The Sistine Chapel of Tobacco Control

Tobacco Control always presents itself as doing good. It’s full of do-gooders. And the good that they’re all doing is Improving Health and Saving Lives.

But do they actually save any lives? There are some very strong arguments that the smoking bans that they’re always demanding don’t save any lives at all, but instead cost lives. After all, when smokers have been “exiled to the outdoors” by smoking bans, they have been put in harm’s way. There are a lot of good reasons why us humans live inside houses rather than outside. The outdoors are cold and wet and windy, and also often dark and slippery and treacherous. To exile people to the outdoors is to increase the likelihood that they will suffer some mishap, as I have attested in the Smokers’ Graveyard, in which many people have died from exposure, or fallen out of windows, or off roofs and balconies or fire escapes, simply because they had been driven there by smoking bans.

And these are real deaths, with real dead bodies lying on streets. They’re not like the phantom “lives saved” by smoking bans, all of which are numbers conjured out of published death rates, the products of statistical manipulation.

How many people must there be who caught their death of cold, contracted while puffing away outside one icy night, dying a few days or weeks later? How many people lost their footing on an icy street, fell down and broke an arm or leg, and never recovered? We don’t know. There are no records of such things for statisticians to analyse. So it is imagined that they never happen. And yet they most certainly do happen.

And what of the other harms that smoking bans do? There is an inevitable and obvious social division that arises when the smokers exiled to the outdoors are separated from the non-smokers who remain indoors. It’s a social division that results in the loss of friendships, and the shattering of communities. And in societies made up of mutually dependent people, relying on each other for their survival, the shattering of community brings its own health risks: when the smoker outside falls and breaks an arm, there will be nobody there to help him to his feet, and call an ambulance, precisely because he was exiled to the outdoors where nobody could see him.

And then, when the smokers who have been exiled to the outdoors stop going to the pubs and cafes and restaurants from which they have been exiled, these venues lose valued customers, and quite often go bankrupt. That’s an economic cost of smoking bans that is usually ignored.

And does a ceaseless campaign of demonising and marginalising smokers do them any good whatsoever? Doesn’t it actually do them a lot of harm? Once the medical profession set out to rid the world of smoking – and therefore of smokers -, didn’t that make the medical profession the enemy of smokers, and something to be avoided by them? How many smokers no longer regularly visit their doctors for routine check-ups, because they don’t want to be lectured about smoking? And as a consequence, how many fail to have some incipient malady or other diagnosed in time to treat it? There are no records of this either, for the statisticians to mull over.

And what of the general loss of faith in public institutions and authorities that must follow when any social group is excluded and marginalised, and ceases to feel that it is part of the wider society from which they have been exiled? Isn’t it likely that excluded smokers will lose faith not just in the medical profession, but all other professions as well, including the statisticians that have enabled their persecution, and the politicians who have enacted it, and the mass media who have called for it?

Add it all up (and you can’t add it all up, because there are no numbers available, so you can only guess), and if smoking bans save a handful of lives, it’s very likely that they cost a great many more, for a whole variety of fairly obvious but undocumented reasons. That’s to say that, most likely, smoking bans do far more harm than good.

And if Tobacco Control really was concerned with saving lives and doing good, wouldn’t they at least be concerned that they might be doing social or economic or political damage. They seem to be completely uninterested. Their “evidence-based” medicine is entirely based on documented evidence: death rates. If something isn’t documented, it can’t be happening.

Tobacco Control is rather like a car driver who relies solely upon the documented evidence provided by the speedometer in his car, and its fuel gauge, and its light switch positions, while ignoring the undocumented evidence in the trail of bodies that he leaves behind him. They don’t show up on any dial on the car dashboard, so they can’t be happening.

Furthermore, isn’t Tobacco Control much more concerned with Fighting Evil than doing good? Tobacco Control sees itself as a dragon-slayer. And the dragon it has set out to slay is tobacco, and the tobacco companies that sell it (and now their many millions of customers as well). Tobacco Control has set out not so much to do good, but to rid the world of evil. It’s like an army which, in the process of fighting some enemy, lays waste the land on which it is fighting, destroying cities, poisoning wells, slaughtering animals – with all of it undocumented “collateral damage”.

Tobacco Control really only pays lip service to public health or the public good. It is far more concerned with fighting evil.  The eyes of Tobacco Control are fixed upon something evil rather than something good. It is filled with hatred of a singular evil rather than love of any good. In a Sistine Chapel of Tobacco Control, there would be no God or angel in sight anywhere in the frescoes covering its walls, but instead numerous depictions of the Great Satan of tobacco, wreathed in smoke, dragging the souls of men and women (and of course chiiildren) to their tormented deaths. It would be, in short, a depiction not so much of Heaven (which would be almost out of sight in one distant corner), but of Hell. And instead of singing hymns or praying to any God in that chapel, they would be shouting imprecations and obscenities at the monstrous demon depicted above its altar.

And any outsider who chanced to enter that chapel, and saw the chanting, baying congregation shaking their fists at the huge demonic figure above the altar, would be immediately convinced that they were witnessing a satanic rite being conducted by devil-worshippers, and would say as much (if and) when they ever managed to escape.

About Frank Davis

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25 Responses to The Sistine Chapel of Tobacco Control

    • Frank Davis says:

      Yes, that’s a bit like what it would look like in the Sistine Chapel of Tobacco Control.

      I might get out Manga Studio 5 and draw my own version of, complete with tobacco controllers shaking their fists.

      • You have to admit the painter captured Debbie and Crew perfectly, talented chap that Goya. The Horned Goat Of Glans I’m not so sure about, surely he needs a crown of Other People’s money?

  1. prog says:

    This fresco above the Banquet Room (Museo Cerralbo, Madridi) is the Allegory of Tobacco and Coffee: one wingless child smoking a cigar and another brewing a pot.

    Think of the cheeeeeerubs!

  2. Timothy Goodacre says:

    In my small market town most pubs have either died or become like morgues Mon – Fri because of the smoking ban. Many old people no longer go out so their social interaction has died. Thanks very much ASH , PHE etc. You have totally screwed up many aspects of British life. And you know what ? We all still smoke , so fuck you !

    • In my small market town all the pubs -those were there in 2007- have survived. One has become Gastro led (with ensuite rooms), one Sky led (with LIVE music every weekend) and one drug dealer led.
      But we’re an exception, I cheer as I go pass every newly opened Tesco Express as a victory for smokers. The day the last wet-led pub closes it’s doors perhaps then ‘society’ will release that the Smoking Verbot did us more damage, more damage to our health, wealth, and happiness than leaving the EU.

    • smokingscot says:

      @ Mr. Goodacre

      Felt you may be keen to learn of the real reason why some pubs have been forced to close. This here article references a certain ex-Lib/Dem MP by the name of Stephen Williams, who you may have heard of in a slightly different context as the said Williams is credited with being the force behind both tobacco display bans and plain packs.

      However Mr. Williams feels it’s almost all down to the fact that an increase in the number of largely Muslim immigrants – and they’re taking the place of the “white working class”.

      He also states that there is no just reason to fight to save pubs.

      Naturally Mr. Williams does not chose to mention that the smoking ban may have had an itsy bitsy part to play in all this.

      (Not quite sure how to do a virtual “dripping with deep loathing for the man and sarcasm for his pitiful reasons”. But trust me on this, it’s there.)

  3. Rose says:


    I wondered when this would appear in the papers, I’ve only read about it on comment threads before.

    EU could STOP Brexit as Lords ‘stalling would lead to new Lisbon Treaty rules kicking in’
    Feb 27, 2017

    “THE UK could be stuck in the EU with its democratic vote being wiped out over stalling on the triggering of Article 50 as rules previously agreed by Gordon Brown in 2007 become law on March 31.”
    “Theresa May has promised the public she will make Brexit happen but she has just four weeks before Lisbon Treaty rules come into effect which can make it MORE difficult for the country to leave the European Union.
    The Prime Minister is being forced to wait on the House of Lords who could send the Brexit bill back to the House of Commons.
    And sources have claimed a delay could take place so rules – which have already been ratified within the Lisbon Treaty which say 14 member states have to approve the exit – will kick-in from April 1.”

    • Frank Davis says:

      A bit worrying. But she did say she was going to invoke Article 50 in March.

      And what about other EU countries. If they have to get 14 other countries to agree to let them leave, they’re effectively locked in.

      Although, in practice, I’m sure that if they want to leave, they’ll just leave.

      • Teresa May-be-the-new-Erodgan’s Gubbermint has already made very clear that if necessary she will go beyond the Law, circumvent/castrate/dissolve the House Of Lords and do whatever it takes to empower herself and her cronies (ie MPs). Just her remarks to their Lordships…the political equivalent of ‘I shall rule the WORLD HAhahahah! And if you try and stop me I shall have you, your wives, and your pets machine gunned down MUAHHAHAHA!’
        Does the Daily Diana really think May didn’t think about the Lisbon Treaty before she stated Art50 would take place on the Ides Of March?!? (or ‘by the end of March’). That was fucking obvious to anyone even halfway informed on the whole Brexit thing.

  4. Joe L. says:

    Great essay, Frank. One of your finest.

  5. waltc says:

    Bosch comes to mind. Here’s One of my favorite quotes. Russell Baker, from The Danger Stage” NY Times, 1994:

    “What we have here is a crusade in its second phase. Crusades typically start by being admirable, proceed to being foolish and end by being dangerous. The crusade against smoking is now clearly well into the second stage where foolishness abounds.

    There is now talk in Washington about a smoke-free America with new laws enforcing prohibitions to save the country from smoke’s deadly reach. Doubtless there are smoke-haters eager to hear steel doors clang on incorrigible smokers, for this is a real crusade, make no mistake, and the true crusader doesn’t stop at burning the village, killing the women and children and making off with the cattle if that’s what it takes to purify the world.”

    He went on to predict we were entering the danger stage

    • Frank Davis says:

      That’s a great quote. And, 23 years on, we’re quite clearly well into the danger stage.

      And. yes, my imaginary Sistine Chapel of Tobacco Control could well have been painted by Hieronymus Bosch.

  6. Lepercolonist says:

    Excellent article,Frank.

  7. Zaphod says:

    There’s a point I often go on about, but nobody seems interested.

    The Nocebo effect. (The evil twin of Placebo.)
    How many people have become seriously ill, or died, or failed to recover from an illness; due to being told repeatedly for years that smoking, or passive smoking, will kill them?
    The number must be huge.

    We know how powerful Placebo is, and that involves unskilled people unconsciously repairing their insides.
    How much more powerful is Nocebo? Unconsciously damaging yourself must be much easier.
    This is not psychobabble, it’s real.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Well, yes, if you keep telling people they’re going to die, they probably will. I recently told a story about the tea-planter in Ceylon

      So, apart from killing them by driving them outdoors, Tobacco Control is also killing smokers by the power of suggestion, printed on every cigarette package.

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