H/T Harley for this letter from Scotland:
I NOTE with interest the letter (January 20) from Ash Scotland chief executive Sheila Duffy in response to my own (January 19). The anti-smoking lobby have long denied those who smoke the ability to socialise and implied that we must be some form of lower being. After all why would someone continue to smoke when shown the pictures on packets of cigarettes? We must be stupid … except that several of these pictures have nothing to do with smoking having happened by other means to people who happened to smoke.
Anti-smoking is a business, with large amounts of money to be made from encouraging the idea that stopping smoking is difficult. We smokers are to be looked at with a mixture of compassionate anger and hypocrisy over how weak-willed we are.
I once sat down on a public bench in Glasgow to rest and have a cigarette. This is something which happens to me quite often, given that I need 16 pills a day just to be able to walk around. Someone else wanted to sit on the bench – an anti-smoker who berated me and told me in no uncertain terms that I should move so they could sit there. These are the kind of people the anti-smoking lobby breed. Anti-smoking has given carte blanche for any person to tell another that they are a second-class human being and should go away.
And this has been backed up by our politicians who have turned it into law.
Last year the results of an extensive study into the so-called results of second-hand smoke was published in the United States. This found that there is no link whatsoever between second-hand smoke and the likelihood of cancer. The scientists who were engaged in this research were berated by the anti-smoking lobby and urged to recant on their research or they would make sure that their universities fired them.
Perhaps Ms Duffy would like to go along to the Scottish Parliament and view the work of my old friend and mentor John Bellany, who when I knew him in Winchester and London would often say that we needed to stand back and have a cigarette and view the canvas to figure out whether it could be improved, or not.
This is the sort of story that makes my blood boil. Someone sits down on a public bench to smoke a cigarette, and gets berated by an antismoking busybody.
The names Alex Flett and John Bellany rang no bells, but it looked like they might both be artists, so I did a bit of hunting online to find out more about them. And pretty soon I’d turned up a few pictures (e.g. right) by Alex Flett, and even the artist’s website and biography.
In this manner, a name in a newspaper was brought to life in a way only the internet can do.
I found out even more about the other artist, John Bellany, who died aged 71 two or three years ago. Here’s (left) his portrait of his father, and his Guardian obituary, and even his very sculptural gravestone.
So here are two Scottish artists, both of them smokers, and both with their own Wikipedia entries. And no longer just names in a newspaper, but flesh-and-blood people with histories and quotations and paintings.
I bet both of them did much more for the world than Sheila Duffy or that public bench bully ever did.
Of course in the comments there were the usual antismokers (who only ever seem to exist as commenters), one of whom wrote:
The smoking ban will in time be recognised as one of the major successful public health strategies, up there with supplies of clean drinking water and the inoculation of our kids against the communicable diseases that ravaged our ancestors.
If nothing else, there’s a recognition here that the Scottish smoking ban has yet to be recognised to be a public health “success”, despite these bans always being declared to be great successes within minutes of their imposition.
I think that smoking bans will one day indeed find recognition, but not as public health successes, but instead as among the most highly socially divisive pieces of legislation ever enacted, as Alex Flett’s letter testifies.
In other news, 112-year-old woman smokes 30 cigarettes a day.