A comment by Walt set me thinking late last night:
In terms of time, the worst are the workplace bans–8 hrs a day. I quit adbiz before they came in but couldn’t have worked there (written, thought, gone thru boring meetings) in a place where I couldn’t smoke. The ban came in at a time when I was enjoyably teaching one night a week at a local college. I smoked in class (as both I and the profs had smoked in class when I myself went to college) and so had the students. After the ban and its strict enforcement, smoking students (more than half the class) would disappear for ten minutes at a clip during class time to smoke on the street and during the halftime breaks in the 3hr class, we’d all gather on the sidewalk. I remember once when it was blizzarding outside, going into the stairwell to smoke and some bloodhound Ant teacher sniffed me out through the fire door (where do these people get their noses?) and not only told me off but told me she’d “report” me. I told her Go ahead but I guess she never did. I stopped teaching after that semester because it had stopped being fun.
I never had a full time job. Or hardly ever. I worked as a freelance software engineer for over 20 years on short term contracts. And also I often worked at home. And by the time the UK smoking ban came in, I’d pretty much completely ceased working altogether.
So I never experienced a workplace smoking ban. Although I know I would have utterly hated it, because I always smoked while working. It was essential for concentration. It was also essential to stop working every few hours, forget the job completely for half an hour or so, and come back to it with a fresh mind. That way I could work all day, and sometimes all night. I seldom worked office hours anyway.
Reading Walt’s comment I suddenly realised that smoking bans must have wreaked havoc not just in pubs and restaurants, but in workplaces as well, And just like a lot of smokers simply stopped going to bars and restaurants, a lot of them probably threw in their jobs as well. Or at least started wanting to.
Because all of sudden, overnight, everything would have changed. And all the fun people would be in retreat. And all the no-fun people would be in ascendance. The bloodhound Ant teachers would have taken over. For they were the people who stayed on. And as the smokers left, they’d be the ones who got promoted, because there was nobody else to promote.
I started wondering whether this was why universities now seem to be full up with no-fun environmentalists and feminists and cultural Marxists: all the fun people had been driven out.
And it wouldn’t just have been universities, it would have been the same in any organisation whatsoever. Including companies large and small. Government offices. Maybe it even applied to rock’n’ roll bands.
And I think that the eclipse of the fun people, everywhere, overnight, would not have improved the performance of any of these organisations. For people would start being promoted within them not because they were talented workers, but simply because they didn’t smoke, and they were the only people left. If you were the CEO in some company, you’d find that a lot of your talent had vanished. Or – same thing – that a lot of your talent had got less talented, because in the new “smoke-free” environment they no longer worked as well as they once had.
I’m supposing here that most of the imaginative, talented people in any walk of life are going to be smokers. I always think of artists and musicians and writers as smokers. Scientists like Einstein too. It isn’t entirely true, but it seems to be true. Maybe it even applies to army generals. Here’s (right) Eric von Manstein, often cited as the best general in WW2 Germany. He’s the imaginative guy who dreamt up the Ardennes offensive that resulted in the rapid defeat of France in 1940.
Manstein was probably a fun guy, working for a no-fun Hitler until Hitler fired him. After all, the Nazis weren’t exactly fun people. And Erwin Rommel, another imaginative German general, was also a cigar smoker:
Major General Michael Gambier-Parry, of the 2nd Armoured Division, was captured with 2,000 of his men by Rommel in Mechili, Libya, in 1941.
The German field marshal invited the British officer to dine with him in a gesture of military camaraderie. The pair shared good wine and smoked ‘excellent cigars’, according to Gambier-Parry’s granddaughter, Liza Donoghue, 67.
I’m beginning to think that smoking bans, when they’re introduced, constitute an invisible or secret revolution. And 1 July 2007 was the day that revolution took place in the UK. The same revolution took place on different days in countries all over the world. And it was the day that the no-fun people took over, and took over absolutely everything. And everything changed everywhere, in even the tiniest crevices of life.
And now nothing works quite so well any more. And nothing’s any fun any more. And all the politicians are clones. And all the music is dull. And so is TV. And so are movies.
The last time I ever saw no-fun antismoking Dr W, he was speaking to TV cameras outside the BMA. He’d somehow risen to the top. That was back sometime around 1995, and by then the no-fun antismokers were totally in charge of the medical profession, and also the WHO. And most likely all the smoking doctors (and something like 80% of UK doctors smoked back in the 1950s) had been driven out of the top levels of the medical profession by 1995. No-fun, talentless (and, believe me, Dr W had no talent for anything) antismokers had taken over medicine, and begun promoting each other to the top. e.g. Liam Donaldson, Sally Davies. And when they manage to get smoking banned everywhere, no-fun talentless people take over absolutely everything. (Which reminds me that I read of a possible new pandemic last night: black plague. Anyone for another bout of Ebola?)
Perhaps I should run a poll asking readers to say what effect smoking bans had in their working lives. Did the wrong people start getting promoted? Did good people start leaving, retiring early, emigrating. Did business efficiency fall? What’s a good question to ask here?