Writing about the US political scene last night, I started out by saying that the UK smoking ban had changed my outlook on life in all sorts of ways, and moved me from left of centre to right of centre. I’d like to try to explain why that smoking ban mattered so much.
The smoking ban, as ASH’s Deborah Arnott accurately predicted, “exiled smokers to the outdoors.” It would probably be just as true to say that they were expelled from society. Smokers ceased to be welcome anywhere at all. They became marginalised.
The result is that I for one no longer feel that I’m no longer part of the British culture in which I grew up, and take almost no part whatsoever in it. It’s not just that I only ever go to pubs in order to sit outside. It’s also that I don’t go to art galleries, museums, cinemas, or theatres. I never attend any public meetings of any kind. I never go visiting places further than about 25 miles away. I never stay in hotels. I don’t watch television or listen to the radio. I no longer travel by train or bus or plane. Why should I, when I’m no longer welcome in any of them?
I used to have a wide circle of friends. They’re all gone now. The smoking ban immediately took away the principal venues – bars and cafes – where we used to meet. Furthermore, many of my friends implemented their own home smoking bans, so I soon wasn’t welcome there either. There was no longer anywhere to meet. Friendships of 30 or 40 years duration began to die one by one.
And also, while I used to be an ‘inclusive sort’ of guy, welcoming immigrants and persecuted minorities (like homosexuals), I found myself changing my mind about that. Why should I want all these other people included in society, when I myself had been so thoroughly excluded?
I no longer give to charities, since I’ve found out that many of them (e.g. ASH, CRUK, BHF) are active in the persecution of smokers.
I also no longer have a doctor. Fortunately for the last 10 years or so I’ve never needed one. Now I think: Why should I want to go and see people in the profession that has been leading the witch hunt against people like me? I no longer trust them. The distrust has extended to science in general.
Once I used to be a bit ‘progressive’, and could imagine a bright future. Now I think that the past was a better place, and that Britain was much better before 1 July 2007 than it has been since. I’ve become a bit of a conservative, and much keener to preserve institutions that we have (the monarchy, Christianity, democracy) in the face of what now seems like mindless vandalism.
I now judge people and institutions solely by whether they’re antismoking or not. I became anti-EU when the EU parliament voted for a European smoking ban. If I vote for UKIP it’s because Nigel Farage is a smoker. If I don’t like Hillary Clinton, it’s because she’s an antismoker. The moment I discover that anyone is virulently antismoking, they’re dead. I don’t want to know such people. I wouldn’t even want to be in the same room as them.
I spend most of my time at home. I don’t need a job, and I don’t want one, because I wouldn’t be welcome there either. My principal contact with the world is almost exclusively through the internet, because they haven’t managed to ban smoking on that yet, and so I’ve not yet been made unwelcome there.
All in all, the UK smoking ban (and other smoking bans elsewhere in the world) have had a shattering impact on my life (while at the same time having no effect whatsoever on my smoking habits: I smoke just as much as I ever did). I am profoundly no longer part of the society around me. And it’s all because of the smoking ban.
If there’s any difference between me and the other 10 million smokers in the UK, it’s probably that I completely reject all the pseudoscience that’s been used to demonise smoking. I don’t think there’s any health justifications whatsoever for smoking bans. I don’t even think smoking is unhealthy. In fact, I think that smoking is good for you. But most smokers believe what they’re told by their persecutors about smoking, and meekly assent to their shabby treatment, and suffer in silence. I guess I’m just someone who doesn’t unquestioningly accept whatever ‘experts’ tell me. Most people don’t seem to be able to do that. And also most smokers like to pretend that they’re still respectable members of society, when they’re not. They’re actually just as unwelcome as I am. I just don’t pretend to myself (or anyone else) that I’m welcome, when I know I’m not.
Being a smoker in modern Britain is like being a Jew in 1930s’ Nazi Germany. The exterminations only started in the 1940s. This also was a ‘public health’ measure.
And I think that this rejection and exclusion of fully 20% of the population (in the UK alone. It’s much more than that elsewhere) is a crime. It’s a crime against humanity. And I hope that the people responsible for it are one day brought to justice.
Smoking bans may not be hot political issues right now. They never get much in the way of media coverage. But given the colossal damage they do, I think that sooner or later they’re going to get the attention they deserve. But for that to happen, smokers are going to have to stop pretending that they haven’t been expelled from society. And the media and the politicians are going to have to stop pretending that smoking bans are a great success, when they actually cause colossal political and social and economic damage. People can’t go on lying to themselves and lying to each other for ever.