H/T Tony for Burning Desire: The Seduction of Smoking. Episode 1 on BBC iplayer. It starts with a voice-over:
“Cigarettes are the most lethal consumer product on the planet. Every year more than five million customers of the tobacco industry die.”
At which point a bearded guy in a snappy suit adds:
“These are people who know that their success can be measured in millions of deaths. The more successful they are, the more people will die.”
And this pretty much sums up the thrust of the whole hour-long programme. It’s directed against The Industry and its battle against one form of restriction after another, the latest being Plain Packaging, which the UK government may promise to introduce next week.
Various people then get interviewed, ranging from teenagers to over-sixties. The latter all, without exception, regret ever having taken up smoking. Various familiar faces, such as Professor Linda Bauld and Professor John Britton, appear throughout the programme.
The voice-over continues, pointing out that while one fifth of the UK population smokes, and the proportion is slowly falling, smoking among 20 – 34 year-olds has actually increased in recent years:
“Everyone knows that smoking kills, so why are young people still taking it up?”
“Smokers can’t fail to be aware of the health risks. They scream out from every packet. They’re like pariahs with fewer and fewer places where they can light up.”
Nevertheless, tobacco companies are making larger and larger profits. Pension funds are “addicted” to tobacco stocks. After WW2, three out of four adult males were smokers.
“Tobacco taxes bring in nearly twice the direct cost to the NHS of treating smoking-related diseases.”
Even BAT is wheeled in to support antismoking dogma:
Interviewer: “Do you believe that smoking is harmful to health?”
BAT executive: “Absolutely”
And a Dr David O’Reilly of BAT dutifully produces the standard list of all the carcinogens in tobacco smoke (“benzapyrene, lead, etc, etc”), and repeats how half of all smokers die prematurely. BAT, however, sees itself in the forefront of Tobacco Harm Reduction, and so reshaping the future of the tobacco business.
But where the tobacco industry dissents over plain packaging, its credibility is dismissed:
“I don’t think we can just take their assertions at face value. This is an industry that made assertions for decade after decade that there was no health risk to smoking when they knew that there was.”
At the end of the programme, one of the long-term smokers, who can’t walk 100 yards without getting breathless, is softly asked:
“At 62, what does the future hold?”
I had to laugh. At age 66, I can easily walk 100 yards without running out of breath. And I’m still smoking, unlike the unfortunate 62-year-old.
The programme was really a showcase for the Tobacco Control mentality. There were essentially no dissenting voices. Everyone was agreed that smoking caused lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema, and countless other diseases. This was an indisputable fact. And Tobacco Control was locked in a Manichaean struggle with a satanic Tobacco Industry which was the embodiment of Evil. And plain packaging was the latest battlefield on which this epic war was being fought. And the more that the Industry was demonised, the more benign Tobacco Control implicitly appeared.
But I’m not much interested in the credibility of the Tobacco Industry. I’m more interested in the credibility of Tobacco Control. Because I no longer believe a single word they say.
Because while tobacco hasn’t done me any harm, Tobacco Control has done me a colossal amount of damage. They’ve completely shattered my social life. They’ve turned me into a social pariah. They’ve gouged me with punitive taxes. And now they want to scream insults at me from my tobacco packs:
Big Tobacco didn’t do that to me. Tobacco Control did that to me.
And it’s not as if they don’t know it:
“Smokers in Australia are now an ostracised minority.”
And if they are, it’s not because of Big Tobacco, but because of Tobacco Control, and the likes of Linda Bauld and John Britton and Deborah Arnott. Those are the people who have created an ostracised minority. And that’s a terrible, terrible, terrible thing to have knowingly done to countless millions of people.
It isn’t Big Tobacco that needs to be closed down. It’s Tobacco Control that needs to be closed down. Tobacco Control must be destroyed.