The Letter

I was thinking this morning about dentists. I’ve been going to dentists for over 60 years. After the smoking ban, I stopped visiting doctors, but carried on visiting dentists. I regard dentists as more important than doctors. One of them once told me that human teeth have the highest concentration of nerves anywhere in the body. That’s a fact that I’ve never actually checked, but which struck me at the time as being highly plausible. After all, teeth are very sensitive to pain. They’re also sensitive to touch. I can bring my teeth together so that they just touch, and I know that they’re just touching. It isn’t really very surprising to me that there is a dental profession that is entirely devoted to teeth.

And, in the UK at least, the dental profession seems to have been almost immune to the rise of antismoking in the medical profession. Throughout my life, doctors have always taken an interest in whether I smoked, although for the most part it’s been a pretty casual interest. But dentists have had no interest whatsoever. Their concern has been primarily with sugary drinks. I’ve never, in all my 60+ years in the dental chair, had any lecture on smoking from any of the many dentists I’ve encountered.

Until a couple of years ago, when a young dentist started giving me a lecture about smoking and teeth and gums. I say ‘started’, because I pretty rapidly interrupted to ask for evidence of the claims being made.

In fact, this wasn’t the first time I’d got a lecture. For about five or six years ago a dental hygienist, while polishing my teeth, started giving me a lecture about smoking. I say ‘started’  because I pretty rapidly interrupted her, and told her she was talking nonsense. I even laughed out loud when she said that smoking was “naughty”. It still makes me laugh when I think about it today. She was stunned that anyone would answer back.

I’ve never seen her again. She was the hygienist working for my current dentist, who is a lovely old chap, with the most soft and gentle hands of any dentist I have ever known. After my little spat with his hygienist, he welcomed me with a strong handshake on my next visit. He said nothing about the matter, but I felt that he approved of my stand.

But I suspect that he belongs to the old school of dentists, and that they are a dying breed. It would appear that, after resisting the antismoking tide for some 50 years, the Royal College of Dentists (if there is such an organisation) has succumbed, and dentists are now being taught that smoking makes your teeth drop out. And that means that I should expect to get more and more lectures from dentists.

And I was wondering what to do about it. And that’s when I thought of The Letter.

The Letter would be an official letter that was to be sent to any doctor or dentist who had been identified as an antismoking zealot, notifying them that they had come to the attention of the Office of Capnic Affairs, and they were being politely requested to cease and desist from any further mention of tobacco or smoking with any of their patients, on pain of future unspecified penalties. The Letter would be sent to named medical practitioners, perhaps by Recorded Delivery. It wouldn’t be an email. It would be printed on the highest quality paper, and it would be signed in purple ink. The Office of Capnic Affairs would have its own address, and its own logo. The recipient of The Letter would learn that someone, somewhere, disapproved of what they were doing.

Anyone who was having any difficulty with a doctor or dentist could request that The Letter be sent to the offending individual. And in due course, one would arrive. In fact several might arrive, from all sorts of different parts of the world. There would be many different translations of The Letter. There’d be German version, a French version, a Spanish version, a  Russian version, and so on, as necessary.

Of course, the Office of Capnic Affairs, on 255-256, Mark Twain Boulevard, doesn’t actually exist yet. Nor does its department b12, from which The Letter is sent. But if the Office of Capnic Affairs does not exist yet, there is nothing that says that it will not one day exist, at the precise address foreseen for it. In fact, I might even dare to say that it most certainly will exist one day.

The Office of Capnic Affairs could of course have its own website long before any actual office is built. And it would also have a department b12. It would have its own email address. Any email sent to it would receive an automated courteous response. It would have its own newsletter reporting the appointments of new General Secretaries, and the retirement of old ones, and perhaps even a few obituaries. There would of course be photos of its extensive offices on Mark Twain Boulevard.

I could elaborate further. But the idea is only a few hours old. Anyone who has read Eric Frank Russell’s Wasp will understand what’s being done here.

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About Frank Davis

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12 Responses to The Letter

  1. Anyone who has read Eric Frank Russell’s Wasp will understand what’s being done here.
    Oh good! I’m glad someone will (cos I haven’t got a clue). And there was me thinking someone had swapped out the contents of your baccy tin while you were sitting in the Beergarden this lunchtime. :P

    • Frank Davis says:

      Wasp was another one of those formative books I read during my youth. In the book, a single agent is dropped onto a planet occupied by bullying, nazi types. He creates an imaginary organisation, the Dirac Angestun Gesept

      Completing his first objective, Mowry begins the second: sending letters to various people of importance informing them of several deaths by his hand. These threats are always signed by a mythical rebel organisation named Dirac Angestun Gesept (Sirian Freedom Party) and often emblazoned by the slogan, “War makes wealth for the few, misery for the many. At the right time, Dirac Angestun Gesept will punish the former, bring aid and comfort to the latter.”

      The Office of Capnic Affairs isn’t a mythical freedom organisation, but is instead a mythical bureaucracy, which sends warning letters to selected people.

      • Frank Davis says:

        And here’s a draft logo for department b12 of the Office of Capnic Affairs.

      • I followed the linky (thanks) and read the wiki. OK now I sorta see where you’re going. Liked this quote: Terry Pratchett talks of the ironic nature in Russell’s storytelling; that Wasp is a “funn[y] terrorists’ handbook.”.
        I have a long ‘baccy run’ coach trip *shudders cos he loathes travelling by public transport* ahead of me this month so I shall kindle it I think. Insane doses of diazepam, ‘hidden’ vaping and The Wasp…probably see me through to Adinkerke.

  2. Clicky says:

  3. waltc says:

    Give it a PO box which many legit businesses and govt bureaus have. Make it more specific. “We have received complaints from a number of your patients….” “We ask you to cease and desist this practice or we shall be forced to list your office on our Do Not Visit list which is circulated to all x million smokers throughout the UK”

  4. Jay says:

    Wish PHE was a mythical bureaucratic dept – perhaps it is…..

  5. The UK must be a horrible place to be, especially when you have any sort of ailment as a smoker (apart from the very fact of being a smoker already making life tough as it is). Perhaps I’ve so far got lucky, but here in Germany, I’ve only ever had one doctor, a cardiologist, recommend that I stop smoking (without any indication, just a note in his report) – the most I’ve ever heard was a suggestion to reduce smoking until an issue improved. Another confirmation to never step foot on this island until this madness is over and done with.

    • Actually Tino, “klingt komisch ist aber so” if you tell your GP here in the UK that you are a smoker then they fall over themselves to run every possible test. None of the ‘take 2 paracetamol and see me in a fortnight if it doesn’t improve” nonsense they give NonSmokers. Hell I even tell my non-smoking friends to say ’60 a day and a pipe at weekends’ when their GP asks.
      I started coughing up blood and even though the GP was sure it was just a burst blood vessel in my throat, the whole might of the NHS was visited upon me. Within 14 days I had had any number of Xrays, CAT scans, MRI, spiros and seen a top ‘lung cancer’ Specialist.
      You being in Germany with genuinely the world’s finest health Care system free-at-the-point-of-access that’ll seem like shoddy service but, trust me, in the UK that little lot is ‘Gold Standard’ when normally seeing a ‘Facharzt’ (‘consultant’) means a 6 month waiting list IF you’re lucky!
      *still I agree with you about his soggy septic Isle*

      • Frank Davis says:

        Isn’t it just that the medical profession has convinced itself that smokers must be unwell in one way or other, so they’ll go looking for one malady or other, because they’re sure that there will be one? And they’ll probably always find one.

        • I think you’re right, that and ‘box’ ticking’ and ‘achieving targets’. But whatever the reason, I’m grateful. Sometimes something good can come from all the Anti-smoker nonsense. And in my own case the GP made very clear it was the fact that i was a smoker that meant he had to refer me on ‘just to be on the safe side’. If it had been my non-smoking Bestes Frau with the throat bleed he would have made a few calming noises and told her to drink cold fluids for a day….or counter intuitively eat lots of salty crisps.

  6. margo says:

    Dentists have now become worse than doctors, in my experience. It’s counter-productive as most of the smokers I know have stopped going for check-ups and now only go to the dentist when they’re in agony, so teeth that might have been saved have to be extracted.
    I’ve given up arguing and shouting, now. I have one sentence I just keep saying over and over during the smoking lecture, quite slowly and with a smile if I can manage it. Every time there’s a pause I say, “Yes, I know that’s what you believe.” I put the emphasis on different words, depending on context, to make it condescending, or sorrowful, or creepy, or dismissive, as seems appropriate.
    I’m waiting for a dentist to say, “Well, don’t YOU believe it?” but so far they never have. It does make them look unhappy and a bit frustrated, though.

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