From Taking Liberties:
We’ve said many times and I’ll say it again, smokers are voters too.
The problem is, relatively few people vote for a candidate on the basis of a single issue, especially in a general election. That’s why single issue candidates (including former directors of Forest!) invariably lose their deposits.
Anti-smoking policies may annoy and even anger millions of people but they don’t affect the outcome of elections. That appears to be the view of strategists like Lynton Crosby and it’s hard to disagree with their analysis.
There are several reasons for this. One, smokers are a minority of the population. Two, even smokers (the majority of them anyway) have other priorities – the economy, the NHS, immigration, all the usual issues.
I’m sure he’s right about that last point. But I’d explain it slightly differently.
I think that how much smoking bans matter to smokers is largely determined by how adversely smokers are affected by them.
I’ve always imagined, for example, that if you were a wealthy smoker who mostly entertained and smoked at home, a smoking ban would probably have very little impact on you. And in fact, you might even find your social life busier than before, as smokers gravitate to your welcoming home.
Equally, if you weren’t rich, but most of your friends were smokers, and you were all “exiled to the outdoors” together, there’s probably be a considerable camaraderie, a bit like wartime in the trenches: “All in it together.” And they could always smoke round at each others’ homes.
But in my own case, when I’d been primarily using pubs and restaurants as social hubs, being “exiled to the outdoors” amounted to being more or less expelled from society. Particularly since I had relatively few smoking friends remaining (as I was describing yesterday) among a long term circle of friends who’d gradually been becoming antismokers.
I see smoking bans as natural disasters a bit like Swiss snow slides. When they hit the sleeping hamlet in the mountains, they miss lots of buildings completely, damage quite a few others, and bury other houses completely (along with their occupants). For many people (in fact most people), the avalanche has little or no effect, and their lives go on as normal. For others, it’s a bit of a disaster, which shakes them up badly, but from which they recover sooner or later. But for others, it’s pretty much the end of their lives, and nothing else matters to them. And which category anyone falls into is almost entirely a matter of luck.
How angry smokers get depends on how adversely they’re affected. The kind of public smoking bans that are common more or less everywhere in the world don’t affect many smokers very adversely (except perhaps in places like Russia, where being “exiled to the outdoors” may be a death sentence). But if indoor smoking bans are extended to the outdoors (as is happening more and more), then a lot more smokers will be very adversely affected. And if home smoking bans are introduced, so you can’t even smoke in your own home, more or less all smokers will be very adversely affected, including the rich ones. And they’d all be up in arms.
For example, when the Islamic State in Iraq started employing their usual brutal methods against smokers, it’s most likely that all Iraqi smokers felt equally threatened, and equally enraged. And since in those countries smokers are a far higher proportion of the population than in the UK (50% or more), the Islamic State probably found that it had thoroughly alienated a substantial proportion of the population, and so backtracked.
So the more antismokers intensify their war on smokers – and They Never Stop – the more that smokers will start seeing smoking as a Single Issue which matters more than anything else.