A few days ago Junican wrote about How Tobacco Control Will End, comparing the Tobacco Control Empire to the Roman Empire.
I think that the “Tobacco Control Empire” is actually a much more accurate description of it than the “Tobacco Control Industry,” because Tobacco Control doesn’t actually manufacture anything – except perhaps lies -, while the Tobacco Industry actually is an industry that manufactures and distributes a product: tobacco.
Tobacco Control is an empire – a global empire – much more akin to the Roman Empire than the Tobacco Industry. And, like the Roman Empire, it is held in place by force. Not the force of armed legions, but the force of law. It needs the continual exertion of force, in the form of smoking bans, ‘plain’ packaging, display bans, etc, and also ultra-heavy taxation and continuous antismoking propaganda campaigns. And it requires a standing army of professional antismoking campaigners to ensure that the bans and taxes are enforced and maintained and even extended. And the reward to Tobacco Control is a slice of the tax revenue, as well as revenue from pharma Nicotine Replacement Therapies, demand for which is created by marginalising and excluding smokers, so that many are blackmailed into trying to quit, whether they want to or not. The Tobacco Control Empire works by extortion, much like the Roman Empire before it.
The Roman Empire did have its benefits, however. To belong within the Pax Romana was to be largely free from invasion, piracy, and banditry. And the Romans brought with them Roman law, the Latin language, and an excellent infrastructure of roads, all of which served to promote trade and industry, and enrich the entire empire, and not just its Roman overlords.
Of course the Tobacco Control Empire claims that it also brings benefits, almost exclusively in the arena of improved public health. But most of its claims rely upon dubious or dishonest statistical analyses. The benefits are almost entirely illusory. In reality, the Tobacco Control Empire brings next to no real, visible benefits at all, but instead a great many real costs, in reduced spending and social disintegration and more.
The Roman Empire lasted 700 years, but it’s unlikely that the Tobacco Control Empire will last much longer than a few decades. And it’s already exhibiting many of the symptoms of decline. In the first place there are signs (in the UK at least), that government is beginning to shut off the spigot of public funding, as outfits like Smokefree South West are defunded. Furthermore, it’s likely that the tax revenues from tobacco are actually decreasing, now that a considerable black market in tobacco has grown up. And with the arrival of e-cigarettes, pharma company revenues from NRT products are collapsing as well. The entire business model of the Empire is under threat. And this is why the Empire is “diversifying” its extortion programme to include alcohol, sugar, and other products – another sign of decay.
When the Roman Empire began to contract, and its legions left Britain, the civilisation that it had created and maintained for two or three hundred years rapidly fell into decay. The numerous villas fell into ruin as their proprietors fled, and so did many of the towns and military camps. Even the Latin language fell out of use. Perhaps the only survivors were some of the excellent roads that the Romans had constructed, although many of these fell into decay as well.
When the Tobacco Control Empire implodes, much the same thing will happen. As antismoking organisations are defunded, professional antismoking zealots will vanish like Roman governors, and their voices will cease to be heard. Antismoking legislation may remain in place, but nobody will be ensuring that it remains in force. After all, the police have shown little interest in enforcing it. And then, first inside one pub or cafe or club, and then in another, excluded smokers will begin to re-appear. And when they are not prosecuted, other venues will be encouraged to follow their example. The wilderness will begin to reclaim the brave new “smoke-free” civilisation, just like grass and trees began to reclaim the towns and villas and roads of Roman Britain.
For it requires the continual exertion of force – power – to maintain any artificial construction, whether it’s a villa or a road or a smoking ban. Once the force is lifted, the process of decay begins immediately. Only the natural world, by definition devoid of restraining force, survives.
As in Britain after the Roman occupation, there will probably be a legacy. If there is any demand for “smoke-free” pubs and cafes, there will probably be a few places where the old No Smoking signs will be kept prominently in place. And there may be a few linguistic relics, perhaps words like “smoke-free” and “denormalise.” And also a few persistent old wives’ tales, like “Smoking Causes Lung Cancer.” And maybe e-cigarettes, the principal product of the smoke-free era, will enjoy a persistent popularity much like whisky after prohibition. All the rest will be swept away.