Three different stories vying for my attention this morning. The first one from Hawaii:
“The cigarette is considered the deadliest artifact in human history,” declares HB 1509. The product, it continues, has “killed one hundred million people in the twentieth century and is likely to kill one billion people in the twenty-first century,” giving the tobacco industry roughly the same body count as global communism.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Richard Creagan (D–South Kona/Ka’u), aims to halt this menace by raising the legal age for buying cigarettes to 30 in 2020, rising from there to 60 in 2023 and 100 in 2024. Retailers who sell cigarettes to underage Medicare recipients would be subject to fines of $500 per violation.
Cigars and e-cigarettes would be spared from these age restrictions. The bill would not prohibit those over the age of 21, the state’s current smoking age, from merely possessing cigarettes.
Well, some people may think that the cigarette is “the deadliest artifact in human history.” But I’m not one of them. In fact, I think cigarettes are completely harmless.
“Banning the sales of cigarettes should be viewed as a good faith effort to free smokers from the enslavement of this powerful addiction and not an infringement on individual liberties,” reads the bill. Creagan reiterated his belief that smokers are “enslaved” in an interview with the Hawaii Tribune-Herald.
I also don’t think that smokers are “enslaved addicts” either. The belief that they are is part of the bizarre confection of ideas that accompany extreme antismoking zealotry.
My view is the same view that most people had 70 years ago. People might say that I’m 70 years behind the times, but I think that 70 years ago people had more balanced ideas than they do today not just about smoking, but about pretty much everything else as well.
The second story connects to the first. In Hawaii you’ll still be able to vape, because e-cigarettes are generally regarded as far safer than cigarettes. That might change when Rep. Richard Creagan reads this story:
A 24-year-old man was killed in Texas last week when his vape pen exploded — slicing open his carotid artery and leaving his grandmother’s car covered in blood.
William Brown died after his left internal carotid artery was severed due to trauma from the exploding vape pen he just bought from Smoke & Vape DZ in Keller, a town just north of Fort Worth, his distraught grandmother told WFAA.
This is one thing that cigarettes are incapable of doing: exploding and severing the carotid artery.
The third story would seem to be completely unconnected but for one fact that I discovered in one line of one report about it.
Yesterday in Paris, an apartment block at 17, Rue Erlanger in the XVIth arrondissement caught fire. Ten people were killed. Another 50 needed to be rescued by firefighters from roofs and windows. What makes the story unusual is that it seems that it was the work of an arsonist, a 40-year-old woman named Essia B with a history of mental disorder who lived on the 2nd floor of the block.
What happened, it seems (and this is my own summary), was that Essia B was playing music very loudly in her studio flat, and neighbours, including Nicholas L who lived on the same floor, complained to the police. The police eventually arrived at about midnight, talked to Essia B, whom they described as being “calm”, and left without taking any further action. Then it appears that she went and lit a fire against the front door of Nicholas L’s apartment:
“She had to set fire to my house to take revenge,” says the young man in conflict with his neighbor… “When I met her, she wished me good luck because I loved the flames…”
It starts getting seriously weird at this point, for it seems that Nicholas L was a 22-year-old firefighter, and that was why Essia B had used fire to take revenge on him.
At this point Nicholas L started banging on doors and telling residents to get out quickly, while Essia B left the building, and started trying to set fire to various other things outside, including cars and garbage containers. Within minutes, unsurprisingly, the entire apartment block was on fire. It then took 250 firefighters about 5 hours to bring the fire under control, because the apartment block was located in a courtyard inaccessible to fire trucks. Essia B was arrested outside the apartment block, and is now confined in a psychiatric unit.
This is a bizarre story, but one detail of it that jumped out immediately for me, was that when Essia B was seen wandering round outside trying to set things alight, she was using a cigarette lighter:
…the officers put the woman under brief surveillance and detained her after she allegedly tied a scarf around a car’s rear-view mirror and raised a cigarette lighter to it.
And that meant that she was most likely a smoker. Mental patients very often are, it seems. And I began wondering whether the intense conflict she was having with her neighbours might not have just been about her loud music, but also her smoking habit. Might not her new neighbour, the young firefighter have warned her that her smoking posed a fire threat. Was there a smoking ban in the apartment block? Did residents have gas cookers or heaters that needed lighters?
So I started wondering whether there’s another story here, in which Essia B emerges as yet another persecuted smoker, who finally snaps, and sets fire to her persecutors’ apartment block in an orgy of violence, using the only weapon available to her. And who knows, perhaps Essia B’s “madness” was simply that in Emmanuel Macron’s Paris she smoked cigarettes, which we have learned today are “the deadliest artifacts in human history”, and to which she had become “enslaved”.
Will we ever find out?