Losing The Moral High Ground

One thing that’s always puzzled me about Tobacco Control is this: How did they manage to completely persuade so many governments, all around the world, to fully support them in their War on Tobacco?

And today I thought that it was probably in very large part because they’d captured the moral high ground. They had become an invincible moral force.

It must have been very difficult for governments to resist the overwhelming rightness of the antismoking cause. Smoking caused millions of deaths, and secondhand smoke caused millions more. It was clearly the right thing to do to launch a global war on smoking, and eradicate what amount to a five century long epidemic. It was just like taking on malaria or polio or leprosy. And when the war was won, everyone would be so much healthier. And furthermore, most smokers – 70% of them at least – actually wanted to give up smoking. They just needed a little government assistance to conquer their terrible addiction.

And as scientist after scientist testified before them on the terrible dangers of smoking revealed by countless epidemiological studies, and senior doctors all around the world called for complete smoking bans, it must have been next to impossible for MPs and congressmen and ministers to question these authoritative assertions without seeming to be, well,… in the pay of Big Tobacco.

And furthermore, there was no downside. None at all. Once the smoke-filled bars had been emptied of smoke, they’d fill up with a new clientele of grateful non-smokers. There would be no loss of trade. In fact, business would never be better. And everybody would be much healthier, with a new spring in their step, and a smile on their face.

The only losers would be the evil tobacco companies, that peddled their toxic product to their addict clients.

Who could say no to that? What politician would have had the nerve to raise objections to a social programme that was so transparently noble and beneficial?

And hardly any did. In the UK, the strength of the Commons vote for the UK smoking ban indicated that, perhaps for the only time in their careers, many MPs felt they were doing something that was unambiguously good and right, no question about it. And indeed many MPs said more or less exactly that. It was as if they had voted for the emancipation of slaves.

Tobacco Control has been very successful in capturing and holding the moral high ground. Indeed, they have more or less presented themselves as so many saints who have come marching into the world to defeat the satanic forces of Big Tobacco. And I believe that most of the people working in Tobacco Control believe that they are doing something that is wonderfully good and noble. They wouldn’t do it otherwise, would they? Who would work diligently, year after year, for a cause that they thought was doing harm?

The coming years, I believe, will see the gradual disintegration of the prevailing certainty in the unambiguous goodness and rightness of Tobacco Control’s war on tobacco.

It was too good to be true anyway. Nothing is ever unambiguously good. There are down sides to every course of action. The sheer one-sidedness of Tobacco Control’s claims – that there were no costs, but only benefits – ought to have raised a few eyebrows.

I suspect that that over the coming years, the hidden costs of the war on tobacco are going to emerge. It is likely to be found that smoking bans have created considerable social division. And that they have estranged and demonised a quarter of the population, if not more. And that, far from boosting the hospitality industry, smoking bans have depressed all industries wherever they have been introduced. And that their much-vaunted health benefits have been negligible or non-existent. And that many of the claims made by Tobacco Control have been either exaggerations or outright lies. And so on.

Little by little, Tobacco Control’s halo will start to lose its shine, and gradually fall away.

And, even worse, as the halo falls away, a fine pair of horns will be revealed.

And far from being seen as unambiguously good, it will begin to seem unambiguously evil.

And, as the process unfolds, the politicians who once enthusiastically voted for smoking bans will start to back away from them. What once seemed a black-and-white issue will start to get as muddy and unclear as everything else always is. Perhaps some of the Tobacco Controllers will even admit that there were, after all, one or two things that they didn’t quite get right, one or two claims that were perhaps slightly exaggerated. And one or two of the people who work in Tobacco Control may begin to entertain one or two faint doubts about the undeniable virtue of their cause.

It’ll be a long slow slide from being seen as unambiguously good to being seen as unambiguously evil. They’re going to lose the moral high ground. It’ll be a kind of fall.

But then, that’s because I’ve never seen Tobacco Control as in the least bit good or noble. In my eyes, they’ve always seemed to be utter bastards, every single one of them.


About Frank Davis

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12 Responses to Losing The Moral High Ground

  1. harleyrider1978 says:

    Frank they didnt get the moral high ground they simply got control of the PURSE STRINGS!

    The who is tied at the hip with the world bank and they used this leverage to black male these countries to sign onto the FCTC treaty or lose world bank amd IMF LOANS. Its why greece ,spain,Italy,Bulgaria,lebanon have all passed bans that are not wanted by the masses and why the Boston school of public health was brought into Athens 2 years ago to make sure Greecec govmnt was complying with the smokefree mandate before they got the bailouts!

    • Frank Davis says:

      Well, obviously they got hold of the keys to the till, but it doesn’t explain why so many MPs in Britain felt that voting for the smoking ban was the best thing they’d ever done in their whole lives.

      • harleyrider1978 says:

        The labour party has the same political views as the ones pushing the bans like the liberals in America………………….besides Rino Republicans. To them its not about money or health but for furthering the social agenda they are after. For the small countries its a matter of keeping a slice of the pie as in loans……..In the end though they will all be back to their own national currencies without any interference from thew IMF or WORLD BANK…………The market will determine its true value instead of inflated valuations because they got a rich uncle pumping them with cash….But even the imf and world banks money will end after all this printing nad massive pumping the world over,it cant continue forever and they know it.

  2. smokervoter says:

    I, too, saw them as utter bastards right out of the chute. But then I’ve always had very keen arsehole* radar. The funny thing is that an older and wiser friend of mine claims I don’t. He can cite example after example of people who I, at first meet, claimed were A-OK and then turned out to be gutter snipes.

    Actually I think most people disliked antismokers when they first started their annoying routines. The default cultural reaction to busybodies and do-goods was at one time decidedly negative. Just watch any old television show or movie made before the Clintons moved into the White House (and Hillary banned smoking) and you’ll see nothing but derision for meddling snotnoses.

    I’m sure there were asthmatics who quietly suffered in silence (and I truly feel bad for them) but for the first 25 years of my bar-hopping existence, smoking at the Heart of Saturday Night wasn’t an issue.

    BTW I get a kick out of your subterranean sense of humour.

    And everybody would be much healthier, with a new spring in their step, and a smile on their face.

    Perfect, absolutely perfect.

    *in deference to your mainly British audience. I say asshole and apparently so does the WordPress spellchecker – it was red-lined.

  3. margo says:

    Yes, I’d say asshole is the right spelling. I think we just pronounce it arse to distinguish from the donkey sort, and because it’s good to drawl it out in a supercilious way.

  4. margo says:

    You’re right – they’ve always had the moral high ground. Religious overtones – the body as a ‘temple’ etc, the worship of the great god Health. It all came together for them (along with the purse strings, as harleyrider points out): their moment came, to banish forever the devil’s weed. (And, next, the demon drink.) But, their methods – the lies and sin taxes – give them away. They’re like those dodgy churches that spring up, hook people and then steal their money.All it takes is enough people to smell a rat, and they get closed down and forced out of business.

  5. “the right thing to do” ever since Blair started using this as a debating tool I’ve distrusted it. As in “whenever I hear the phrase “the right thing to do” I reach for my gun.

  6. Steve Kelly says:

    “And I believe that most of the people working in Tobacco Control believe that they are doing something that is wonderfully good and noble. They wouldn’t do it otherwise, would they? Who would work diligently, year after year, for a cause that they thought was doing harm?”

    Frank, you have described the perfect self-righteousness of Antis and the old Nazis, to a tee.

  7. prog says:

    They might claim that 70% of smokers want to quit but only 26% bothered to try in 2009. Exactly the same (weighted) figure for 1999….well before the antis really started to show their claws. And it’s official.


    Page 60. Page 61 makes interesting reading as well…money well spent they’d claim.

    I’m no mathematician but things just don’t add up, what with all those 100,000s ‘successfully quitting’ every year and smoking rates hardly falling these past 5 years.

    How the fuck are they getting away with all their bullshit? This is ‘Emperor’s new clothes’ fairy tale territory.

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