The Moral High Ground of Tobacco Control

One day in about 1963, somewhere in Brazil, as my father’s green DKW reached the top of a hill, we saw stretched out below us an industrial park, filled with tanks and vats and steaming chimneys, and not a tree in sight.

“Industry!” my father cried out. “That’s what I like to see!”

I did not share my father’s enthusiasm. Industry was not something that I liked to see. For industry was always ugly and dirty, and usually teaming with workers. I would have far preferred to have been looking down on a forest, perhaps with a river or two flowing out through it into a blue sea over the golden sands of a long, sweeping beach.

For back then I was something of an environmentalist who saw industry as something rather poisonous, perhaps even rather satanic (as in Blake’s “dark, satanic mills”). My father had been an electrical engineer on cable ships. And I fancied myself to be something of an artist like Blake. And therein lay a divide opening up between us, and perhaps between one generation and another.

It was to be another 10 – 15 years before I started to change my mind about industry, and to begin to see it as good and useful rather than poisonous and satanic. And I only did so under the influence of Idle Theory, which was changing the way I thought about work and industry and industrial society. For in Idle Theory I began to see industry as something that produced useful tools which served to increase social idleness. There was a Cost to making some tool, which entailed a temporary decrease in idleness, before the greater Value of the tool was realised as an increase in idleness over the lifetime of the tool:

So, if the tool was a primitive stone axe, it would take maybe an afternoon for someone to chip it out of a piece of rock, after which they would be able to use it to do all sorts of things (like chop down trees) more quickly than they could without it. And what applied to axes applied equally to scissors and hammers and saws and pliers, and also to houses and boats and engines and cars and roads and railways and radios and televisions and computers. Each one of these countless numbers of tools served to fractionally increase the idleness of society, and slightly relieve people of toil. And humanity, as I saw it, was on a long, slow and painful journey from a circumstance of unremitting toil and suffering towards one of idleness and freedom and ease.

So industry was a good thing. Yes, there were heaps of spoil and broken rock around the quarries where the stone axes were made, and perhaps the air was filled with dust, and the din of hammers breaking stones – but it was all worth it in the end, if it lifted humanity out of toil and suffering.

But Idle Theory was my own personal heresy, and while it was changing the way that I looked at the world, my environmentalist friends (who numbered most of the people I knew) were becoming more and more anti-industry. They were the kind of people who would protest against the siting of a new power station in a marsh, simply to preserve the yellow-spotted gerbils whose habitat it was. And it was not out of any great love of gerbils that they protested, but out of a loathing of dirty, poisonous industry.

And this hatred of industry would seem to be something that animates Tobacco Control, which in its hatred of smoke of any sort, would seem to be as thoroughly environmentalist in outlook as any other form of environmentalism. For they are always at pains to refer to “the Tobacco Industry”, or very often simply “the Industry”, and quite often simply “industry”, as if the principal crime of tobacco companies was not merely to sell tobacco, but to be an industry which made and sold a product just like any other industry, with all these industries being just as bad as each other. For they were all ugly and poisonous and murderous, and they all filled the air and rivers and land with toxins that would render it uninhabitable for centuries. For them, the Industrial Revolution that began in Britain in the 18th century had done nothing more than fill the air with smoke and soot for a century or two, covering every house in England with soot which only began to slowly be washed off in the late 20th century (it was for many years a common sight to see buildings being slowly washed with streams of water for weeks on end before the golden sandstones of which they had been built gradually emerged from under the layers of soot and grime in which they had been encased for centuries).

It may well be that the capnophobia (smokophobia) of the antismokers is not purely a revulsion for tobacco smoke, but is actually a revulsion at smoke-generating industry of any kind at all. The smoker’s pipe or cigar or cigarette is just another industrial chimney, and it would kill off the smokers just as certainly as the chimneys of the mills and factories and steelworks of Manchester and Sheffield and Hudderfield had slain countless millions of English men and women (and chiiiildren) in preceding centuries. And the Industrial Revolution that had taken place there was now something to be as ashamed of as the gulags of Siberia, or the death camps of Poland.

And perhaps it is ever thus, throughout human history, that one generation comes to be ashamed of what previous generations did – and proudly did – centuries before them. For, after their ancestors had erected two or three colossal pyramids at Giza in Egypt, it may well have been that their Egyptian descendants became ashamed at such a vain and ostentatious exercise, and determined never to do it again. And the same may have been true of the Roman Empire, which expanded to encompass so much of Europe and the Mediterranean littoral that subsequent Roman citizens may have became deeply ashamed at such a naked exercise of military power and domination.

Tobacco Control always sets out to capture and maintain control of the moral high ground. In this respect they need a satanic tobacco industry against whom they can portray themselves as angels by comparison, saving countless numbers of lives that the tobacco industry would otherwise take. And tobacco and the tobacco industry never have any saving graces whatsoever. There is nothing good about tobacco. And also there is nothing evil about Tobacco Control. Everything they do is for the good, even as they are exiling millions of people to the outdoors, and bankrupting thousands of pubs (another industry for which they have the most complete and perfect contempt).

The defeat of Tobacco Control will only come when they have been swept off the moral high ground they now occupy, and become widely seen to be as bad as (and indeed far worse than) the tobacco companies they have been vilifying.

And this may not be very hard to do. The tobacco companies are at least selling a product that its customers wish to buy. What is Tobacco Control selling? Nothing at all. They have no product whatsoever. All that they ever bring are more and more hampering and restricting rules and regulations, and ever-mounting taxes. Tobacco Control is entirely parasitic. It does no good whatsoever, apart from fictional improvements in public heath (due to reduced smoking) that are immediately negated by corresponding declines in public health (due to increased obesity).

Tobacco Control, as it does more and more damage to the culture and social fabric of society, would seem to be occupying increasingly untenable moral high ground. And it would seem to be doing so purely by trumpeting Health, and Health alone, as the only good that matters. For they are in effect saying that any amount of damage to communities or friendships or families, or to pubs and restaurants and cafes and clubs, is perfectly acceptable so long the people concerned can simply be shown to live a few weeks longer. And this healthist ethos seems to even pervade the UK Ministry of Justice, which now argues for prison smoking bans purely on health grounds, with all considerations of justice or compassion or fairness set aside. How much longer are they going to be able to set aside all other considerations except those of health, before people begin to see them for being the dishonest, nasty, greedy, poisonous, and unscrupulous bullies that they actually are? For if Health is the only thing that matters, then there can be no harm in dishonesty or greed or bullying, and no need for any scruple whatsoever. The cult of health brings with it a moral decay in which everything aside from all-important Health (such as consideration or compassion or mercy) must atrophy and be discarded.

And maybe Idle Theory is a piece of artillery which could help to demolish the fortress that Tobacco Control has erected on their healthy high ground. For Idle Theory has a different (and equally singular) measure of the value of things. What if Idleness were pitted against Health? If Idleness prevailed, would we then be subjected to a tyranny of Idleness as bad as the current tyranny of health?

Whichever way, the collapse of Tobacco Control (and its complete destruction) will be accompanied by the recognition by all concerned of its complete moral vacuity. Almost overnight, long-demonised tobacco companies will start to be seen as benign by comparison to the unfettered and limitless malignancy of Tobacco Control.

About Frank Davis

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28 Responses to The Moral High Ground of Tobacco Control

  1. Rose says:

    Had Anti-tobacco as was, really wanted to bring down the tobacco companies they only had to publish what was in the smoke. A cheap, easily available vitamin that was widely known as the cure for Pellagra, and take all the mystery out of tobacco and nicotine, running the trade.

    Organic Syntheses

    A Publication of Reliable Methods for the Preparation of Organic Compounds

    “In a 5-l. round-bottomed flask is placed 4 kg. (2816 cc.) of c.p. concentrated nitric acid (sp. gr. 1.42) (Note 1). To this is added, in 25-cc. portions, 210 g. (1.23 moles) of nicotine (Note 2). The addition should be made carefully in order that local heating may not occur and material be lost. After each addition of nicotine, the flask should be shaken in order to insure a homogeneous solution. The addition of the nicotine causes the temperature of the liquid to rise somewhat but not sufficiently to cause evolution of nitrogen dioxide. The flask is placed on a steam bath under a hood and heated until the liquid reaches a temperature of 70°. It is then removed and the reaction allowed to continue spontaneously (Note 3), sufficient heat being evolved to cause the liquid to boil. The boiling ceases after one hour, but the flask is replaced upon the steam bath for ten to twelve hours, during which time there is a more or less continuous evolution of oxides of nitrogen.”

    Or, simply set fire to the nicotine in the leaf it as the tobacco companies discovered through experiments in 1941.
    Nicotine is only a precursor to niacin and you can get it ready made in brewers yeast.

    The question that we should be asking is why all these experts on both sides decided to keep quiet and have continued to keep quiet to this day.
    Money? Prestige? Because it really can’t be about health or anti-tobacco would have spilled the beans decades ago.

    I was really quite disappointed when I found out that it was only my Brain’s occasional request for a small amount of niacin applied to the tongue , either by smoking or from yeast, it really didn’t care which, to keep me smoking.
    I had expected something far more exotic.

  2. roobeedoo2 says:

    Currently 52% think smoking should be banned in and around mental hospitals:

    • Rose says:

      Niacin-respondent subset of schizophrenia – a therapeutic review.

      “It is well known that niacin deficiency manifests with several psychiatric manifestations. Also historically evidence has accumulated that niacin augmentation can be used for treatment of schizophrenia. However, the etiopathological associations between niacin deficiency and schizophrenia as well as the mechanism of action of niacin in its treatment. More importantly, the subgroups of schizophrenia which will respond to niacin augmentation has never been highlighted in the literature. In this article, we review three of the mechanisms in which niacin deficiency could lead to schizophrenic symptoms: (1) Niacin deficiency neurodegeneration (2) Membrane phospholipid deficiency hypothesis and (3) Adrenochrome hypothesis. We will further move towards the clinical as well as treatment related associations as reviewed from the literature. Here, we propose a model that a subset of schizophrenia can respond to niacin augmentation therapy better than other subsets because these patients have contributions in their psychotic manifestations from the neural degeneration resulting from niacin deficiency. We present a short description of our case report which showed rapid improvement in schizophrenic psychotic symptoms subsequent to administration of niacin as an augmentation therapy. We, thus, propose that niacin deficiency is a contributory factor in schizophrenia development in some patients and symptom alleviation in these patients will benefit from niacin augmentation, especially in some particular psychotic features.”

      Evidence for the Niacin Treatment of Schizophrenia

      “Vitamin B3 as a treatment for schizophrenia is typically overlooked, which is disconcerting considering that historical evidence suggests it effectively reduces symptoms of schizophrenia, and has the added advantage, in contrast to pharmaceuticals, of mild to no adverse effects (22-35). After successful preliminary trials treating schizophrenia patients with niacin, pilot trials of larger samples commenced in 1952-reported in 1957 by Hoffer, Osmond, Callbeck, and Kahan. Dr. Abram Hoffer began an experiment involving 30 patients who had been diagnosed with acute schizophrenia. Participants were given a series of physiological and psychological tests to measure baseline status and were subsequently assigned randomly to treatment groups. Nine subjects received a placebo, 10 received nicotinic acid, and 11 received nicotinamide (the latter two are forms of vitamin B3). All participants received treatment for 42 days, were in the same hospital, and received psychotherapy from the same group of clinicians. The two experimental groups were administered three grams of vitamin B3 per day. Each of the three treatment groups improved, but the two vitamin B3 groups improved more than the placebo group as compared to baseline measures. At one year follow up, 33% of patients in the placebo group remained well, and 88% of patients in the B3 groups remained well. These results inspired many subsequent trials, and those that replicated the original method produced similarly positive results.
      Antipsychotic Drugs

      That schizophrenia may be caused or aggravated by a deficiency of essential nutrients appears to have eluded the majority of the health care providers serving the schizophrenic population, as evidenced by the fact that “antipsychotic medications represent the cornerstone of pharmacological treatment for patients with schizophrenia”

      Sometimes it’s easy to miss the obvious, both schizophrenics and pellagrins chainsmoke, but the amount of niacin is too low.

    • nisakiman says:

      58% against the bans and 42% for, now.

  3. Timothy Goodacre says:

    Yes these Tobacco Control bastards have ruined the pleasant easy going social life we had prior to 2007. They should be executed for the destruction they have wrought on the social fabric of the UK.

  4. Tony says:

    What amazes me is that the anti-smoking industry gets away with claiming their activities improve health when the evidence is clear that it does not. At least not to a significant extent. Intervention in people’s lives is their entire product and so it is intervention trials that their efforts should be judged on. These trials have the advantage of being “randomised and controlled” (though not “double blind”) so they have some scientific validity.

    Philip Neal mentioned this summary of intervention trials on your blog of 17th November.

    I haven’t tried to check all the sources but I did notice that the article refers to the MRFIT study, stating that:
    “after 16 years had an insignificant 6% lower mortality (11% less heart disease, and -15% less lung cancer).”

    Just to be pedantic, “-15% less” seems a rather convoluted way of saying “15% more” which is what was actually found:
    The very last follow up paper on the MRFIT study was published in 1996 after 16 years of data collection. Deaths from lung cancer were 15% higher in the intervention group, CVD deaths were 8% lower and overall deaths were 6% lower. All non-significant.
    “a non-significant decrease in total mortality (991 deaths SI vs 1050 deaths UC) and in all cardiovascular mortality (507 deaths SI vs 550 deaths UC) and a non-significant increase in lung cancer mortality (135 deaths SI vs 117 deaths UC).”

    • Vlad says:

      I think a randomized trial like MRFIT is good to silence those who claim that by quitting smoking you’ll live 10 years longer or even become immortal. :) Other than that I don’t find them much useful because the most important issue, keeping on smoking, hasn’t been randomized (people self selected as smokers and furthermore, how much smoking).

      • Tony says:

        I agree it can’t resolve the issue of whether to smoke or not. However the trials do resolve the question of whether intervention at the population level is good for health.

        In other words, is the anti-smoking industry good for the health of the population as a whole? And the answer is basically NO.

  5. waltc says:

    67% no to 33 yes. Keep those votes coming. ….Tobacco control is about control. That’s it and that’s all.

  6. Smoking Lamp says:

    Tobacco control’s moral high ground is a carefully nurtured fiction. To sustain their perceived righteousness they need to relentlessly suppress all dissent and attack their adversaries (all that question their witch hunt). Their tactics demonstrate classic totalitarian manipulation of public discourse. As Frank pints out their position is one of moral vacuity. This of course underlies their eventual collapse and complete destruction. That’s why they are always on the attack they know they are vulnerable since they manipulated the playing field to gain their advantage. Once they public and politicians figure out that their case is built on lies they will quickly be swept to the dustbins of history.

  7. Joe L. says:

    I’ve mentioned here and in the SmokyDrinky Bar on occasion that I don’t believe it is a blanket hatred of industry that motivates Tobacco Control.

    Rather, my hypothesis (soon to be a conspiracy theory?) is that there is a “new guard” of industrialists on the rise. A wealthy and well-connected new generation of politicians, scientists, engineers, doctors, lawyers and businesspeople (Ivy-League grads and the like) with a lust for money, power and control but devoid of useful/practical ideas that would generate public demand.

    However, they realized that there are a number of well-established industries (tobacco, oil, sugar, livestock) that have built legacies and appeared as though they would remain profitable indefinitely, due to constant demand for their products.

    Thus, this “new guard” has decided to work together to create new, useless commodities (pharmaceuticals, artificial sweeteners, “green energy” products, etc.) that supplant those produced by the “old guard,” and to promote them by scaring consumers away from the established commodities through fear-based campaigns, regulations and laws in order to underhandedly increase their own profits.

    I believe the current “Progressive” nanny-state/bully-state movements such as Tobacco Control (Healthism in general), Environmentalism, etc., are key social engineering components of this industrial “changing of the guard.”

    • waltc says:

      Interesting theory. Sort of “if you can’t join em, lick em.” But I still think it’s mainly just about Control, and control by a basically useless unproductive class of bureaucrats and Experts who couldn’t make a living doing anything real, tangible or useful or, in fact, making anything anybody’d want. Instead, their “product” is an abstract utopia which–since utopias never materialize–, can keep them in business for close to forever while oiling their egos.

    • Rose says:

      this “new guard” has decided to work together to create new, useless commodities (pharmaceuticals, artificial sweeteners, “green energy” products, etc.) that supplant those produced by the “old guard

      It fosters a mistrust in the natural things that with considerable effort we originally used to do for ourselves, before the old industries did it for us quicker and more efficiently The new industries make things that are impossible for us to replicate and leave us completely dependent. I can’t possibly make a solar panel to heat my house, but I could once have gathered sticks in the local wood.

      • Joe L. says:

        Exactly, Rose. Where the original industrial revolution simply provided convenience, I feel this “new guard” is forcing a false “revolution” that is engineering the public to be fearful of the conveniences the established industries provided and directing us to their commodities, which are actually inconvenient, and as you said, practically impossible for us to replicate with natural resources around us. Thus, they are making us dependent on the junk they’re peddling.

    • Frank Davis says:

      An entirely plausible hypothesis.

      But if a deep-seated hatred of industry of any kind does not animate your New Industrialists, I think it most certainly animates a great many grass-root environmentalists, along with a hatred of Profit of any kind whatsoever.

      But one problem with your New Industrialists must be that their inferior quality products must serve to reduce social idleness, and make everyone poorer. Perhaps the best example of this is the new dim, low quality light bulbs that are replacing the old tried-and-tested incandescent ones.

      • Joe L. says:

        But one problem with your New Industrialists must be that their inferior quality products must serve to reduce social idleness, and make everyone poorer.

        I don’t see that problem. As I just replied to Rose directly above, these “New Industrialists” are forcing us to become dependent on the less-effective junk substitutes they’ve created for commodities we have become accustomed to. This ultimately gives them great control over our idleness.

        The new, dim, low-quality, non-incandescent light bulbs you mentioned are a perfect example of this, and one that always comes to my mind when I think about this current paradigm shift into junk science, junk commodities, junk everything.

        • Frank Davis says:

          Well, if we’re all being made to use inferior quality goods, that is going to affect us in our everyday lives (e.g. having to wait a minute or two for the new dim bulbs to come on). That, applied to lots of other goods, will make everything take longer, and reduce our idleness. The only control that they are exercising is to reduce our idleness. They can’t increase our idleness, except with better quality goods.

          Decreasing our idleness, and making life harder for everyone, may of course be what they want to do, as part of their attempt to reduce us all to slavery. But it’s just as likely to cause a revolt against them.

        • Joe L. says:

          Decreasing our idleness, and making life harder for everyone, may of course be what they want to do, as part of their attempt to reduce us all to slavery.

          That’s precisely my take on it.

          But it’s just as likely to cause a revolt against them.

          How likely? They incrementally introduce these transitions and cleverly pitch them as being “good for your health” or “good for the environment,” and it seems to be working in their favor thus far. I haven’t seen any signs of revolt yet. How long will it take, and how much damage will be done before people wake up enough to revolt?

        • Frank Davis says:

          thus far. I haven’t seen any signs of revolt yet.

          Well, I’m revolting. And I think that many of my readers are revolting as well. They don’t like what’s happening. And I see signs of a growing wider revolt in events like Brexit and the election of Donald Trump.

  8. jaxthefirst says:

    “And it was not out of any great love of gerbils that they protested, but out of a loathing of dirty, poisonous industry.”

    Wow! You’ve given me a Eureka moment, Frank. I’ve never thought of it before, but now that you’ve brought it to my attention, it occurs to me that pretty much all of the anti-this or anti-that movements these days are based on their hatred of something, rather than the love of something else. Anti-smokers don’t love non-smokers – they just hate smokers. Anti-drinkers don’t love teetotallers – they just hate drinkers. Anti-racists don’t care about ethnic minorities – they just hate white people. The new breed of shrieking, petty feminists don’t love women – they just hate men. And, as you say, Frank, all those climate-change adherents and greenies don’t love nature and animals and creepy-crawlies – they just hate modern humanity in all and any of its forms. And so on and so on.

    It goes a long way to explaining why these people are never satisfied, never appeased, never willing to compromise, never willing to listen to opposing points of view. Hatred is an extreme emotion and, like its polar opposite, love, it is often so strong that it blinds its subjects to any semblance of rational thought or any sense of perspective. It is impervious to reason and incapable of objectivity.

    No wonder anyone who sets themselves up as some kind of “saviour” of some group or another can’t draw the line anywhere and can’t give up the fight even when their originally-stated aims have long ago been achieved. Their sheer bile and hatred just won’t let them.

  9. waltc says:

    One of my favorite quotes:

    “There is now talk in Washington about a smoke-free America with new laws enforcing prohibitions to save the country from smoke’s deadly reach. Doubtless there are smoke-haters eager to hear steel doors clang on incorrigible smokers, for this is a real crusade, make no mistake, and the true crusader doesn’t stop at burning the village, killing the women and children and making off with the cattle if that’s what it takes to purify the world.”
    -Russell Baker, NY Times, 1994

  10. RdM says:

    Came late to this, but looking minutes ago there were 300 votes, so I was 301st.

    Good to see comments by Iro Liz and Nisa ;-
    I’m cooking dinner right now, I might get back to it later.
    This issue touches me too.

  11. Pingback: The Re-Introduction Of Rationing | Frank Davis

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