There’s a noteworthy asymmetry in the war between smokers and antismokers. And it’s that the smokers are almost all volunteers, and the antismokers are almost all mercenaries.
Somebody like Deborah Arnott, the boss of ASH, is being paid a good salary for doing her job. The same goes for most the other principal figures in Tobacco Control who are either working in universities, or in government, orin NGOs like the WHO or BMA. They’re all doing a job they’re being paid to do. And I must say that they’ve been doing a pretty good job. After all, they’ve managed to get smoking banned more or less everywhere.
But most of the people in the trenches opposite aren’t being paid anything. Nobody is paying me a penny to write this blog. Nor, I bet, is anyone paying Grandad to write his blog. Nor Junican. Nor any number of other bloggers. We’re all volunteers. In the case of the three people mentioned, we’re all retired people, writing in our free time. And in my case, all my time is free time or idle time. And I devote some of my time to writing my blog, and some to constructing computer simulation models, and some to just sitting in pub gardens, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes.
What motivates me to write? Anger. I wake up angry every morning at what’s being done to smokers, as they’re exiled to the outdoors, excluded and demonised and robbed. I’m angry and I want to fight back. And writing this blog is one way of doing that. I’m always trying to think up new ways of fighting back.
I very much doubt that Deborah Arnott wakes up angry every day. She’s making a good living from Tobacco Control. Nobody is persecuting her. She hasn’t been “exiled to the outdoors”. She isn’t being taxed to death. She isn’t being reviled (except by people like me).
And she probably thinks she’s doing a Good Thing, as well as being paid to do it. She probably thinks that working in Tobacco Control is a good and noble and progressive thing to do. She’s working to make ours a wonderfully “smoke-free” world. And she’s got lots of colleagues in government and universities and the medical profession who probably regularly tell her that she’s doing a great job. And if chance encounters with them aren’t enough, then there always the big conferences that Tobacco Control are always having in one exotic location or other, like Moscow or New Delhi. I think the sole purpose of these conferences is really just for all present to tell each other what a wonderful job they’re all doing, and have them all go home with their spirits and conviction renewed.
I once knew someone who worked in Tobacco Control. She was a very good friend of mine. So good that we even used to go on holiday together, just the two of us. We spent a week or two driving around the Loire valley in France. And another week or two on an island in Greece. And another week or two in the Algarve in Portugal. And I smoked all the way through all those holidays. And she never said a word about it. Not a single word. She even had ashtrays in her London flat for her smoking friends, of whom I was just one. And when she was living in London she worked for some Labour-controlled council in North London. I never asked what her job was there, but I gathered it had something to do with Public Health. And back in 1987, Public Health sounded like a good thing to be working in. Who’s against Public Health? So it was an enormous shock to discover, when I wrote to her in 2007 to complain about the smoking ban, and she wrote back, that she worked in Smoking Cessation, and had been for the past 25 years on and off. For me that was like a Jew finding out that his pretty blonde girlfriend was a camp guard in Auschwitz. But it still took me a year to see that our 30 year friendship was over.
When I knew her, she wasn’t an antismoker. She didn’t smoke, but she didn’t have an antismoking bone in her body. But she was being paid to do antismoking work. And she probably believed she was doing something good in Public Health. She was an employee. And she did what she was paid to do. That’s how it is with employees. They do what they’re paid to do. It’s what I did when I was an employee. I never asked too many questions about what I was doing. I always took it for granted that it was all perfectly legal and above board. When I worked in computing, I was told that there was pots of money in weapons development, but I always worked on civilian projects. I would have had qualms about doing weapons development, I think.
And the same is probably true of Deborah Arnott, who – unlike my holiday companion – used once to be a smoker. She’s doing a job. A very well paid job. And she does her job very well. She may well be no more an antismoker than my holiday companion was. Maybe she once even had lots of smoking friends (although I doubt she does now).
If you’re an employee, you’re not really likely to be fully committed to your job. Because the only real reason you’re doing it is to earn the money. And part of doing any job is making a show of believing that it’s a job worth doing, and that the product the company sells is something well worth buying. I once deeply shocked my co-workers in a computing company by declaring that a rival product was a much better one than ours. Or at least was going to sell a lot more than ours ever would (and I was right: it did).
The Tobacco Control Industry probably has a big (and growing) problem motivating its employees. It’s the same problem in every industry with lots of employees. The employees are basically doing the job in order to earn the money. They wouldn’t do it otherwise. They’re not, for the most part, True Believers in The Product whatever it happens to be – soap, cupcakes, or video games. And in the case of Tobacco Control, where the “product” is essentially the extermination of all smokers, there are probably very few True Believers. Did my friend in Smoking Cessation want to exterminate me? Certainly not. But it was what her job was all about, even if she felt she was simply “helping” smokers like me to stop smoking.
The Tobacco Control Industry is also just a huge extortion racket that goes round robbing and demonising and excluding smokers. It’s a sort of Mafia. But it’s a Mafia in which everyone believes, or tries to believe, that they’re “helping” smokers, and “improving Public Health”. Once the employees stop believing that lie, and start realising that they’re doing far more harm than good, they’ll start looking for new jobs in different industries.
The smokers in the trenches opposite have the opposite problem. There’s no money whatsoever in fighting Tobacco Control. So you have to be highly motivated to do anything at all. You have to be – like me – filled with burning rage. Or burning something. Because if you don’t have some burning something in you, you’re not going to do anything. And that’s probably why there are relatively few people like me. Most smokers simply aren’t motivated enough, driven enough, to do anything.
However, the more that the mercenaries in Tobacco Control adversely impact smokers’ lives, the more smokers will be motivated to fight back. So the more successful Tobacco Control is in banning smoking, raising taxes on tobacco, and making life harder and harder for smokers, the more smokers will become motivated to fight back – voluntarily, purely out of personal conviction. And the more that smokers fight back, the harder it’ll become for the unmotivated employees in Tobacco Control to justify to themselves the morality of what they’re doing. They’ll probably ask to be paid more. Or they’ll need more pep talks at their regular conferences. They’ll be assailed by mounting doubts.
In this manner, a growing volunteer army of smokers will confront the mercenary armies of Tobacco Control. And this irregular army will enjoy rising morale just as Tobacco Control’s morale is faltering. It’s already beginning to happen.
And in the end the irregular army will defeat the mercenaries.