Fifty years ago, it was perfectly normal and natural for my father to come home after work, pour himself a bottle of beer, light a cigarette, and sit in an armchair in the living room reading a newspaper.
And, as far as I’m concerned, what was normal back then is still normal today. And, what’s more, it always will be.
No amount of “de-normalisation” of smoking is ever going to change that. My normal can’t be de-normalised. My norms are fixed.
All that has happened with smoking bans is that smoking indoors has been made illegal. People are being forced to not smoke, on pain of being heavily fined. But making something illegal isn’t the same as making it abnormal. Perfectly normal things can be made illegal.
Tobacco Control seems to believe that all they have to do is create and maintain the semblance of normality for it to become the new normality. But creating the semblance of normality is itself a kind of fraud or illusion. It is itself something abnormal.
It’s perfectly possible to use the law to make any number of things illegal. It’s possible to make not just smoking illegal, but also alcohol, salt, sugar, and meat, so that restaurants will be filled with people eating only vegetarian meals washed down with water. But that won’t make vegetarianism normal. It will just enforce vegetarianism for as long as the laws remain in place.
If this sort of social engineering worked, it would mean that prisoners who were fed on bread and water for the 20 year term of their imprisonment would only ever want to eat bread and water after their release. And if they were kept in small airless cells wearing striped uniforms and slippers, after release they’d rent tiny cells, and buy themselves striped uniforms and slippers. They’d re-invent their prison. But this doesn’t happen. Instead they go back to living the same way they used to live, eating the same foods, and wearing the same clothes.
Smoking bans don’t create a new normality. They simply suppress a pre-existing one. And as soon as the straitjacket of the force of law – the prison regime – is removed, the old, underlying normality will rapidly re-assert itself. Just like an untended garden will very rapidly revert to a wilderness. It requires constant hard work by a gardener to restrain a garden, to keep the flowers growing in artificial flower beds, and hedges growing in hedgerows. There’s never a point when the restricted garden plants know where they are and aren’t supposed to grow, and keep to their allotted places.
True normality requires no external restraining force to maintain it. Normality is the wilderness where plants find their own natural balance. Normal is natural.
Sooner or later it will be realised that de-normalisation simply doesn’t work, and that the pre-existing normality always re-asserts itself in the end, and that the effort to prevent it is wasted.