H/T Rose for this Robert Fisk piece:
The UN has failed to protect Syrians from war and hunger. Now it’s telling them to stop smoking
Your home may be in flames, your family enslaved, your torturers itching to pull out your fingernails – but above all you’ve got to ignore the ciggy packet in your pocket
Bizarre, weird, unprecedented. It’s rarely you can call the UN all three. But I did get the April Fool’s Day feeling when I read about the World Health Organisation’s latest warning to Syrians: they must stop smoking. Not just cigarettes but even the nargileh, the shisha pipe, upon which generations of Arabs have puffed away in war and peace.
But now – and it is June, not 1 April – the poor and desperate Syrian people have been told by the UN health agency that they really must take better care of their lungs.
Has the UN no sense of shame?…
No, they don’t. He goes on:
The nargileh, Syrians are told – the hookah or hubble-bubble pipe has been around since the Mogul empire in the 16th century – is 20 times as bad for their health as cigarette smoking. And the Syrian bureaucracy should take care to ensure that cigarettes are plain-packaged to reduce their “attractiveness and glamour”.
I can see the problem. While fleeing from air strikes, mass graves and ethnic cleansing, Syrians have just got to resist the temptation of a quick gasper to calm their nerves. Your home may be in flames, your family enslaved, your torturers itching to pull out your fingernails – but above all you’ve got to ignore the pretty ciggy packet in your pocket.
Try not to join the other 280,000 victims of the Syrian war – but above all ignore the temptations of those who urge you to puff away on “menthol fresh” cigarettes…
But far more assiduous in supporting the WHO report will surely be the lads from Isis, who are currently the most vigorous anti-smoking campaigners in the history of the world. Caught with a fag in your mouth in Mosul or Raqqa, or even a packet of cigarettes in your pocket, and you’ll be slapped with a $20 (£14) fine or, more likely, given 20 lashes with steel wire or the casing of a car tyre.
It’s refreshing to find an illustrious reporter (one who has even lent his name to a new verb: “to fisk” – which means to debunk something point by point) who at last sees clearly the monomaniacal madness of Tobacco Control, even if he disappoints by adding: “There was a time, and will be again in a future peace, for such serious warnings to be issued.”
Clearly Fisk believes (he says as much) that smoking causes lung cancer. Most people do. They’ve been told it for so long that it’s become lodged in their minds as an unquestionable fact of life. Not even an investigative reporter of Fisk’s calibre can bring himself to question it.
But I no longer believe anything that’s ever been said or written about tobacco. I reject the entirety of it, all the way back to James I. I think that antismoking is a mental illness: that particular madness that elevates the placid pastime of smoking to the greatest health threat the world has ever known. Because for Tobacco Control smoking really is a greater threat to Syrians than any amount of arson, enslavement, torture, rape, and murder. And they’re not ashamed to say so.
It’s the same madness that is now arrived in UK prisons, about which I wrote to my Westminster MP recently. Decency, compassion, care: all go out the window when the Tobacco Control witchfinders arrive with their singular, burning obsession.
I look forward to the day when these poor, sick, twisted people are expelled en masse from the medical and associated professions they infest. And all their various associations are de-funded and closed down. And their ubiquitous red circular logos torn from every wall. And all their publications burned. And they themselves are stripped of all rank and honour, and expelled from society, in the same way that they stripped and expelled so many others.