Some Strengths and Weaknesses of Tobacco Control

I’m a student of military history. I would hasten to add that I don’t regard myself as a particularly good student of military history. I’ve just always been fascinated by it. In my childhood, my brother built elaborate model railways, and I built armies and fortresses. And I spent my little pocket money saving up to buy huge pieces of artillery with which to demolish wood block fortresses and slaughter the little plastic defenders lining their ramparts.

And military historians look dispassionately at wars and battles, discussing why one side won, and not the other, and how it could so easily have been different.

And I suppose that I see the conflict between the smokers and the antismokers in Tobacco Control as a war not really essentially different to a real war. It’s one bunch of people against another. And one side is going to win, or the other will.

Last week I was thinking about what smokers needed to do to build a Smokers’ Army that could defeat Tobacco Control. Getting the name right seemed to be important. And it stimulated a lot of discussion over several posts.

Today I’d like to think about Tobacco Control. What are their strengths? What are their weaknesses?

Who are Tobacco Control? As I use the term, I mean all the people who are engaged in trying to stamp out smoking. They work in government. They work in medicine. They work in universities. They work in the media. They work in the UN and the WHO. And they regularly meet up and have conferences.

They sometimes get called an “industry”, but I prefer not to call them that, for the simple reason that they don’t actually make anything. Tobacco Control has no product. It is in fact an anti-industry that has set out to destroy an industry: the tobacco industry. Tobacco Control is actually just one wing of an environmental movement that is anti-industry of every kind. But I’m not going to address this wider movement. Nor am I going to conflate Tobacco Control with Government (in ways that Fredrik Eich was suggesting yesterday). Certainly TC has close links with government, but I don’t think that it actually is the government. TC also has close links with the medical profession, but I don’t think it actually is the medical profession either.

And as an anti-industry, Tobacco Control is an elite formation. They’ve won some astonishing victories. So when you hear that “X is the new tobacco”, it’s somebody who wants to borrow from the highly successful TC playbook. In fact, it’s my view that the highly-successful AGW scare has been doing exactly that, and has just replaced one gas with another – tobacco smoke with colourless, odourless carbon dioxide.

Tobacco Control is a small, highly-organised group of just a few thousand people (I don’t know exactly how many). It’s a disciplined, highly trained, professional army a bit like the British Expeditionary Force  in WW1. And it’s managed to completely rout the world’s 1.5 billion smokers, who are at present thoroughly beaten and demoralised, and surrendering in their thousands, throwing away their cigarettes.

And here one of the strengths of TC – that they’re all very well paid (£160,000 a year for Deborah Arnott, according to Guido Fawkes) – is something of an Achilles’ heel: it’s also a weakness. Because one always has to wonder whether anyone who is being paid to perform some task is truly ideologically committed to it, or is only in it for the money. And my own personal experience of being paid to perform any task has been that I’ve never been ideologically committed to that task: I was only in it for the money. My attitude always was: Sure, I’ll do whatever stupid task you want me to do, and do it to the best of my ability, but please don’t ever think that I have any belief in your crazy schemes – I’ve got my own crazy ideas, thank you very much.

So I think it’s an open question whether someone like Deborah Arnott actually is an antismoking ideologue, or is just a diligent employee who deserves every penny she gets (because she actually does a great job).

By contrast someone like me has no such conflicts of interest. I’m a pro-smoking ideologue. And nobody pays me a penny to write this blog or do anything else I do. And in fact I actually fork out £10 a month to keep the Smoky Drinky Bar in business.

If Deborah Arnott stopped being paid £160,000 a year as director of ASH, would she carry on doing the job unpaid? I don’t know, to be quite honest. But the impression I get is that she’s much more an employee than an ideologue. And if ASH is ever closed down, she’ll just take her much-sought-after abilities somewhere else, and get paid just as much.

So I think we have an asymmetric war going on here. It’s a war like the Vietnam war in which the professional US army was up against the rag-tag, guerrilla army of North Vietnam. We smokers are the Viet Cong, and Deborah Arnott is the 101st Airborne, bombing the shit out of us.

And in Vietnam, despite being an elite, professional army, the US army’s soldiers on the ground were not ideologically committed to the war. They were just doing what they were told. And so were the generals who commanded them. And when the war started to go badly, they became demoralised. And the demoralisation even filtered back into US civilian life.

And so if the war starts going badly for TC, it’s very likely that a similar sort of demoralisation will likely set in among its ranks.

And I think the war is beginning to go badly for TC. For there remains an intractable residue of smokers still holding out, deep in the forests, rather like the Viet Cong. But also TC has been finding new enemies springing up in front of them. The appearance of e-cigarettes has been an event comparable to the appearance of the Soviet T34 tank in WW2 before the victorious, advancing German army. TC has been quite thrown by this unexpected development, and has been scrambling to find an answer to it. And there are many signs of deep division within TC about the appropriate response to this unforeseen event.

So TC may be highly professional, but that means that its soldiers are mostly mercenaries, rather than true believers: they’re only in it for the money.  TC is a small, highly-trained army, but that also means that they’re actually vastly outnumbered by their enemies. TC is highly organised and disciplined, but that also means that are a slow-moving bureaucracy that can’t respond rapidly to unforeseen events (like the appearance of e-cigarettes). And TC is an anti-industry, which has no product. It can only tear things down, demolish them. Anyone who is working in a productive industry of any kind, can point to something and say “I made that”: but TC can only point at a pile of rubble, and say “I broke that.”

But there are other strengths of TC which also turn out to be weaknesses. For example, TC has a complete stranglehold on the mainstream media. They completely control the message broadcast by the BBC and CNN and nearly every other established media organisation. But these days, with the rise of the internet and alternative shoe-string media platforms, the MSM are losing their monopoly on the message sent to the masses. Fewer and fewer people are buying newspapers and watching TV. And it’s getting harder and harder to top down control what people think. The old propaganda weapons are no longer working. And so far TC has shown little sign of being able to adapt to the new, interactive, fast-moving internet environment. They’re simply too used to exercising top down control.

Another apparent strength of TC is the way they always demonise their opposition. It’s a highly effective tactic. And they’ve used it to silence and exclude not just the demonic Tobacco Industry (“Merchants of death”), but also now all the world’s smokers, who are all now pathetic addicts, enslaved by Big Tobacco. But this also is a weakness, because it opens up the possibility of TC being demonised itself in turn. After all, if they so readily demonise their opponents, they can’t really complain if they themselves are demonised. What’s sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander.

And another apparent strength of TC is that they are “science-based”. They are always citing studies or papers that show this or that or the other. But this also is a weakness, because on close scrutiny, most of the “science” proves to be nonsense.

So it would seem that all of TC’s strengths are also its weaknesses. And I probably haven’t succeeded, in this short essay, in enumerating all of TC’s strengths (and therefore weaknesses). All I would like to suggest is that TC is far, far weaker than it presents itself as being, or as is commonly regarded as being. And they face the possibility of catastrophe on multiple different ways.

It might be the subject of several more essays to explore some of the weaknesses of TC in greater depth, to see how these might be exploited.

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13 Responses to Some Strengths and Weaknesses of Tobacco Control

  1. Fredrik Eich says:

    Sorry Frank, I did not have time to post a response yesterday and am a bit short on time today but from this letter from Harold Himsworth to A Maxwell (tobacco industry)

    “Earlier in the year the Council were requested by the Government to submit their considered assessment of existing scientific evidence on the relationship between tobacco smoking and cancer of the lung. The council had already at the time decided to publish in their report an article giving a general review of the causative factors in the disease. In the event and on the recommendation of Ministers [unnamed] both the article and the Council’s assessment were published simultaneously and formed the basis of a statement made in the house of commons on June 27th 1957.”

    The UK exploded it’s first H Bomb on 15 May and Himsworth had already alerted them to a theoretical risk for LC a year earlier in 1956.

    from this report

    Click to access MedicalResearchCouncil1956HazardsToMan.pdf

    So the UK government would have been aware that there was a theoretical risk from nuclear fall out for lung cancer before they pushed for publicity on the smoking hypothesis. They were giving maximum publicity for one theory that does not harm there cause and zero publicity to one that does. This is why I believe the UK and others kick started the Tobacco Conrol Industry. Once the ball was rolling the reasons for pushing it down the hill had long been forgotten! And it is true that a lot of lobbying to the UK government is in turn paid for by the UK government!

    • Frank Davis says:

      By 1956 or 1957, the London Hospitals Study implicating tobacco had been out for 6-7 years, and the British Doctors study had published its first report, 2-3 years before and people like the statistician Sir Ronald Fisher were fighting an (unsuccessful) rearguard action against what was already apparent to many was an antismoking juggernaut.

      And Himsworth was saying that the likelihood of lung cancer due to fallout was “extremely unlikely”. So in what sense did the government already know that fallout was the real culprit?

      • Fredrik Eich says:

        I don’t think they did know it was the real culprit, how could they really know. They would have to wait for decades to see if there was a correlation between global lung cancer rates and fallout – which as it turns out there has been a massive correlation.

        What I find interesting is the last sentence “There is no evidence that irradiation by X- or gamma rays can cause lung tumours in man” there is no mention of alpha and internal irradiation in that sentence.

        And what constitutes “actual warfare”? How many nukes makes a war? The UK only had about 16 Nukes at the time (from memory). The US had hundreds and the bulk of fallout came after 1956 when the report was written.

        As I pointed out on the other thread , Himsworth himself stated that the amount of radiation in cigarettes was ‘negligible’ compared to the amount inhaled from the atmosphere. This does not tell us how much radiation in the atmosphere was due to fallout
        but it does show that the MRC were thinking about it. They had been measuring the radioactivity in rain water from roofs since 1950.

        • Rose says:

          I found this yesterday and thought it might be of interest.

          Mortality of British Radiologists: A Lecture Note
          Richard Doll

          “Independent evidence suggests, however, that since 1951 radiologists have smoked less than other doctors and the lower than predicted risk in the groups exposed since 1920 is limited to smoking related cancers, the mortality from other cancers being higher than in doctors generally.
          In assessing the risk of occupational exposure to radiation, life-style has to be taken into consideration, as well as dose of radiation.”

  2. smokingscot says:

    Re the “community”.

    Mrs. Miller is trying to exactly that. What’s on this link is pretty close to a direct crib from the ASH handbook.

  3. Roobeedoo2 says:

    ‘According to a World Health Organization doctor, a global pandemic is imminent, and no one will be prepared for it when it hits. Dr. Tedros Adhanom, director-general for WHO, has said that the next outbreak that will hit us will be a “terrible” one, causing a large death all over the world.’

    What he actually says is:

    “This is not some future nightmare scenario. A devastating epidemic could start in any country at any time and kill millions of people because we are still not prepared.”

    Why wouldn’t the W.H.O. be prepared? It is their job. Perhaps if they’d not get everybody else to put all their eggs into into the W.H.O.’s social engineering basket made of crap. And if a global pandemic is imminent, then why in the fuck does the world need Tobacco Control at all?

  4. Smoking Lamp says:

    It’s time to expose and shame tobacco control for their lies and persecution of smokers. A good beginning would be exposing their fraudulent pseudo-science. The second hand smoke gambit is an outright lie. So are their claims about ‘plain packaging’. I suspect when subjected to scrutiny their lung cancer claims will fall as flat as their ‘heart attack miracle’ lies.

  5. jaxthefirst says:

    I’ve always firmly held to the belief that one of TC’s major weaknesses – and one about which they (indeed none of us) – can do anything at all about, is simply the passage of time. It’s the old adage that – even if it takes hundreds of years – eventually the “truth will out.” It can’t help it because whenever someone tells a lie which involves some kind of promise or prediction for the future – and TC’s lies are almost all about the future, whether short or long term – then the promiser’s credibility depends on the future proving them right. And if it doesn’t, then their entire credibility becomes very shaky indeed. “Give up smoking and you won’t get lung cancer,” “give up smoking and you won’t get a heart attack or a stroke,” “give up smoking and you’ll have loads of money in your bank account,” “give up smoking and you’ll suddenly start exercising like a pro and developing a figure/physique like the people in these ads,” and, perhaps most insidiously, “give up smoking and you won’t die.” They’re always careful not to say these things in so many words, of course, (so that they can deny it if challenged), but they are happy to insinuate them and to allow those false impressions to get through, and by expensive advertising and drip-drip of their various mantras and mottoes they know full well that that’s how the public will interpret them. And they’re happy to allow that to happen without correction, because that means more people doing as TC want and giving up smoking.

    The problem with this is that, as fewer and fewer people smoke but more and more people become ill with all those ailments which were blamed on smoking (as is happening), and which people who have quit were hoping to avoid, it’s starting to become increasingly evident that if you give up smoking you won’t necessarily avoid cancer, or heart disease, or stroke, or any of the other multitude of ailments hitherto laid at smoking’s door. This situation looks set to become worse as more and more time elapses, and more and more non-smokers fall prey to these diseases. Particularly as, post-smoking ban, fewer people than ever are now exposed to ETS than ever before in history, so that’s decreasing, just as smoking-related diseases in non-smokers is increasing. TC have tried to address this inconvenient anomaly by falling back on the old “delay factor” argument, but again, as each “elapsed” timescale has passed and yet still “smoking-related” diseases have continued to increase exponentially beyond them within the non-smoking population, that “delay factor” has become increasingly – sometimes laughably – long (How many people on here remember the days when they used to tell us that “five years after quitting, your chances of getting lung cancer are almost as low as those of someone who has never smoked”? Not saying that quite so much, now, are they?) So, even this tactic is finite and cannot escape the passage of time. It’s not quite reached the point (but it’s not far off) when the cited “delay factor” from harm from smoking will be so long that for most people it’ll be longer than an average lifetime, and, effectively, it won’t be worth giving up or not starting because, by the time smoking “gets” you, you’ll probably have died of something else!

    There will come a time, and I personally don’t think it’s going to be very long, but it’ll probably take some crisis where large numbers of non-smokers have died of all those smoking-related diseases which they shouldn’t, in theory, have been getting in the first place, when some brave soul stands up, in Parliament, in a BMC meeting, or in the media – who knows? – and asks that all-too-awkward question: “Why is it that – with smoking numbers lower than they have ever been, less ETS in the atmosphere than there’s ever been, and more restrictions on when, how and where people can smoke – all those diseases that these policies were designed to avoid, are now at their highest and most deadly levels?” Then we’ll see some real squirming on behalf of TC!

  6. jaxthefirst says:

    Whoops! Didn’t close off the italics after “increasing” !! Can you fix, Frank? Ta muchly.

  7. Lepercolonist says:

    On Joe Rogan’s podcast the guest, Brian Callen, stated that Sam Harris has only ONE smoker (Christopher Hitchens) on his rolodex of 1,000 people. The topic discussed was “living in a bubble.”

    How many people have no contact with smokers these days ?

    • Frank Davis says:

      I’m not in the least bit surprised. A profound division has opened up in society between smokers and antismokers. And the division is always widening. It’s a social catastrophe of the first magnitude. And its consequences are going to felt for many, many years to come.

      And it’s not even as if the indifferent non-smokers in the middle don’t experience it either. Because they are finding themselves torn between the two sides, and they are being forced to back one or the other.

      I don’t have a rolodex, but if I did there wouldn’t be any antismokers in it. I don’t want to know them. In fact, I can’t know them, because we can’t comfortably share the same space. or the same air any more.

    • Fredrik Eich says:

      I don’t see my non-smoking friends ant where near as much as before the smoking ban. If you meet as a pair you have the dilemma of choices:
      1) Both stay inside and have the conversation constantly broken by me going outside for a ciggie
      2) Both stay outside in the cold and wet.
      Neither choices are very relaxing, so I tend to go for option
      3) Just don’t go out and meet my non-smoking friends so often

      So my non-smoking friends are being isolated by the ban too!

  8. Pingback: The Ever-Deepening Divide | Frank Davis

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