland is about one third German speaking (in the north), and one third French-speaking, in the west, and one third Italian-speaking, in the south. Not sure about the Italian bit. It seems that the strongest rejection comes from the German-speaking north.

    • harleyrider1978 says:

      Frank where the hell do we get this natural born fight back spirit from. Im scotch/Irish/Cherokee/english……..

    • Rick S says:

      The German speaking part is more like two thirds of the country, with the French part taking up most of the rest of it and just Tessin (Ticino) and a few odd parts of Graubuenden being Italian speaking. Interestingly, out of all the Swiss it was the German speakers who were most ferociously opposed to the Nazis during World War II. Perhaps they simply had a better understanding of what they were about.

    • smokervoter says:

      Frank, I would be interested seeing a map showing how the MP’s in the UK voted on the smoking ban both in 2006 when, if I understand correctly, most of the pre-Cameron Tories voted Nay and in 2007 when it ultimately became law.

      • Frank Davis says:

        Yes. In 2006, most Tory MPs (about two thirds) voted against the ban. I’ve not seen a map of the kind you’re suggesting, but it wouldn’t be too difficult. It would probably show that the MPs in major cities (Labour strongholds) voted for the ban, and country Tory MPs voted against it (a bit like California). That said, my Devon Tory MP voted for it.

  7. Tony says:

    Just being pedantic here, but looking at that map, I think the highest rejection rate was in ‘Uri’ at 77.8%.

  8. beobrigitte says:

    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.

    Only 34% of the voters believe this Lungenliga peddled nonsense! Time to party with the Swiss!!!

  9. churchmouse says:

    Many thanks, Frank, for the kind mention!

    Calvin and the Geneva City Council (several myths exploded here):

    Tobacco and Holy Communion (a number of Calvinist ministers smoked pipes — a reminder of the Presbyterian minister’s poem, the ode to tobacco, at the bottom of the post):

    Tobacco and 20th c. Christian Greats (see Presbyterian John G Machen’s quote on tobacco and social harmony):

    One Calvinist clergyman’s story I haven’t covered yet is that of the Englishman — and Confessional (or, Particular) Baptist — Charles Haddon Spurgeon, an avid cigar smoker. He was a very holy evangelist who founded the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, which still exists today.

    The problem isn’t Calvinism as such — you’re likely to find a number of pipe and cigar smokers amongst them today, clergy included, it is pietistic Calvinism — and pietistic Lutheranism and quaint stuff such as Quakerism, Methodism and so on which rely on displays of outer holiness. This then turns into the holier-than-thou self-righteousness we see on display in a secular realm.

    I would imagine that Brundtland was raised in a pietistic home which says more about her attitude towards tobacco than Calvinism would. Pietism was in vogue with Northern Europeans from the 16th or 17th century and still is today in the Christian community as well as among many secularists. Pietism even spread to Roman Catholicism; the late John Paul II was the most famous and recent example. When I was growing up, many priests smoked cigars.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Thanks for that. I’ll take a look at the links you provided.

      • churchmouse says:

        I have spent a considerable amount of time :) trying to find another source for Brundtland being a Calvinist. Haven’t found a thing yet. However, there is little about her childhood on the Web. Part of me wonders if the journo used that term in a general way; it also seems strange that, for such a longstanding public figure, up until her university degree, we know very little about her.

  10. churchmouse says:

    Richard Doll — see Frank’s link to Peto’s bio — was not only an atheist (as Frank notes) but was a Communist for many years as well (see p. 5 of the PDF).

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