Three comments recently appeared under a Facebook post by Audrey Silk, each one describing the social isolation of smokers in much the same way:
There were several other commenters in agreement, including myself – because my experience of social division has been much the same.
All these people live in different places, even different countries, and yet their experience is almost identical.
And this very strongly suggests that, wherever they are introduced, smoking bans divide societies into separate smoking and non-smoking communities. Smokers stick with smokers, and antismokers stick with antismokers. There are probably a number of non-smokers who interact with both groups.
This isn’t a one-off event. It’s a process. And it’s a social division which is likely to only deepen with time. For it won’t just be that the two groups will have opposite views about smoking, but they’re also likely to develop opposite views about a variety of other matters all well – e.g. belief or disbelief in global warming (AGW). They will gradually become different cultures with different values, perhaps in geographically separate locations. In this manner, what had been a broadly unified society with a shared set of values is broken in two.
For example, in my own case, one political consequence of the UK smoking ban was to catapult me from being a pro-European left wing Lib Dem voter into becoming an anti-European right wing UKIP voter. I stopped voting Lib Dem when I discovered that 95% of Lib Dem MPs in Parliament had voted for the UK smoking ban. And I stopped being pro-European when I discovered that the EU Parliament had voted for a European smoking ban, complete with show trials for prominent offenders. The shift from left to right grew out of the newly-acquired distrust of government that accompanied these other shifts.
Yet there appears to be a complete absence of any official recognition within governments everywhere of this new and deepening social divide. Superficially, society appears the same after the introduction smoking bans as it was before. And this superficial view is largely a construction by powerful antismoking lobbies which always insist that smoking bans are “great successes” which “everyone likes”, as soon as they are introduced.
Yet I suspect that it will eventually become impossible to deny the existence of this new social division. But if there is to be any recognition of it, it certainly won’t come from either Tobacco Control or the World Health Organisation and its affiliates. Nor is it likely to come from any mainstream media organisations, most of which follow party lines on all social or political issues. Nor indeed, is it likely to come from politicians whose views are largely shaped by these mainstream media. If it’s going to come from anywhere, it’s probably going to come through new social media like Facebook (Audrey Silk) or WordPress (Frank Davis) and others, slowly diffusing information outwards and upwards by word of mouth.