Following on from my last post, I’d like to chew things over a bit more.
In the comments, Michael McFadden wrote:
Now, IN ORDER to win them over, they have to be willing to listen to and consider the eminently reasonable, self-evident, easy-to-prove,-see,-and-understand arguments we make about the basic harmlessness of secondary smoke exposures in ordinary public situations. If we start out our argument by saying “Smoking is harmless and there’s no solid evidence it causes cancer.” we’re going to instantly lose 80% or so of our potential listenership — people will simply write us off as crazies and figure that any other arguments we make must crazy and not worth the time to listen to. It’s also a MUCH more difficult point to argue scientifically than the whole secondary smoke argument, AND it’s basically an irrelevant argument when it comes to smoking bans. Primary smoking could be as pure as mother’s milk or as deadly as Saddam Hussein’s farts — as far as bans go, the deadliness of primary smoking is irrelevant: the bans are based on the threat to OTHERS.
And Walt wrote:
Our immediate goal involves overturning bans and preventing new ones. The rationale for those bans is secondhand smoke. Firsthand smoke and what it does or doesn’t do to the firsthand smoker is irrelevant to the argument and irrelevant to the goal. It’s a different subject. Don’t bring it up at all. If “They” bring it up, say it’s a different subject (which is absolutely true) and return to the one at hand.
They’re both saying much the same here, which is that arguments about firsthand smoke are irrelevant to arguments about secondhand smoke.
That’s not how I see it. I think the secondhand smoke scare is built on top of the firsthand smoke scare. And that if some people have been all too ready to believe the secondhand stuff, it’s because they’d already bought the firsthand stuff, and because secondhand is simply an extension of firsthand: not only is the smoke killing the smokers, but it’s also killing everyone around them.
So I really don’t see how the two can be separated. The antismokers have a consistent position: tobacco smoke is toxic both for smokers and for the people around them. Are you really going to argue the inconsistent line that tobacco smoke is toxic for smokers, but harmless for the people around them? Are you really going to say, as you pull on a Marlboro, “Sure, the smoke is killing me, but it ain’t killing you, sitting just three feet away from me”?
The way I see it, the only consistent oppositional position is to argue that tobacco smoke is toxic neither for smokers nor the people around them. It’s the only position that doesn’t entail an internal contradiction.
And in fact, I think that if smokers (like Peter Oborne discussed yesterday) carry on smoking, it’s because, deep in their hearts, they don’t actually believe that smoking is killing them at all. And, by extension, they don’t actually believe it’s killing anyone else either. After all, who would consciously and knowingly poison themselves and the people around them?
It’s certainly my view. When I light up one of my roll-ups, I don’t think to myself (as someone quoted in the comments) “another nail in the coffin.” Because I don’t share the antismoking mindset. I don’t believe what they believe. I don’t automatically share the beliefs of the people around me. Maybe that’s because I’m a bit independently-minded. Or maybe it was because I lived for a while under the same roof as the ferociously antismoking Dr W.
And also I don’t mind if people think I’m crazy. Some of my readers (maybe all of them!) think I’m a bit crazy to try to show that the Chelyabinsk meteor last year was a companion of the asteroid DA14 which swung by the Earth on the same day. And maybe there are a few people who think that Idle Theory – an idea I’ve been turning over for about 40 years – is a bit crazy too. But if you’re going to think differently about anything, there are always going to be people who’ll think you’re crazy. If you’re bothered about people thinking you’re crazy, then always make sure to be believe exactly what everybody else believes, all the time.
Furthermore, if anyone ever has their minds changed, it can only be through encountering ‘crazy’ people who think differently, and who make them re-evaluate things. Because people who agree with you about everything are never going to change your mind about anything, and you’ll never change theirs.
And also, I don’t mind fighting uphill battles. Whenever I play chess, I always want to play black, because it’s always an uphill battle to win a game where white has the initiative from the outset, and very often holds onto the initiative for the entire game. One thing that I actually like about the circumstance in which us smokers find ourselves is that it looks like a hopeless lost cause. Maybe that comes from seeing too many Hollywood movies (like High Noon) where one man faces an armed gang alone, or (Shawshank Redemption) one man breaks out of a high security prison.
The way I see it, it’s High Noon for smokers. Everything was going along just fine, but now Frank Miller has arrived on the noon train, and everybody else has packed up and left town, because they think you’re crazy to take on the Frank Miller gang (Tobacco Control), and stupid to hang onto stupid principles of integrity and honesty.
And also I think this is a real battle we’re in. Smokers versus antismokers is an it’s-them-or-us battle. There’s no way whatsoever to negotiate a truce, because antismokers never compromise about anything at all. So I’m not interested in finding any ‘middle ground’, because there isn’t any middle ground. All I want to do is defeat them. And I’m always wondering how that can be done.
And I really can’t see how we’re going to change any minds if we start out by agreeing with the antismokers about more or less everything. If anything, I think we should disagree with them about more or less everything.
I was going to offer a few new arguments as to why contesting the firsthand smoke stuff must be done. I even had some images to illustrate them. But I’ve ended up writing something a bit different. The new arguments will have to wait until tomorrow.