Cigarette smokers with high levels of psychological distress are often heavy smokers, and thus identified as a “hard core” group who are less willing or able to quit than other smokers. However, a study by UC San Francisco researchers shows that over the course of 19 years, from 1997 to 2015, this hard core group smoked progressively fewer cigarettes per day and tried to quit in increasingly greater numbers, along with every other group of smokers in the United States.
“Even though they smoke more than the general population, smokers with high psychological distress have been smoking less and trying to quit more, as the overall level of smoking has decreased,” said Margarete C. Kulik, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow with the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education (CTCRE) and the lead author of the study. “This shows that with effective tobacco control policies, even hard-core smokers will soften over time.”
What’s meant by “psychological distress”? How is it measured? What are its units (force, energy, speed)? It’s probably not being measured at all, and there aren’t any units. And so we’re dealing with pseudo-science here, as always. And it’s being used to come to predetermined conclusions, dressed up as ‘science’. The mere existence of people like Stanton Glantz inside the University of California is probably reason enough to simply close the whole place down. What’s the point of funding charlatans like him? What’s the point of having students taught fraudulent science? Who needs universities that have ceased to be centres of excellence, and have become centres of putrescence?
The suggestion seems to be that smokers all suffer psychological distress (however measured) depending on how much they smoke. Might there not be a simple explanation for this, which is that smokers are being persecuted (by people like Stanton Glantz), and this persecution is the cause of their distress? And they are more persecuted (and distressed) the more they smoke? And people who are being persecuted – for any reason whatsoever – will quite often eventually “soften” and surrender in the face of “effective tobacco control policies” (i.e. intense persecution)? Eventually, one army usually defeats another, and one side or other will surrender.
But is it that smoking causes psychological distress? Or that psychological distress causes smoking (which is eases the distress)? I’ve just set out one reason why smoking might cause psychological distress, as the act of lighting up and smoking brings the smoker into collision with rules and regulations forbidding smoking.
But I’ve actually always understood smoking as being a a way of alleviating distress (in the form of war, grief, danger, divorce, suffering).
And so we now have a situation where smoking to alleviate distress becomes itself a cause of further distress. And we have a positive feedback loop whereby distress causes smoking, and smoking causes further distress, which causes more smoking, which causes even more distress, and so on. There will be more and more distress – and more and more smoking. Smokers will get angrier and angrier and angrier (anger is a form of distress).
But Stanton Glantz will never see this.
I was watching fragments of the 70s Kung Fu series yesterday. The shaolin monk Kwai Chang Caine, played by David Carradine, undergoes a lengthy apprenticeship in a monastery, where his mentor tells him that he must attain control of the body. And that, presumably, is what all the elaborate physical exercises are all about: attaining physical self-mastery.
Afterwards, it struck me that the antismokers are trying to teach smokers self-mastery. After all, isn’t it one of their regular complaints that smokers have no self-control? And in this sense the antismokers ideology of self-control is a religious – or perhaps monastic – ideology of considerable antiquity (I was myself a pupil in a Benedictine monastery school, and so am another sort of Kwai Chang Caine). It’s an ascetic ideology of self-control and self-denial.
But what’s the point of attaining self-mastery? What’s the point of shutting oneself up? What’s the point of preventing oneself from doing anything (like smoking, drinking, etc)? Isn’t the man who has attained self-mastery someone who has put himself into a strait-jacket, bound himself with chains of self-denial?
But there’s perhaps another way of interpreting self-mastery, which is that one becomes the master of one’s own life, rather than remaining the servant of some other master. In this interpretation, the man who attains self-mastery becomes the captain of his own ship, free to do as he chooses, and to go where he likes. And when Caine left the monastery, it was because he had achieved this sort of self-mastery, and was able to wander the world alone, without guidance from his former teachers and masters in the shaolin monastery.
But this isn’t the idea of self-mastery or self-control that is advanced by antismokers. The antismokers actually want to control smokers. They want to “soften” them into slavery, with the antismokers as their masters. To the extent that they want smokers to exercise self-control, it is to prevent themselves doing things (smoking). Their ideal of self-control is one of self-denial. You shouldn’t allow yourself to do things.
But this sort of self-denial must result in stasis: nothing is allowed to happen. A man of iron self-control can never permit himself any undisciplined thought about anything whatsoever. He can never invent anything, or discover anything, or dream anything. And when have any of these self-denying killjoys ever produced any new work of art, any new invention, any new insight? Never. And it cannot be otherwise. For if you keep your horse confined in a stable or a paddock, you are never going to go anywhere on it. It’s only when you give free rein to your horse, and proceed at full gallop, that you’re ever likely to go anywhere in the surrounding hills, and find anything new there.