I suppose that one of the puzzles for me in recent years has been: Where did all these antismokers came from?
After all, 60 years ago there weren’t any, as far as I could see. Smoking was completely unremarkable.
The first antismoker I ever came across, in 1965, was the dismal Dr W, a man who seemed not only incapable of enjoying anything at all, but incapable of laughing or smiling as well. I guessed that in his childhood there was some traumatic event from which he had never recovered. And he absolutely detested smoking – particularly smoking by his teenage eldest son.
I thought (and still think) he was a bit of a nutter. But I now believe that he was a force to be reckoned with inside the BMA. The last time I ever saw him was speaking on TV on behalf of the BMA. And he was one of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of antismoking doctors who’d come to infest the BMA, the RCP, and the WHO, and who eventually took control of all of them.
I suppose that many of them were true believers in Doll and Hill’s 1950 claim that smoking caused lung cancer.
But I wonder whether theirs was also a visceral response to living in what was probably the smokiest half century in human history, thanks to the invention of the cigarettes that were readily adopted by soldiers on both sides in WW1 and WW2, and then by many women as well. And they smoked everywhere. They smoked at home. They smoked in pubs. They smoked in restaurants. They smoked in trains. They smoked in cinemas. It was probably impossible to get away from cigarette smoke. But the few antismokers found kindred spirits here and there. How wonderful it must have been to learn in 1950 that smoking caused lung cancer. How readily and gladly must they have accepted those findings. And from then on the numbers of antismokers gradually but steadily multiplied, and their influence grew. The first UK partial smoking bans in trains came in about 1970. And other bans soon followed. Tobacco advertising bans started around 1990 in the UK. And then of course the big one – the ban on smoking in all enclosed public spaces – in 2007. From a few isolated individual cranks they’d risen to hold the whip hand. Smoker were now on the run.
But how many people can remember the smoky world that existed 50 or 60 years ago? How many people have a visceral response to that experience still driving them? It must be fewer and fewer. Dr W died 15 years ago. And I imagine that many of his antismoking cohort have followed him. Anyone who has grown up in the increasingly smoke-free world of the past 20 or 30 years can’t share that experience. The driving motive force of the antismoking movement must be seeping out of it, to be replaced by greed and avarice.
And if smoking was a curse 60 or more years ago, antismoking has now become an equal and opposite curse. Tobacco Control has become a monster straddling the globe, driving smokers out of everywhere, shattering communities, bankrupting pubs, depressing economies. And now the increasingly corrupt and destructive global antismoking movement has created a few individuals here and there who are sick, not of smoking, but of antismoking. And they’re finding kindred spirits here and there. And they will be delighted when they learn that smoking doesn’t cause lung cancer. And their numbers will multiply, and their influence will grow. And then they’ll start repealing all the smoking bans, one by one.
The pendulum has swung one way. And now it’s starting to swing back. And the peak-to-opposite-peak swing period is about 70 years. Action brings reaction, and reaction in turn brings action.
In another 70 years the world will probably be as smoky as it was 70 years ago.