A Successful Operation, and an Unsuccessful One

Here in the UK, we’re less than 2 months away from the tenth anniversary of the UK public smoking ban of 1 July 2007. And so it seems appropriate to begin to consider how successful it has been.

Tobacco Control declared it to be a Great Success from Day One. But they always declare everything they do to be a Great Success, whatever it is. But then those people only ever talk to each other, in closed sessions in the conferences they hold in Moscow or New Delhi. They never ever talk to smokers like me. I used to think that they would want to know what smokers felt about smoking bans, but in fact they don’t. That alone speaks volumes about their attitude to smokers.

About 10 years ago I had a minor operation for an incipient hernia. I wasn’t really sure that I needed one, but the NHS specialist that I visited said it would only get worse if left untended. He explained to me how he proposed to carry out a new form of ‘keyhole’ surgery which would involve making a minimal incision in my abdomen, and using this to introduce a net inside, which would be clipped in place with pins made from some rare metal. So I knew roughly what he was going to do. He told me that I would be in and out of hospital in one day, staying overnight after the operation before going home. And the morning after the operation he came to visit me in my hospital bed, and asked how I was feeling, and whether I was in any discomfort (it was a bit painful). A few hours later I was released from the hospital, and over the next week or so completely recovered.

Also, about 10 years ago, the most senior doctors in the very same NHS carried out a major operation on me, and about 13 million other people like me. They didn’t ask me whether I wanted the operation. They didn’t explain why we needed it (I for one didn’t think I did). And when they carried out their operation, I was expelled from the hospital the moment the operation was over. And I was never asked thereafter how I felt, or whether I was in any pain. Although in fact I was in very great pain, and have remained in great pain ever since. I never recovered from that operation. And I know that a great many other patients never recovered either. But nevertheless they declared the operation to be a great success. And began planning similar new operations.

In a sense, I suppose that they thought that they were carrying out a completely painless minor operation. No incision was made. No anaesthetic needed to be administered. For the operation merely entailed applying an adhesive patch to the surface of walls in public buildings throughout the UK, the effect of which was to drive tobacco smoke (and tobacco smokers) out of them, just as effectively as if they had been mosquitoes or ants. And this was the desired effect. In fact, it was the planned outcome. “Smokers will be exiled to the outdoors,” the director of Action on Smoking and Health, Deborah Arnott, confidently declared. And on the day of its execution, which was carried out simultaneously at the same hour and on the same day everywhere in the UK, the operation was a Great Success: UK smokers were exiled to the outdoors in their millions on 1 July 2007. And all with a few little insect-repellent adhesive patches, which took only a few seconds to apply to the surface of a wall.

The pain came later. And it was the pain that comes from expulsion from society. For on that day, every smoker in the UK was expelled from polite society. Overnight they all became, quite literally, outsiders. And they all had to ‘get used to it’, in their own way, over the next few months and years.

But I never ‘got used to it’. I still wake up every day with the deep, throbbing pain of it. I did so again today. Ten years after the imposition of the UK smoking ban, it’s still as painful as it was that July day ten years ago. The pain usually wears off by late morning, and I can think about other things.

1 July 2007 wasn’t the end of something, but instead the beginning of a process which was to unfold with its own remorseless internal logic thereafter, month by month, year by year. For the smoking ban first shattered, almost instantaneously the circle of acquaintances that I had built up around me in Devon pubs, and with whom I talked, bought drinks, and played games of pool. Exiled to the outdoors, we never met up with each other again, except in passing on a street. And then gradually, over the next few years, the smoking ban shattered my wider circle of long-term friends, some of whom I had known for over 30 years. The reason for this was quite simple: there was no longer anywhere to meet them. Nowhere, that is, that didn’t have the atmosphere of a dentist’s waiting room. This process of disintegration was hastened when many of them, of their own volition, also banned smoking in their own homes, thereby assigning to their smoking friends the status of poisonous insects.

Nor is it, as far as I can see, that other smokers ever ‘got used to it’ either. If they had done, UK pub culture would have not have changed at all. After a week or two inside the “smoke-free” pubs, smokers would have got used to not smoking inside them, just like they get used to the disappearance of one brand of beer, and the arrival of another. They would, in short, have stopped smoking. But, where I live now, the smokers have not stopped smoking, and instead meet up to drink and smoke outside, in pub gardens, just like they always did on summer days. And most pubs, having lost their smoking-and-drinking clientele, have transformed themselves into pub-restaurants. And of course many of them – about a quarter – have gone to the wall.

But the process of social disintegration consequent upon the UK smoking ban extends far beyond any circle of acquaintances or friends. It extends to the whole of society in every respect. And now that I am no longer welcome anywhere, I no longer go anywhere. Why should I wish to travel around in a country in which I am no longer welcome, even though I remain a British citizen? Why should I want to ride on trains on which I can’t smoke, or to stay in hotels where I can’t smoke, or visit museums or art galleries where I can’t smoke, or attend concerts or cinemas where I can’t smoke. The answer is that I don’t want to. And so I don’t. I no longer take part in any ‘cultural’ activity whatsoever. Nor do I watch the TV on which smoking has also been rigorously banned. Because I am no longer part of their culture. Their hollow, empty, fraudulent culture is one that I have no wish to belong to either.

And with social disintegration there has come political disintegration. I used (silly me!) to vote Liberal Democrat, because I thought of myself as something of a classical liberal, and also a parliamentary democrat. I stopped voting for them when I learned that 95% of Lib Dem MPs in parliament had voted for the draconian smoking ban. And I swung from being pro-EU to anti-EU almost overnight when I learned that the European parliament had voted for a European smoking ban, complete with show trials for prominent offenders. To this day, I do not see how a political union of some 500 million people can endure and prosper when 150 million of them have been exiled to the outdoors as so many poisonous insects. The Commissioners in the EU Commission may as well have set off a large bomb in the fragile hull of the the ship of the EU, and thereby scuttled “the project” before it had even left harbour on its maiden voyage. The EU, as far as I’m concerned, has no future.

Nor is it that I have grown weaker over these past 10 years. Instead I have grown stronger. I am more determined than ever to carry on smoking. And I have lost every vestige of belief in any of the epidemiological studies of smoking, and the medical organisations that conduct them.

In short, what initially looked like a successful operation is gradually proving to be a catastrophic failure.

Furthermore I have become active in trying to bring smokers together from all over the world, via the internet. For I see them as a huge army-in-waiting – 1.5 billion strong -, waiting for the call to arms. Ten years ago, smokers no more belonged to a political entity than tea-drinkers or snooker-players. But any group in society automatically becomes a political entity when it is singled out for special discriminatory treatment. It takes a lot of heating and hammering for iron to be turned into the steel of a razor-sharp samurai sword. And smokers are currently enduring that hammering. And far from destroying them, it will actually only strengthen them, as it has strengthened me. There’s already a nascent army of them emerging all over the world: I am, as one trivial example, invited to speak to German smokers later on this year, which I will do so via Skype. Such a thing would have been inconceivable 10 years ago. And this kind of thing will happen more and more.

In another ten years, a small global irregular army of smokers will have appeared, and got identified as a growing new political force. And as it grows in strength, it will attract more and more smokers, and maybe quite a few ex-smokers and non-smokers as well. And then twenty years later, it will have become so powerful that it can embark on the complete and systematic destruction of Tobacco Control, and the root-and-branch reformation of the medical profession, and the long-overdue extirpation of every kind of eugenic thinking from the universities. I do not think this is mere wishful thinking: I think that it is the inevitable consequence of a slowly-unfolding logic, that is as inexorable as the Newtonian laws of motion and gravitation. It can’t be stopped.

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About Frank Davis

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27 Responses to A Successful Operation, and an Unsuccessful One

  1. Timothy Goodacre says:

    Brilliant ! Thank you for this excellent piece of writing Frank ! I too feel this pain. My social life is ruined. Many pubs i patronised have gone bust. I can no longer get my favourite brand of cigarettes. Youngsters are brain washed by their teachers to treat me as a pariah. My anger grows and grows !

  2. Rhys says:

    Seventeen years here in oh-so-progressive Vancouver. But it’s the same story, I think, everywhere. There are the ‘good smokers’, the ones who say the bans will help them quit, and then there’s us. I wonder how the numbers work out there?

    On a slightly optimistic note, if you don’t have an aversion to torrents, download a tv show called Stranger Things. Eight episodes, it was a pretty big hit when it came out last autumn on Netflix. And everybody smokes! I was so excited when I saw that. It’s also well-written and acted, I promise. I was looking at my computer screen in wonder. The sheriff is smoking! The kids are sneaking cigarettes at a party!

    Silly how ‘little things’ can become so important, no?

    • Frank Davis says:

      Stranger Things (2016) Season 1 Episode 1

      It’s a weird 1/2 screen format surrounded by flashing lights.

      I didn’t see any smoking at all.

      • Vlad says:

        Does anyone else get the feeling that the smoking in present day movies and TV series which show a lot of it (normally because the action takes place +40yrs ago) is not ‘natural’ smoking? In other words, it’s ‘faked’ smoking. Actors don’t smoke because they enjoy it but because that’s what the script says. I tried to watch Mad Men and was fast put off by this and by what I perceived to be smugness and a superior attitude reeking of ‘we know the truth about smoking that you poor saps in the ’60s didn’t’.

        • Joe L. says:

          I don’t think it’s a feeling, I think it’s a fact that all current smoking in film and TV is “fake.” From my understanding, tobacco is banned from all sets, so all cigarettes you see being smoked are “herbal” cigarettes that contain no tobacco.

          Regarding Mad Men, I read an interview about a handful of years ago with Jon Hamm, who plays Don Draper, where he stated he was an ex-smoker, but due to the amount of “fake” smoking he was doing in the show, he picked the habit back up again in real life. I believe the blonde woman (name escapes me right now) who played his wife started smoking again, as well.

        • jaxthefirst says:

          It always heartens me whenever I see a character in any recently-made drama or film smoking, because it indicates that the writer/s are probably smokers and it has long been a well-accepted fact in writing circles that smokers are the best writers (and also that the moment they give up their writing takes a significant nosedive). The presence of anyone smoking in a script indicates that, for the writer, it’s a part of normal life which it’s perfectly realistic to incorporate into a character if it fits. This simply doesn’t enter into the minds of non-smoking writers because, for them, smoking isn’t something that plays a major part in their life, so it doesn’t occur to them to feature it as part of one of their characters’ personalities. So, they give themselves away by their lack of smoking characters and you can be pretty sure that the storyline will be just that teeny bit disappointing, the characters somehow not quite credible and, usually, the ending rather irritatingly predictable.

          And as far as actors smoking when the part requires it, it’s quite amusing to spot when an actor is really a smoker or if they’re just a non-smoker pretending to be a smoker. There’s a casualness about the handling of a cigarette that non-smokers, even well-trained actors, just can’t properly emulate – not to mention the fact that when a non-smoking actor is required to smoke a cigarette and really, really can’t do it, you’ll note that at the point of inhalation the camera will always quickly switch to another shot, or something will conveniently happen which means that the “smoker” has to throw their cigarette away before they’ve even taken a single puff! Dead giveaway!

      • Rhys says:

        That’s an awful recording – but go to 8:30 and you should see where we first see someone acting normal :)

        • Rhys says:

          Winona Ryder smokes, and David Harbour smokes sometimes. He did an AMA on reddit and people queried that – he said he took it up again for the show because it was so integral to the character.

          It’s little, I know. But it made me unreasonably happy to see a tv show where smoking was normal.

      • Joe L. says:

        I believe that strange format is a method of subverting YouTube’s automated copyright infringement detection algorithms.

  3. Mark Jarratt, Sydney, Australia says:

    The global irregular army of resistance to eugenics based moralizing arises! See this comment from our esteemed trench fighter Mr Michael J McFadden on the defeat of the illiberal so called Democrats party in 2016, as posted on the Canberra Times site. https://goo.gl/xDd3ze

  4. Yes, Frank, we’re together.

  5. Vlad says:

    Sparking controversy! Bella Hadid, Dakota Johnson and Frances Bean Cobain among the stars to flout New York smoking ban by lighting up in bathroom at the Met gala

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-4466698/Stars-flout-NY-smoking-ban-lighting-Met-gala.html

    Shows the sorry state the so-called democracies are in when smoking indoors is an illegal act.

    • waltc says:

      I enjoyed the line “turning a blind eye to the fact that they were smoking in a bldg with valuable artworks.”!Aside from the bathroom smoke not getting near the “artworks,’ I have to assume Picasso was smoking while he painted them and wonder if Michaelangelo smoked while he sculpted the Pieta, or if Matisse’s models took a smoke break from their poses.

    • nisakiman says:

      Even sorrier is the sight of these (I presume) ‘A’ listers having to sneak off to the bathroom for a smoke. Something has gone terribly awry with our society, and I fear it’s up to us to start putting it right. Nobody else will.

      Yes, it’s definitely past time for a massing of resistance to this insanity. And the first step is communication. Once the pebble is tossed into the pond, the ripples will spread with the inevitability of time itself. What we have to do is to toss that pebble, and we can only do that as a grassroots movement. No one individual will have any impact.

      • RdM says:

        Something has gone terribly awry with our society, and I fear it’s up to us to start putting it right. Nobody else will.

        Indeed.

        “There is not a tendency for things to right themselves.”
        Ralph Waldo Emerson

        Who also wrote:
        “Accept your genius and say what you think.”

        and, apropos of the bathroom smokers?
        “Be true to your own act and congratulate yourself if you have done something strange and extravagant to break the monotony of a decorous age.”

        and, perhaps of this and other like-minded blogs?
        “Great hearts steadily send forth the secret forces that incessantly draw great events.”
        and, perhaps again
        “When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand.”

        OK, I’ve picked a few out… many more at
        http://oaks.nvg.org/emerson-quotes.html

        Perhaps one for Harley:
        “Enthusiasm is the leaping lightning, not to be measured by the horse-power of the understanding.”

        On the other hand… regarding the need for references… and undeniable arguments:
        “The intellectual man requires a fine bait; the sots are easily amused.”

        Thanks for your own many fine comments, inspiring and encouraging!

        • Frank Davis says:

          “There is not a tendency for things to right themselves.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

          That reminded me of something I read yesterday:

          Human systems can lose the ability to self-correct in three basic ways.

          1. The information feedback is no longer accurate because self-serving interests manipulate the data to maintain whatever narrative/data-flow supports their power, wealth and income.

          2. Self-serving interests limit any behavioral feedback that threatens their power, wealth and income.

          3. Those in positions of responsibility who are tasked with managing behavioral feedback are no longer accountable, so the needed behavioral feedback fails…

          Systems that lose their ability to self-correct collapse. The self-serving elites and fiefdoms that have crippled the system’s feedback mechanisms to protect their power, wealth and income think they’re “winning” by imposing a new neofeudal order. But all they’re really doing is ensuring the demise of the entire system.

          All of these feedback blocks are in play. The MSM tells lies. Smoking bans restrict behaviour. Politicians (particularly in the EU) are unaccountable.

    • Vlad says:

      The reaction from ‘experts’ didn’t take too long:

      Blatt, the national director of tobacco control programs at the American Lung Association, said he was disappointed in the pictures.

      Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-4467646/Cancer-expert-slams-Met-Gala-celebs-smoking.html

      No surprise that little progress is made against cancer when the director of an agency created to foster hate and discrimination towards smokers is called ‘cancer expert’…

  6. Bemused says:

    Claimed worlds oldest man dies aged 146. Life long heavy smoker according to the Singapore Straits `Times.

    http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/worlds-oldest-man-dies-in-indonesia-aged-146-reports

  7. Frank Davis says:

    I just found out I’m Mexican.

    • Joe L. says:

      LOL! So it determined with 95% certainty that your off-center, half-faced, cartoon self-portrait is Mexican? I hate to tell them, but their algorithm is seriously broken.

      Sadly, someone is probably getting paid pretty well to generate such garbage results. If they ever need a new job, I’m sure Tobacco Control will hire them!

  8. Smoking Lamp says:

    While the antismokers claim success with smoking bans and plain packs reality presents another perspective: “Smoking on the rise in France despite rollout of plain packaging” https://www.thelocal.fr/20170502/the-french-smoke-more-since-the-introduction-of-plain-packaged-cigarettes-in-france

  9. Shaftmonde says:

    Particularly irksome is when antis resort to hiding behind the ‘wisdom’ of children.
    When a small girl relation of mine said to me “Please don’t smoke, I don’t want you to die” She obviously knows something I don’t for all her five years’ experience of life.
    Perhaps she heard it somewhere?
    Naaw! Course not.

    • beobrigitte says:

      I heard this line: “Please don’t smoke, I don’t want you to die” before and rather sternly looked at the child. Then I said: How old are you? How old am I? Repeat this to me when you’re my age.”

      Perhaps he told his teacher the next day about it.

  10. beobrigitte says:

    But I never ‘got used to it’. I still wake up every day with the deep, throbbing pain of it. I did so again today. Ten years after the imposition of the UK smoking ban, it’s still as painful as it was that July day ten years ago.
    Yes, it is almost 10 years down the line from the date on which teflon Tony rolled out the smoking ban which fitted the Blair Rich Project nicely. The public was told that there would be a smoking ban. No-one bothered to ask because they knew that the public did not want it. So in the last week of June 2007 the BBC hailed the coming smoking ban in pubs on 01.07.2007.
    It is nice to go on holiday where you still find ashtrays on the tables and pubs packed with people, laughing and talking, drinking wine and beer.
    This is a distant memory here in Britain. And why would I wish to go out when I find myself exiled to the outdoors as soon as I wish to light up my cigarette, having to leave my drink (?ready to be cleared away or worse even, spiked) on a table by the door.
    How old do these despicable people who continue extending the smoking ban think I am? I’m an adult and have been that for a long time!

    The smoking ban was peddled on the elusive passive smoking “deaths”. WHOM have I killed? I want a list of the passive smoking deaths. And this list has to exclude the typical old people’s illnesses that tobacco control continues to list. And, naturally, only INDEPENDENT research has value.
    WHY hasn’t the medical establishment looked into WHO funded the obscure “research” and looked into their so-called independence?

    As suspected 10 years ago, it didn’t stop with the indoors ban. Tobacco control is on a roll and has since come up with even more far-fetched ideas that gullible bodies want to make into new laws as soon as possible.

    Soon after the dictation of the smoking ban ASH et al hailed it to be a success, which the BBC gleefully announced – yet again without consulting the REAL public. If one calls exiling people to the outdoors in wind and weather, increased pub closures, and isolated (especially the old) people a success I call one a sociopath.

    In another ten years, a small global irregular army of smokers will have appeared, and got identified as a growing new political force. And as it grows in strength, it will attract more and more smokers, and maybe quite a few ex-smokers and non-smokers as well. And then twenty years later, it will have become so powerful that it can embark on the complete and systematic destruction of Tobacco Control, and the root-and-branch reformation of the medical profession, and the long-overdue extirpation of every kind of eugenic thinking from the universities. I do not think this is mere wishful thinking: I think that it is the inevitable consequence of a slowly-unfolding logic, that is as inexorable as the Newtonian laws of motion and gravitation. It can’t be stopped.
    I agree with this completely! The truth will come out, sooner or later, it always does.

  11. Supergran says:

    Aw you know what Frank, there is only you in the whole world feels quite so bad about the smoking ban as I. I’m FURIOUS, angry, fuming. I can not be bothered to go many places. I do go abroad 3 times a year though and get all the cigs I need for a year. They WILL NEVER stop me. Not ever and now I have to stop writing this as I can feel the fury building.

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