Guido Fawkes reported recently that David Cameron was seen smoking on the House of Commons terrace. This isn’t big news, since he’s admitted he hasn’t managed to entirely stop smoking.
More interesting, however, has been the news that his wife Sam has started smoking.
Samantha Cameron is reported to have taken up smoking due to the stress of the EU referendum campaign.
The Prime Minister’s wife smoked the occasional cigarette in the final few weeks of the bitter campaign after a long period of abstinence, the Sunday Times reported.
A family friend told the paper: “Sam has been so stressed by it all that she has taken up smoking.
“She doesn’t really smoke, but the stress has driven her to cigarettes. She wants to give up after the referendum.”
Which reminds me of my last landlady, who’d regularly come knocking on my door begging for a roll-up when life got too stressful for her. She’d sit in my room, puffing away, and telling me all about the awful things that had been winding her up. I must have rolled her hundreds of cigarettes over a number of years. I never saw her ever buy any. And I suppose that she too would have said that “she doesn’t really smoke.” And in time she became strongly antismoking.
Nevertheless, I think that those roll-ups must’ve calmed her down. Because she kept coming back for them. And yet antismokers insist that smoking has no benefits whatsoever
Which also reminded me that the great upsurge in cigarette smoking started in WW1 with the troops in the trenches (on both sides). And while I have no experience of anything remotely like it, I’m quite sure that it was very, very stressful – even when the front was quiet.
It continued in WW2 of course. But there were plenty of other stressful things happening between the wars. Stock market crashes. Hyper-inflation. Mass unemployment. The entire period from 1914 to 1945 must have been one of the most stressful periods many people ever lived through.
And if smoking prevalence started falling after 1945, it was probably simply because life became much less stressful for most people. Or at least it became much less stressful for the upper and middle classes, while it remained pretty stressful for the working classes. And that’s why the working classes have carried on smoking, while the upper and middle classes have almost entirely stopped.
All of which suggests that, if you really want people to stop smoking, try to make their lives less stressful. And, in this respect, smoking bans make smokers’ lives more stressful, and therefore must tend to make them smoke more rather than less. Perhaps that’s one reason why smoking prevalence doesn’t seem to fall very much when smoking bans are introduced: they have the exact opposite effect to that intended. One might add that putting ghastly pictures on cigarette packets also adds stress to smokers’ lives, and once again has the exact opposite effect to that intended.
It also suggests that if we should enter another period of high stress like 1914 – 1945 (as the EU disintegrates and WW3 breaks out?) smoking prevalence will sky-rocket, and smoking bans will come under increasing pressure to be relaxed as the numbers of smokers multiplies beyond the point where smokers once again outnumber non-smokers.
Personally, I live a low-stress life. But I think a lot. I start thinking at dawn, and I carry on thinking until I fall asleep again. And I smoke at very roughly the rate that I think. If I didn’t think so much, I’d probably smoke a lot less. Which suggests that if you want to stop smoking, stop thinking. And I suppose that in our increasingly dumbed-down world, that’s exactly what we’re being encouraged to do.