I must say that I was rather surprised that, when asked yesterday what they thought the world’s most pressing problem was, over 60% of respondents cited smoking bans.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, because I write a blog in which I keep banging on about smoking bans year after year, and I should expect to have attracted a fairly like-minded readership over the nearly 10 years that I’ve been writing it.
But all the same, I expected smoking bans to be the choice of a small minority of respondents, given all the other problems the world has got. And particularly at a time when the most urgent and pressing problem here in the UK is Brexit. So I expected to see Brexit top the poll. And if not Brexit, something arguably just as serious – such as immigration, militant Islam, or Ebola.
I also thought that one or two people might have chosen Donald Trump as the world’s biggest problem, given that so many people seem to be completely obsessed with him, and filled with hatred for the poor man.
I also thought that someone might have voted for global warming/climate change, given that so many people seem convinced that it’s the greatest threat facing humanity right now. But no, nobody seems much bothered about that either.
I also thought that someone might drop in a comment asking: “Frank, do you really think that smoking bans are the world’s most pressing problem? Because nobody I know thinks they are.”
That someone would have been a non-smoker, Because for most non-smokers, naturally enough, smoking bans simply don’t figure at all in their lists of the world’s most pressing and urgent concerns. And if they heard anyone cite smoking bans as any sort of cause for concern, they’d be completely disbelieving. Which is why I thought one of them might leave a comment to that effect. Maybe, because none have, quite a few non-smokers realise that these smoking bans are cause for concern? Perhaps they’ve seen the smokers outside the pubs, in all weathers, year after year. Or outside the hospital gates.
And indeed here in Herefordshire, England, nobody seems to think that the UK smoking ban is a problem. Not even the smokers. And I’ve been talking to them on and off for years, in one pub garden or other, when I find myself drawn into conversation with complete strangers. I’ve heard them talking about Brexit quite often. I’ve even seen them engage in shouting matches about it. But smoking bans, never. They don’t talk about it. It’s an unmentionable subject, even if it’s the only reason why they’re all sat outside with their beers and the cigarettes, talking about something else. To raise the matter is like drawing attention to the decomposing corpse sat at an adjoining table, head slumped onto the table, one skeletal hand still grasping the handle of a beer glass, the other holding a half-opened pack of Marlboro. You’re not supposed to mention it. You’re supposed to behave as if it isn’t there.
For me the UK smoking ban is the single most pressing problem in the world, because for the past 10 years I’ve felt like I’ve been lying on the ground with someone standing on my chest, or maybe just standing on my foot. Smoking bans exert constant pressure on smokers. And since smoking bans are always multiplying and intensifying, the pressure exerted by them gets more and more intense. And to this there must also be added the pressure exerted by the hyper-taxation of tobacco. And also the insulting messages and pictures which cover all tobacco products these days. And the peer pressure from friends and family and colleagues at work. And the constant media demonisation of tobacco.
It doesn’t really surprise me at all if smokers eventually succumb to this pressure, surrender, and quit smoking. It requires a stoical determination to carry on smoking in the face of this unrelenting storm of abuse. And sometimes it must simply become impossible to go on. Whenever I see anyone light up a cigarette or pipe or cigar, I feel an instant rush of admiration for them, that over 10 years after the smoking was banned in public places, they still persist in their folly.
It’s also why I was filled with delight when I learned yesterday, via Smoking Lamp that:
A new survey has revealed that 34% of Spaniards smoke cigarettes every day, compared to 32.8% when the anti-tobacco law was introduced.
Health Minister María Luisa Carcedo and Azucena Martí, the government delegate for the National Plan on Drugs … were unable to explain the rise in smokers.
How wonderful that these two fuckwits can’t understand it.
There are a lot of dogged, stoical smokers in Spain, who are carrying on smoking just like their less numerous British cousins.
There are lots of dogged, stoical smokers in France as well. Almost as many as in Spain.
Smoking in France was so much of an issue scientists have even invented a name for it: the French paradox. The paradox consists how the French seem to smoke so many cigarettes but don’t appear to be affected by their adverse effects at the same rate as their European counterparts.
There are two ways of looking at this paradox: either the French cancer care system is vastly superior to those in neighbouring countries, or scientists have fallen victim to the stereotype that France is still the tobacco haven it was back in the 1960s…
Its annual health report shows that the number of people lighting up regularly is no greater than the 2013 WHO official European average of 28%…
Given the stats, why then do French people seem to smoke conspicuously more than the British, or Americans? Tourists visiting France frequently cite smoking as the first culture shock they experience when they set foot on French soil, or perhaps simply when they step on a discarded cigarette butt.
A survey by travel website Tripadvisor revealed that users found that France was by far the “smokiest” country in the world.
My experience of the UK smoking ban has been, as I say, like having someone standing on my foot for 10 years. And I dare say that 34% of Spaniards, and 28% of French, feel pretty much the exact same way.
Which may explain in part why France has just experienced a sudden volcanic political explosion. Beneath the surface, a lot of pressure has built up. In France they’ve had a draconian smoking ban for slightly longer than Britain: theirs dates from 1 February 2007
Smoking and vaping are banned in all indoor public places (government buildings, offices, public transport, universities, museums, restaurants, cafés, nightclubs, etc.). Cafés and shops selling tobacco-related products are submitted to the same regulations. No exceptions exist for special smoking rooms fulfilling strict conditions. Additionally, some outdoor public places also ban smoking and vaping (railway stations).
Perhaps it just takes a while for the pressure to build up to breaking point. Perhaps it takes 10 years, or 20 years, of slowly mounting pressure before there’s an explosion. The explosion doesn’t come immediately: it comes 10 years after. Or 11.8 years, to be exact. And if Spain hasn’t erupted yet, it’s because they’re only 7 years into their smoking ban: 2 January 2011. Spain is likely to explode in 2022.
And, by this analysis, Britain is due to explode in April 2019. And in fact, recent political developments very strongly suggest that Britain actually will explode around about then. Although it will be Brexit (or the lack of it) which will be the nominal cause of the explosion, much like fuel tax hikes were the nominal cause of the French eruption.