One good thing about hot wars – wars fought with bombs and bullets – is that they generally don’t last very long, because one side or the other usually gets killed off in large numbers. Which shouldn’t be too surprising, since weapons technologies are are just technologies that help get the fighting over and done with quicker.
Unfortunately, the current global War on Smokers – which kicked off in Britain on 1 July 2007, and on different dates elsewhere (much like WW1 and WW2) – isn’t a hot war. And that means that it’s likely to last much longer than they did. In Britain the war has been running for coming up on six years, and looks set to easily last another six years. In some places in California, it’s been going on for eighteen years. Today I wondered if it might last for fifty years, or even a century.
And it’s a war that has its roots back in those wars. Because the Nazi eugenicists weren’t completely defeated back then: only the German Nazis were comprehensively defeated, while the American and British Nazis survived unscathed. And they have gradually recovered their strength in the intervening decades. The War on Smokers is an eugenic programme of social cleansing that rivals any Hitlerian project, and it aims to create an ideal “smoke-free” and disease-free world (disease-free, because antismokers believe that all diseases are either caused by smoking or are ‘smoking-related’).
The war isn’t being fought with machine guns and artillery, but instead with laws and rules and regulations and taxes that are intended to marginalise and exclude and ‘denormalise’ smokers in countless millions across the entire world. The new Nazis have seized all the high ground – the medical profession, the media, the governments – and they have enlisted the aid of captains of industry, and have been bombarding smokers with taxes and laws and propaganda ever since.
The smokers were supposed to come out with their hands up, and surrender before this new blitzkrieg onslaught. But they never did. In fact the response of smokers has been to dig in, stay home, carry on smoking, and stop spending. So it’s an economic war that’s being fought. On the one side the economic weapons are levies and laws and lies, while on the other side the economic weapon is the economic ‘demand shock’ as smokers quit, not smoking, but going to pubs, cafes, restaurants, and more or less everywhere else as well. There’s a strong case to be made that the current global recession is being driven as much by the Global War on Smokers as anything else.
And much like in the last war, the New Nazis have made very rapid headway at the outset, largely by catching unwary smokers by surprise. In Britain they managed to get smoking banned almost everywhere except in smokers’ own homes and in most outdoor areas. But since then, much like in WW2, progress has slowed. Antismokers have since then managed to get tobacco displays banned in shops, and look set to get tobacco sold in ‘plain’ packages (i.e. covered with obscene antismoking images). But these new gains lack the depth of earlier victories.
In Britain, the result is stalemate. The antismoking Nazis aren’t winning. But neither are the smokers winning either. The result is a stand-off in which the smokers stay home, and carry on smoking, while the entire British economy (along with all the other smoker-banning economies) slides into recession – a recession that can never possibly end, however many stimuli are applied to the economy, while 25% of the population continues to be excluded from the economy.
And so the war looks set to drag on into the indefinite future. But can it do that?
British antismoking Nazis could, of course, secure even more draconian antismoking measures from their compliant puppets in Parliament. They might, for example, get smoking banned everywhere outdoors. But if they did that, then even those smokers (like myself), who still go to pubs in summer to sit outside in their gardens, will stop doing even that. The smoker spending freeze will deepen, and the economy will slump even deeper into recession.
And yet if the antismokers fail to make progress in their War on Smokers, hard questions will start being asked about the merit of continuing to fund it, particularly in a time of recession and dwindling tax revenues. The less likely it appears that the promised smoke-free sunlit uplands – up whose verdant slopes athletic workers would sprint to work at the crack of dawn each day – will ever be reached, the more likely that the whole nonsensical project will be abandoned. Because all that smokers need to do is wait, hunkered down in their foxholes with tax-free, smuggled tobacco
The onus is on antismokers to come up with some bold and innovative campaign to revitalise their flagging offensive. But the antismoking war machine doesn’t innovate. It has a tried and tested armoury, and it seldom departs from the antismoking rulebook. One example of this has been their response to the appearance of e-cigs: they want them banned too. Antismokers may be highly organised and well paid, but they suffer from all the defects of large bureaucratic organisations: their thinking and planning has become rigid and dogmatic. Disorganised smokers suffer from no such restrictions, and are able to innovate freely. Furthermore, Britain’s smokers don’t need to be told by the General Secretary of the National Union of Smokers (if there was one) to stay home and stop spending – because that’s what they’re doing anyway.
There are no ranks or numbers in the smokers’ army. There are no generals or captains, nor any command chain, nor even any commands. Quite often there aren’t any names either. We are all unknown soldiers in the smokers’ legion, and all we share is the date on which our war started. It’s up to each of us to resist in our own small way, using our own initiative and our own imagination.
And the longer we hold out, the more likely we are to win. If it had been a hot war, we would have won years ago, after most of the antismokers had been shot dead (there were never that many of them, after all). Instead it’s going to be a long, slow war. So we’re going to have to wait, and shoot them all afterwards.