You Do Agree, Don’t You?

Dick Puddlecote reports on a talk given by Professor  Neil McKegany:

To give you a few examples, he began by explaining that he came from a background of talking about illegal drugs and how policies to reduce harm can be good for public health, but that he was very surprised once transferring that approach to legal drugs that there seemed to be an almost religious hegemony dictating matters. He noted that he was taken aback by the “stranglehold” ‘public health’ exerts over research in these areas and – harking back to what he’d told me at the drinks reception – said that he had been told by colleagues that studying why smokers smoke was “unacceptable”.

Having come up against a mindset which had set itself to believe that smoking can never, ever, be pleasurable, he spoke of an “intellectual refusal” to ever consider such a concept. In his view, this was a two-way thing designed to come to only one conclusion amongst tobacco controllers. If you express a wish to quit, you are acting rationally and it’s addiction which is stopping you; if, however, you like smoking and have no wish to quit, you are then acting irrationally and are not experiencing pleasure, merely addiction.

This pervasive way of looking at the subject matter had, in McKegany’s view, perverted scientific and political discourse on the subject of tobacco and nicotine.

It seems entirely plausible that many people in Tobacco Control have “a mindset which had set itself to believe that smoking can never, ever, be pleasurable.” I wonder if such people think that anything can be pleasurable, never mind smoking?

I had the thought this morning that people with this mindset were really trying to get everyone else (and particularly smokers) to agree with them. If you are trying to stop people smoking, you are trying to get them to agree that smoking is harmful, and to agree that it is an addiction, and to agree that they ought to stop smoking.

In fact, I thought that this is a universal problem: we’re all trying to get other people to agree with us about one thing or another, all the time. Some of us seem to be more successful than others at doing this.

But I wondered whether Tobacco Control’s method of getting everyone to agree with them was a very good one. They are setting about the task by a) repeating their message – “Smoking Kills” – over and over again, so that it becomes a piece of rote learning, b) banning smoking wherever they possibly can, and c) preventing tobacco companies from saying the opposite: i.e. that “Smoking Is A Pleasure.”

This is a bit like the way Political Correctness works. Everyone has to agree, and anyone who disagrees is shouted down, ignored, or expelled. It’s the same not just with smoking, but also global warming, and more or less any other controversy. Like for instance whether Donald Trump is a dangerous moron or not. You’re not allowed to think that he might not be a dangerous moron. And you just keep repeating that he’s a dangerous moron, and shout down anyone who says otherwise. This is how public discourse works in the 21st century. Although it’s also probably how it’s always worked in every preceding century.

But I don’t really think that Shouting Down The Opposition is ever likely to be a successfully persuasive method of getting people to agree about anything. It might appear to work for a while, but it requires the continuous application of force. As soon as the force weakens, people will start ceasing to agree.

There are other persuasion methods. The EU is predicated upon the belief that if Europe is going to get a hearing in the world, it will have to unite into a single entity, because otherwise nobody will listen to it (and agree with it). This the Big Battalion theory of persuasion: if there are enough of you, people will listen to you. And if there are enough of you that are carrying enough guns, people will listen very carefully to everything you say (and will readily agree with you too).

And then there are the Experts. The Experts are the people who you really ought to agree with, because they are the acknowledged authorities who know more or less everything that needs to be known. Experts usually come with letters after their name, like BA or BSc or PhD. Or they have titles like Professor or Archbishop or General. The experts are usually people who have risen to positions of influence in one organisation or other, usually through natural attrition. Spend long enough in a university, and you’ll quite likely become a professor. Spend long enough in an army, and you’ll quite likely become a general.

But then there are the philosophers who construct rational arguments as to why you should agree with them. The philosophers are often highly persuasive. And they don’t rely on sheer numbers or guns to get people to agree with them. Nor even expertise or authority. But for every philosopher A there is usually a counter-philosopher B, who will point out flaws in A’s reasoning, and thereby dissuade people from agreeing with him.

And then there are orators and prophets and all sorts of charismatic people who are able to charm people into agreeing with them.

The advertising industry is all about getting people to agree: to agree, for example, that Coca Cola is a really great drink. The advertisement business tends not to use reasoning. I’m not sure what it actually does use.

Maybe hypnosis is another means of persuasion.

There are probably plenty of other methods of seduction.

But I think that you will agree that Tobacco Control’s brute force methods of persuasion are unlikely to be successful in the long run. I’m sure you will agree that anyone who wins arguments simply by silencing the opposition (e.g. preventing Big Tobacco from advertising) hasn’t really won the argument at all. And you will agree that they will never manage to rid the world of smoking, or construct their smoke-free utopia.

You do agree, don’t you?

Good. I thought you would.

About Frank Davis

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33 Responses to You Do Agree, Don’t You?

  1. Rose says:

    Talking of Trump.

    I think that this is rather presumptious.

    Witches are putting a spell on Donald Trump at midnight
    Friday 24 Feb 2017

    “A new plan has been put forward to bring down Donald Trump.
    Witches across the planet will put spells on him and ‘all those who abet him”

    They are clearly assuming that all witches are anti-democratic.

    The Christians are on it though, according to the Huffington Post.

    Witches Plan To Cast Mass Spell Against Donald Trump

    We do seem to live in interesting times.

  2. Timothy Goodacre says:

    Oh yes i agree ! Of course apart from loving tobacco i love going against the flow and being an individual !

  3. Rose says:

    Now the Daily Mail is at it.

    Double, double, Donald’s in trouble: Witches including Lana Del Rey will gather at midnight to cast a spell on President Trump AND his supporters in hopes of banishing him from office

    “The lyrics also take aim at President Trump’s supporters, with the lines: ‘Bind them in chains / Bind their tongues / Bind their works / Bind their wickedness’

    This will not end well.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Well, the main thing is that Lana smokes. She doesn’t have to like Donald Trump as well.

      And a cigarette appears in this video around about 55 seconds in. And lots of spacey stuff. And I actually like the song too. But, if I know anything at all about bass guitars, the guy playing the bass behind her really doesn’t have a clue. I think he’s just a pretty face who’s been handed the guitar, and told to pretend to play it.

      • Rose says:

        Then for your sake, let’s hope Donald Trump and all his supporters, voters and well wishers, don’t so much as stub their toe for the next four years.

        • Roobeedoo2 says:

          She’s a celeb, Rose. Practically de rigueur to show hate toward Trump in some way or another. Beside, it’s entirely possible that ship has already sailed. I mean, he is Prez already, against phenomenal odds. Perhaps the ‘official’ position should have been taken sooner ;)

        • Frank Davis says:

          The odd thing about Lana is that, a few months before the election, I read that she’d only just ‘started to think about it.’ She didn’t come out as anti-Donald back then. So I suspect she’s been swept along with the celeb tide since then.

        • Rose says:

          It’s not Lana Del Rey I’m worried about, Roobee, she can afford bodyguards.

        • Joe L. says:

          By the same token, she’s a celeb, Roobee. Practically de rigueur to quit smoking (at least in public) and show hate toward smokers in some way.

        • Roobeedoo2 says:

          True, and she looks and sounds absolutely stunning doing it…

          *She can certainly ride the scales, Clicky…

          I’m just saying, ‘Trump Hate’ is like a celeb…

          *Exactly! …/sings… That people from good homes are talking this year…*

  4. Hmm… what we need is a reputable source confirming that smoking IS pleasurable!

    A “Cognizant Authority.”


    Guess that’s too much to hope for though, right?

    Heh…. Nope!

    From the first of the two Sandra Blakeslee articles setting up the meme concerning smoking and heroin during Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No To Drugs!” era:

    “According to the American Cancer Society, 87.5% of regular smokers report that they find smoking pleasurable.”

    It’s followed up with some “laying the groundwork” drug-connection wording: “A number of investigators believe that nicotine stimulates pleasure centers in the brain, and some suspect that the body’s own “morphine,” or endorphins, may be involved. Studies have linked the effects of nicotine and amphetamines.”

    But the damage to the “no pleasure” claim is clear in that first sentence, and the “Cognizant Authority” is definitely up there in the top tier of the Church Of Antismoking Hierarchy.

    This article (See page 5 of ) is also the initial lynchpin for the “More Addictive Than Heroin” argument stemming from Blakelee’s characterization of input from Dr. Richard Pollin, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, claiming he “says cigarette smoking is now the most serious and most widespread form of addiction in the world. He asserts that it’s even worse than heroin.”

    Note that this is a characterization by a freelance “reporter,” NOT a quote from the NIDA director, and that even as such it does not cast him as saying it was “more addictive” — just that as a social/medical problem is was “worse” due to its being so common.

    Note also that Blakeslee may have built an entire career on her antismoking reportorial efforts as she was responsible for the second, and stronger, hammer of the nail into the coffin of the nicotine/heroin meme: The 1987 NY Times feature article on the silly Henningfield/Benowitz Owellian word-fantasy where they simply pretended they could change the English Language and create a new definition for the word “addiction” so that smoking could be called “more addictive” than heroin. See:

    Back in 1987, the headlining the new use of a word or a claim in the NY Times was the equivalent of the US President building a full-network-covered speech around a catch-phrase that then also goes viral on YouTube as it’s picked up as the title for a #1 hit song with a new dance craze.

    So THAT is where the “More Addictive Than Heroin” meme came from: NOT from normal scientific research in the field of addiction theory or the medical journals devoted to studying drug addiction (which, if you examine their tables of contents from the 1940s through 70s, basically laughed at the idea of smoking being addictive. It wasn’t until after the Blakeslee that you began to see serious researchers really hitting at the theme in the addiction journals.)

    Before Blakeslee/Hennfield/Benowitz even the American Cancer Society recognized the reality that close to 90% of smokers smoked because they LIKED smoking.

    – MJM, who, 30 years AFTER Blakeslee, STILL likes smoking…

    • Frank Davis says:

      So, in essence, “more addictive” is a journalistic invention?

    • Tony says:

      Sorry about the length of this but this is a copy of something I posted elsewhere a while back.
      Some info on ‘nicotine addiction’:

      US Surgeon General (SG) and UK Royal College of Physicians (RCP) reports stress that nicotine is both instantly and as strongly addictive as Cocaine. The reports always cite a research paper – ‘Henningfield 1984′ as their source for this. Jack Henningfield was the author of the paper. He also sat on the US SG advisory committee, was an advisor to the RCP and is a consultant to Glaxo Smithkline.
      Henningfield 1984’ does indeed conclude that Nicotine is as addictive as cocaine or opium. However the actual data in the paper completely contradicts his conclusion. Addictiveness is illustrated in the paper by similar looking bar charts, except that the scales are completely different. In reality Nicotine is nearer chocolate in addictiveness.
      [6.204] Professor Gray’s criticisms of the “addiction” model appeared to me to have force. I was particularly impressed by the criticism of Henningfield 1984. As had been brought out in Warburton 1988a, Henningfield’s histograms when re-plotted on the same scale did not provide strong support for Henningfield’s conclusion. Nicotine could then be seen to be, at best, a weak euphoriant and did not act like other compounds in the maintenance of other kinds of substance self-administration. Professor Gray also considered the question of tolerance and contrasted withdrawal symptoms from quitting smoking and from quitting heroin. His discussion of these supported the view that the behavioural and psychological changes observed in quitting smokers were more reasonably interpreted as reflecting non-specific dysphoria consequent upon disruption of a habit and loss of the pleasure or other benefits the habit provided.
      [6.205] I was impressed above all by Professor Gray’s critique of the mechanistic view embodied in the proposition that smokers did not smoke out of choice but because they became addicted to nicotine. As he pointed out, under the normal humanist view of life people chose to do things. The mechanistic view was not supported by the data about the number of people who had given up smoking. Support for the functional view was found in Warburton 1988b. Among the functional effects of smoking, of particular relevance in Mr McTear’s case were those concerned with mood control. If smoking tobacco alleviated depression, not because it had a direct antidepressant effect, but rather because, for a habitual smoker, deprivation of smoking had a depressant effect, this could explain Mr McTear’s behaviour on the occasions when he temporarily gave up smoking. There was little by the way of direct challenge to this evidence in cross-examination. He said that it was not possible to say why one smoker succeeded in quitting while another did not, though the answer might lie in the smoker’s individual circumstances. He agreed that it could be taken from MacAskill et al. 2002 that people in lower socio-economic groups in Scotland were more likely to smoke and less likely to give up. But, as he pointed out, this observation was consistent with the functional model.
      [6.206] Professor Gray’s evidence accordingly is consistent with the averment for the pursuer that once individuals such as Mr McTear have started smoking it is difficult for them to wean themselves off the habit. It provides no support for the proposition that tobacco is more addictive than cocaine, or more addictive than heroin for that matter. There is no evidence before me which provides support for the conclusion in USSG 1988 that the pharmacological and behavioural processes that determine tobacco addiction are similar to those that determine addiction to drugs such as heroin and cocaine. Indeed, insofar as this relied on Henningfield 1984, it lacked a sound scientific basis.

    • In doing some research this evening I discovered that Ms. Blakeslee is *not* actually just a “freelance reporter” but has been a full-fledged NY Times science writer since the 1960s! My characterizations of her stories still hold, but it should be noted that she’s not, as I had gotten the impression in the past, simply a freelancer!

  5. Just something of a correctorial editing note: My characterization of Blakeslee’s background was coming from a memory of a Google search at some point in the past. Upon re-checking it just now it seems that she actually was an established regular NY Times reporter by the mid ’80s, specializing in science writing. The Chicago Tribune had picked up their story in 1985 *from* the Times — my earlier research had led me to be believe she’d moved from a freelance status for that Tribune article to another freelance article for the Times.

    I’m glad I caught my error though, as it solves the puzzlement I had over just how much “luck” an unknown, even if skilled and dedicated, activist reporter could have had in getting those two pieces showcased in such an impactful manner. Ms. Blakeslee may have been a 1980s newspaper science-writer version of the evening-TV-news Walter Cronkite reporting on national affairs. Her position as well as her approach to the two stories is likely what gave them the jet fuel that mainstreamed the “more addictive than heroin” trope.

    – MJM

    • Smoking Lamp says:

      MJM, Very good insight and analysis! Essentially you have confirmed that the smoking isn’t pleasurable but rather addictive meme is a total fabrication. This is certainly an good example of the propaganda employed for social engineering that tobacco control has used to persecute smokers and enact smoking bans. One more set of big lies…

  6. waltc says:

    I’ll see if later I can find the direct quote but in one if our surgeon general’s reports on tobacco–I believe in the tenure of Koop?–the report states that,in fact, smoking is proven beneficial to mental health BUT since unlike its other physical (negative) effects, this benefit is not mathematically calculable, it must be ignored.

    As for suppression of speech and opinion actually working, three examples to the contrary show that what’s bottled up under pressure tends to explode: 1) the fall of the soviet union –where to speak against the party was a thought crime that could land you in Lubyanka sentenced to Thorazine, and where friends among friends only spoke in the bathroom with the shower running (I heard this directly from Soviet emigres) and where writing against it took the form of samizdat and 2-3) Brexit and the election of Trump.

  7. Joe L. says:

    Apparently, we smokers are being forced to pay higher healthcare premiums for nothing:

    Doctors are refusing to operate on smokers. Here’s why the trend will grow.

  8. Pingback: Friday Evening LOLly Gagging… – Library of Libraries

  9. Yes, the addiction claim is largely a fabrication. Its main basis is that people who try smoking more than just a few times seem to very largely enjoy the feeling they get enough that they want to experience that feeling again… so they smoke again. They keep doing this, and enjoying it, although after a while the type of enjoyment changes into a less intense and quieter, but still enjoyable, one.

    And when people decide they want to smoke less or quit smoking they find it difficult on two levels: 1) they miss the nice feeling they know they’re going to get when they smoke, and 2) they feel an uncomfortable urge to smoke that could indeed, not completely unreasonably, be characterized as a “withdrawal” urge.

    Antismokers take the existence of #2 as “proof” that “smoking is addictive.” But in doing so they have ignored the fact that over a period of many decades (centuries?) the words “addictive” and “addiction” developed and/or were assigned very serious and negative weight in the English language. They specifically laid a LOT of emphasis on two factors: the need for constantly increasing dosages to the point that would almost always kill those who were not used to a substance, and a withdrawal syndrome that involved such extreme and debilitating symptoms that no “addict” would ever go through and then say “It’s relatively easy to stop,” as NY’s Mayor Bloomberg described his quitting a two-pack-a-day long-time smoking habit.

    Blakeslee, Henningfield, Benowitz and others have perverted the English language for a specific purpose: to make it easier to attack “Big Tobacco” and smokers. It truly IS an Orwellian “NewSpeak” kind of thing — the closest case in reality that I’m aware of ever happening in my lifetime.

    – MJM, a fat guy (I’m redefining fat as anyone weighing over 20 pounds per foot of height.)

    • Frank Davis says:

      I must say that I also have problems with the “addiction” concept. “Drug addicts” used to be people who shot up heroin and morphine and other pharma drugs, and got into a downward spiral of ever-increasing dosages, which often led to their death. There were never very many of them. But now that smokers are also classed as “drug addicts”, about 1.5 billion new “drug addicts” have been added to their ranks. And alcoholics have joined them as another bunch of “addicts.” And fat people are food “addicts”. Addiction is everywhere!

      I’ve remarked before that the first thing I want in the morning after waking is a mug of hot tea. And that I carry on drinking tea all day until it’s time to to go to bed. Doesn’t that make me just as much a tea “addict” as a “nicotine addict”? Why aren’t tea drinkers being persecuted with the same intensity as cigarette smokers? Why aren’t there “tea cessation” services? Perhaps there will be soon.

      And it’s not just tea. It’s also coffee and hot chocolate that could attract the charge of being “addictive”. And does it have to be some substance that is ingested that is addictive? Aren’t there TV addicts and sex addicts as well? I used to visit my local pub in Devon in the quiet afternoons, and for months after the smoking ban came in, I used to feel an intense pang of longing (to be able to go visit the pub) at some point in the afternoon. So was I addicted to my local pub? Is homesickness evidence of addiction? Is falling in love just addiction?

      I’ve tried at least one drug that was supposed to be highly addictive: opium. I tried it on 2 occasions about 6 months apart. I instantly understood the attraction of opium: it brought an intense feeling of serene peace. I could well understand how someone whose days were fraught with suffering and pain – like a Chinese coolie or rickshaw cyclist – might be very glad to escape from it from time to time with the help of opium. But at the same moment I could see that my own life wasn’t really at at all fraught and stressful (I was a PhD student in a placid university), and so I had no need of opium. My life was already peaceful enough. And so, amazingly, I never got addicted to opium. But I’m glad to know where to go if I ever do start wanting serene peace.

      I’ve also tried cocaine. And it had no effect on me at all, except to give me a runny nose. I always pass up any opportunity I get to snort cocaine: I don’t want a runny nose.

      I think there’s something wrong with the concept of “addiction”. I think there’s something wrong with it in the same sort of way that there was something wrong with the concept of phlogiston. But I can never quite put my finger on what it is that’s wrong with it.

      • Rose says:

        For nicotine they had to remove “intoxication” from the traditional definition of addiction to get the ruling allowing the FDA to regulate tobacco..

        “Jack Henningfield, chief of the clinical pharmacology branch at the
        National Institute on Drug Abuse Addiction Research Center, points out that
        in high enough doses nicotine can be intoxicating, while very low doses
        of drugs such as heroin and cocaine may not be intoxicating.”

        • Rose, yes, I believe they both removed intoxication’s importance and added something else that was highly distinctive to cigarettes. It was a VERY clear Orwellian manipulation of the language that would allow the antismoking movement to begin screaming shrilly that “The Children Need To Be Protected From A Lifetime Of Addiction!” while also allowing smokers in general to be viewed through the same lenses as heroin addicts.

          – MJM

      • nisakiman says:

        Opium is lovely (apart from the tendency for it to make you vomit; although even that isn’t the gut-wrenching affair that vomiting after an excess of alcohol is). I spent many a pleasurable hour in the opium dens of Asia way back when. And it’s actually quite difficult to get addicted to. You have to approach it with some dedication to build up a tolerance. The same applies to cocaine. Back in the eighties I used to snort shedloads of the stuff, but never developed a habit. I could pretty much take it or leave it (although I usually took it). Of course the more highly refined versions of both opium (heroin and morphine) and cocaine (crack) are faster to draw the unsuspecting into their embrace, but even that is a debatable point where the word ‘addiction’ comes into it.

        For instance, when medical patients are given morphine for pain relief over a long period of time (certainly long enough to become ‘addicted’), they rarely continue to desire morphine once their medical condition has been resolved.

        There’s quite a good article on addiction by HJ Eysinck here, which looks at the psychological side of things.

      • Frank, you might enjoy reading “Drood” by Dan Simmons. Simmons is a very versatile cross-genre author with a leaning toward horror/sci-fi who also likes to write in varied styles. Drood is written in the classical UK English style of a hundred or so years ago: Detailed descriptions, slow build up, a lot of “grayness” in the background feeling of things. The time period is set somewhere back 75 to 100 years as well, though I think it was deliberately left a bit vague.

        What brought it to mind was your mention of opium. Simmons does quite a nice job in the 600 pages or so of Drood of showing the main good character gradually sliding over the years into a laudanum/opiate (and mercury?) addiction that eventually moves regularly into the opium dens. The addiction is simply a background theme to his “haunting” by this malevolent Drood character whose existence he’s not really sure of but which terrifies him.

        If you have any fondness at all for writings styled in that old genre and a taste for horror and a slow, building pace I’d recommend the book. And I’d recommend checking out the unusually diverse collection of his other books too!

        – MJM

  10. Frank Davis says:

    Another article about addiction.

    Addiction Is Not a Brain Disease
    The idea that drugs and biology are to blame for addiction has done more harm than good.

    …The idea that addiction is a brain disease is an appealing narrative: drugs hijack the brain’s natural pleasure-seeking system, leading to changes in the nervous system that present as tolerance, physical dependence, and cravings. It’s also a theory that has been buoyed by doctors, politicians, and media pundits alike, all of whom have claimed addiction is not a moral failing but a product of biology. But there’s one problem: It’s not true, a new paper in Nature Human Behavior argues.

    “Some people think that [the addiction-as-disease narrative] is more compassionate,” says Carl Hart, chair of the psychology department at Columbia University, who has spent decades studying how drugs affect the brain and behavior. Unfortunately, Hart writes, there’s not much to support the theory that addiction is a disease of the brain, and it has done more harm than good.

    The problem, as Hart explains, is that, if addiction arises from the effects of drugs on the brain, there are two paths to a solution: eliminate the drug from society (via restrictive policies and law enforcement) or look for a fix within the brain. But there are several problems with these approaches:

    Relying on law enforcement to remove drugs from communities has led to rampant discrimination. Viewing drug use as a chronic medical condition has not prevented drug use from being a criminal justice problem. Roughly 20 percent of the people in our nation’s prisons and jails were locked up for non-violent drug offenses. And black Americans are significantly more likely than whites to be incarcerated for drug offenses, despite equivalent or sometimes lower rates of drug use.

    The drugs themselves are probably not to blame. Indeed, drugs have the same neurochemical effects on the brain of every user, but only a small subset of people actually become addicted. And despite decades of research with increasingly powerful brain imaging technologies, there is still no scan that can discriminate between addicted and casual drug users, or make predictions about who will go on to abuse drugs. “To date,” Hart writes, “there has been no identified biological substrate to differentiate non-addicted persons from addicted individuals.”

    Rather than a disease, addiction is more likely a learned behavior. As Maia Szalavitz previously wrote in Pacific Standard:

    [A]ddiction isn’t simply a response to a drug or an experience — it is a learned pattern of behavior that involves the use of soothing or pleasant activities for a purpose like coping with stress. This is why simple exposure to a drug cannot cause addiction: The exposure must occur in a context where the person finds the experience pleasant and/or useful and must be deliberately repeated until the brain shifts its processing of the experience from deliberate and intentional to automatic and habitual.

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