Lost For Words

I wake up every day thinking about the smoking ban. Most days I have nothing new to think about it. In fact most days I have nothing new to think about anything.

Or at least not initially.

But after I’ve woken up, and boiled the kettle, I sit in bed with a pad of paper in front of me, sipping tea and smoking roll-ups. And I usually write the date at the top of the blank sheet in front of me, once I’ve figured out what the date is. And then I just stare into space, lost for words.

And then eventually, sometimes after a few hours, I latch onto one of the ideas tumbling through my mind, and I pick up my pen and write something. I’m like one of those grizzly bears that sit by rapids occasionally scooping out a salmon. I suppose they must sometimes have to wait for hours before they manage to get their claws into one. Maybe some days they never manage to catch one at all.

And that’s how it was for me today. It took quite a long time before an idea coalesced and stayed long enough for me to get my pen into it. And what I found my thoughts focusing on was something I wonder about quite often: the curious passivity of smokers in the face of smoking bans.

I quite often get talking to smokers in the pub gardens round here. But one thing we almost never talk about is the smoking ban that has us sitting outside in the garden rather than inside around the bar. Or when I do raise the topic, I’m usually greeted with dead silence, as if I’d spoken of something unmentionable. And I wonder why they don’t want to talk about this, our shared exile.

But I had a new thought about it this morning. And it had me grabbing the pen and writing a few words on notepad. I could see a new explanation for their silence. A very simple explanation. And it was this:

They were lost for words.

One day – and to be precise, the 30th of June 2007 – they were respected members of their pub society. And the next day = the 1st of July 2007 – they had become outcasts. About 10 or 15 million smokers became outcasts that day. It was an event of such enormity that they were lost for words to describe it. And they’ve remained lost for words ever since. And that is why they say nothing about it.

I still remember that day. And I was lost for words too. I went home in a towering rage that day, and remained enraged for months. An 11 years later, I’m still angry. But I’m not quite as lost for words as I was that day. After all, I started writing my blog a couple of years later. And I think I occasionally manage to say something new about the smoking ban.

In fact, if I was lost for words that day, a fellow smoker outside the pub – a complete stranger – was not lost for words. He came up to me and said: “It’s not a free country any more.” And he was exactly right. And that’s one reason why I never forgot what he said, at a moment when I myself had nothing to say.

It could of course be that most smokers simply aren’t much bothered by the smoking ban, and take it in their stride, and get on with their lives. And many of them give every impression of doing exactly that. They’re Keeping Calm and Carrying On. But occasionally they show a flash of anger.

There are lots of things that happen which are of such enormity that nobody can quite put them into words. The Brexit vote was one such recent event. It was a tremendous shock, and left a lot of people sputtering and lost for words. And the election of Donald Trump was another such event. It’s left many Americans shocked and sputtering, and once again lost for words. It’s called Trump Derangement Syndrome. And I suppose that puts it into words. It helps to have a name for something. It’s a start.

And in many ways these three events = the smoking ban, the Brexit vote, and the election of Donald Trump – are all comparatively minor events. Nobody was killed by them. A hundred years ago today, WW1 was drawing to a close. And the sheer enormity of that event has still not been forgotten. Did anyone ever manage to put that event into words? It’s remembered in silence every year. Nobody speaks about it. We remain lost for words a century later.

I bought a book of war poetry a few months ago, And I suppose the war poets were people who were trying to put the event into words. But did any of them ever manage to do so? Did they ever manage to fully encompass that event? I don’t think so. I think the best they ever managed was a snapshot here and there.

I’m always trying to find words to describe the sheer enormity of the smoking ban. And it’s like catching salmon with your bare hands, or claws. Or it’s like burrowing your way slowly out of the Château d’If, stone by stone. And today I felt like I’d dislodged another small stone. Today I felt that I’d seen something I’d not seen before. Though it might have been an illusion.

About Frank Davis

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16 Responses to Lost For Words

  1. Mark Jarratt, Canberra, Australia says:

    The relentless ‘denormalising’ and decades of anti smoking prohibitionist bullying have shamed many smokers into believing the propaganda of the most illiberal, intolerant, meddling busybodies in society. More anti smoking laws are passed daily, by mediocre politicians lacking any commitment to personal autonomy and freedom of choice. Smokers are directly inconvenienced, while paying for our own persecution, and unjustly subsidising other taxpayers. Tobacco control is a racket based on lies and fraud. Smokers must stop being shamed and fight, again and again. A good start would be putting ‘smokerphobia’ stickers over the millions of shouty NO SMOKING signs plastered almost everywhere – combat the uglification by ugly joyless dictators.

    • Barry Homan says:

      I think I like the idea…Frank?

    • Joe L. says:

      This is a simple but great idea as a guerrilla campaign against the Antismokers, Mark! I was thinking of a way to incorporate images of smoking into the text the way the “No Smoking” signs occasionally do by replacing an ‘o’ with a circle and slash through a cigarette. “Smokerphobia” didn’t lend itself too well to this, so I thought of alternatives, which led me to the word “Prejudice” in which the ‘j’ is replaced by a pipe and the ‘i’ a cigarette. The only thing missing is a cigar. If I can find some time soon, I’ll blow the digital dust off Photoshop and mock something up. If anyone thinks of other words where I can incorporate all three, please let me know!

  2. Dmitry Kosyrev says:

    A truly wonderfu idea. Simple, just one catchy word. And it’s legal. Not expensive. Anyone can do it. Do we need an organisation for that?

  3. Joe L. says:

    OT: Not long ago, Stanton Glantz was accused of sexual harrassment by two of his former students (any updates on this, btw?). Today, another prominent Antismoker, Tom Frieden, the previous head of the CDC, was arrested and charged with forcibly groping a woman during a dinner party at his house.

    Former CDC head Tom Frieden charged with forcibly touching woman

    Calling back to Frank’s post from a few days ago, these bastards in Tobacco Control are so arrogant and drunk on power that they believe they can get away with anything.

    • smokingscot says:

      Yes indeed they are. Now they intend to skew their big shindig in Geneva to discuss:

      “The Conference will also be the starting point for a wider application of the WHO FCTC not only for tobacco control, but also as an international treaty to support sustainable development, fight climate change and defend human rights.”


      Legends in their own minds.

      • Smoking Lamp says:

        Authoritarian mission creep. The FCTC should be abolished. Tobacco control must be destroyed.

      • jaxthefirst says:

        Yes, they are an arrogant bunch. It certainly seems a bit odd for them to include all these other “campaign topics” onto the agenda, because all these additional subjects don’t seem to be connected in any way to do with tobacco or smoking, and the very nature of the FCTC is entirely devoted to smoking, and only smoking. Very strange.

        Mind you, they are a cunning enough bunch to see that by being so “successful” in bringing smoker numbers down (or at least bringing down the number of smokers who admit they smoke, or who buy their tobacco legally) they have essentially sown the seeds of their own destruction. After all, who needs a crowd of expensive anti-smoking campaigners when hardly anyone smokes any more? I doubt that they’ll see the irony though. I’m sure that’s almost certainly why they are “diversifying” into other areas (just like they suggested that pubs did after the ban – good to see they’re taking their own advice!) But I’m a bit surprised, to be honest, that all those other little (or, sometimes, not-so-little) new single-issue groups haven’t squeaked in protest at the anti-tobacco bunch encroaching on “their” territory. I’m not sure that the Climate Change lot or the Greens will be particularly keen to have the competition of a bunch of well-funded, highly experienced, worldwide campaigners on their tails for the coveted (and lucrative) No 1 Campaign Group slot.

        Tentatively good news for smokers, though. If anti-tobacco are now going to turn their attention towards lots of other things too, that might give them less time to devote towards inventing ever more unfair and discriminatory ideas towards smokers.

    • jaxthefirst says:

      Oh, and there’s been an accusation of sexual harassment on our shores, too – Alex Salmond, one-time leader of the Scottish Assembly and a vile little man who enthusiastically embraced any and all anti-smoking measures thought up for those north of the border. Just goes to show what kind of people anti-smokers are. It’s like I’ve often said – you can tell a lot about a person’s character – and not just in respect of smoking, either – by ascertaining how strong or otherwise their anti-smoking credentials are.

  4. smokingscot says:

    Another utter crap study, this time by Professor Anna Gilmore, director of the Tobacco Control Research Group, Bath Uni. Gilmore just so happens to be the person who set up Tobacco Tactics, using money awarded to her by CRUK.

    The best rated comments are surprisingly clued up about these studies.


    They may get the media space, but they’re (still) miles away from winning hearts and minds.

    • Smoking Lamp says:

      Propaganda designed to fuel the tobacco cool grift. The illicit market was stimulated by tobacco control’s excessive taxes not by tobacco companies. The FCTC is the evil empire in waiting…

  5. Lepercolonist says:

    If the Catholic church makes smoking a venial sin I will have to confess my sin every week. Unlike Tobacco Control, I can do my penance for forgiveness.

    Shame and guilt works wonders for sinners. Many smokers feel that they are sinners in the eyes of polite society.

  6. Apparently a whole new set of horror images for packaging will be needed post Brexit.The EU own the copyright on the current anti smoker porn pics!

  7. Pingback: The Lust For Power | Frank Davis

  8. DP says:

    Dear Mr Davis

    A simple start might be to stop referring to them as ‘tobacco control’. It is people they want to control. A more appropriate name would be ‘smoker control’. If we stop using their words, which re-inforces their message, and use correct words, we wrest the false terminology from them and talk about their true aim.

    Their proclaimed mission creep highlighted by Smoking Scot (August 24, 2018 at 11:25 pm) shows that they will never stop.


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