I’ve always supposed that the prevalence of smoking increased in 1914 in response to the outbreak of war, and the increased anxiety that must always be attendant in wartime. Soldiers must necessarily experience considerable anxiety, but so also to a lesser extent the civilian population must experience this too.
And I’ve also rather supposed that the rise in antismoking was a response to the rise in smoking. Because the rise in the prevalence of smoking created its own new set of problems, as smokers appeared everywhere. And indeed almost as soon as soldiers started smoking new-fangled cigarettes in 1914 there were numerous warnings about their dangers.
After the end of WW1 and WW2, and the accompanying peak smoking prevalence, it was natural that smoking prevalence would decline during the long peace that followed, in the western world at least. And it seems that as smoking declined, and fewer and fewer people smoked, antismoking prevalence gradually increased, and antismoking measures became more and more intensive.
I think now we’re at the point where it’s no longer smoking that is having the greatest social impact (given that smokers have been largely expelled from public life), but instead antismoking, and the increasingly draconian smoking bans, and loud health warnings, that have attended its rise.
Once it was smoking that was the pressing problem. But now it’s antismoking that has become the bigger problem. For the smokers who once made up the oppressive majority have now themselves become an oppressed minority. And since smokers and antismokers can’t co-exist in the same environment, deep divisions have appeared in society, that never existed before. People who were once good friends fall out with each other, because one smokes, and the other does not. And these social divisions in turn have other effects that ripple outwards, as people stop voting for one political party, or stop attending some club, or stop reading some newspaper.
Antismoking is now causing far more social damage than smoking ever did. And so the war on smoking will be replaced by a war on antismoking. And this war on antismoking will in turn have consequences which will only become obvious later on.
Each cause has some subsequent effect. And this effect itself becomes a new cause. And the new cause has new effects. And so on, in a sort of Hegelian dialectical process, whereby the solution to one problem simply breeds a new set of problems, and the solution to the new problems creates yet another set of problems, and so on ad infinitum.
Antismoking measures create new sets of social problems. Initially, all the supposed benefits of the antismoking measures are loudly promoted, and the costs of these measure downplayed. But as the benefits decrease, the costs mount, it gradually becomes impossible to ignore the downside.
For example, one consequence of the war on smoking, which has largely been driven by the medical profession, is that smokers lose confidence and trust in the medical profession, and become disinclined to visit doctors. And because this will result in some diseases remaining undiagnosed, and doctors advice ignored, some doctors will become concerned about such a new development, and look for ways to encourage renewed trust among smokers. These doctors will be in a minority at first, much like antismoking doctors were in a minority 70 years ago. They will point out the multiple forms of damage that smoking bans cause. They will question whether Health – physical health – is the only thing that matters, and start to highlight the importance of community, of trust, of honesty, etc, etc. Over time their numbers will grow, and their voices become louder, until eventually they will become a majority like the antismoking doctors became a majority 40 years earlier.