A Nasty Little Mind

I’ve been re-reading Deborah Arnott’s 2007 Guardian piece: (Don’t) Hate the smoker. It’s a litany of antismoking dogma.

While it’s important to accept the rights of smokers to carry on smoking, it also needs to be recognised that being a smoker is not a matter of free choice; they’re gripped by an addiction fuelled by the tobacco industry and they need support to give up.

There are a whole raft of dogmatic assertions in just this one short paragraph.

I suppose the central one is that smoking is an addiction. What is addiction?

Addiction is defined as not having control over doing, taking or using something to the point where it could be harmful to you.

By this definition, I’m not addicted to tobacco. Because I actually have complete control over my smoking: I quite often decide not to have a cigarette. And I can go for hours and hours without a cigarette, and not feel in the least bit bothered about it. In fact, as a result of smoking bans, I very often have to do exactly that.

The reality of the matter is that smoking bans take control away from smokers. Smokers now have no choice but to stop smoking in increasing numbers of places, and on increasing numbers of occasions. So if addiction is defined as not having control over doing something, don’t Tobacco Control’s smoking bans remove smokers’ ability to control themselves? Aren’t they teaching them to lose control?

Nevertheless, any antismoker will tell me that I am addicted to tobacco, and as addicted to tobacco as drug addicts are addicted to heroin or crack cocaine. And this is exactly what Deborah Arnott writes:

the strength of nicotine addiction which can be as difficult to break as heroin or crack cocaine.

Never having been addicted to either heroin or crack cocaine, I have no idea what such an addiction is like. In fact, given that I have just established that I’m not addicted to tobacco, I wonder whether these heroin and cocaine “addicts” are actually any more addicted to those substances than I am to mine.

And also, if I am addicted to tobacco, am I not equally addicted to tea? For the first thing I do every day is to drink a mug of tea. The first cigarette of the day comes second to the day’s first mug of tea. And I then spend all day drinking tea and smoking cigarettes. The two go hand in hand. Whenever I smoke, I also want to drink. And usually what I drink happens to be tea. But it could equally well be coffee. Or beer. Or wine. Or whisky. I think that this is because tobacco smoke dries the mouth, which needs to be moistened. And when moistened, it needs to be dried, in an unending cyclical process.

Also all these drinks are quite powerful drugs. Tea is what wakes me up in the morning. Coffee has the same effect. And alcohol sends me to sleep. Tobacco’s effects are milder than all of them.

So if I’m addicted to tobacco, I must also be addicted to tea. And we English are famous for our addiction to tea. We even have tea breaks. And tea-times. And High Teas. When is the war on tea going to start?

It probably will start one day. There will be a Tea Control just like there’s a Tobacco Control. Tea drinkers will be told that they’re addicts, with no control over themselves, consuming something that is slowly killing them. And they’ll be told that it’s an addiction fuelled by the evil tea industry. And after all, it’s not tobacco that turns my teeth brown: it’s tea. Or the tannin in tea. It turns my teeth brown just like it turns the insides of the mugs from which I drink it brown.

And speaking of addictions, am I not addicted to food and drink and air? I breathe far more air every day than I do tobacco smoke. And if I can’t breathe even for a few seconds I become extremely anxious, gasping for another breath of air.

Antismokers will of course tell me that I need food and drink and air, but I don’t need tobacco (or tea or sugar). So you’re only an addict if you’re addicted to something you don’t really need. So I don’t have a food or water or air addiction. Tobacco, they’ll say, is a want rather than a need. And these wants are things we can live perfectly well without. We don’t need tobacco or alcohol or tea or coffee or sugar or meat or butter. We also don’t need sex, music, dance, movies, TVs, radios, art, literature, poetry. Antismokers would ban all these things. They want to take all the fun out of life, all the joy out of life. They’re killjoys. Puritanical killjoys. And theirs is not a medicinal campaign, but a moral campaign.

I could go on.

I could go on exploring Deborah Arnott’s nasty little mind. For that’s what I’ve been doing. But I’ve had quite enough for today.

About Frank Davis

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16 Responses to A Nasty Little Mind

  1. RdM says:

    Of food, and drink ,,,

    They’ll say we don’t need fancy cheeses, preserved meats, vegetables, fruits, alcohol, coffee, tea.

    You can survive on gruel and water.

  2. RdM says:

    Obviously forgetting nuts grains seeds oils and all the rest.

  3. RdM says:

    One might suggest reading

    A Critique of Nicotine Addiction

    Click to access 2002-frenkdar.pdf

  4. RdM says:

    In case it wasn’t obvious to go up a level, dated as it is, (and one can go up again)
    Discussion … ?
    Oh well, never mind, as they say.
    But maybe worth reading and thinking about.
    Putting it out there …
    I wish I was more too.

  5. Roobeedoo2 says:

    addicted (adj.)

    1530s, “delivered over” by judicial sentence (as a debtor to his creditors, a sense from Roman law); past-participle adjective from addict (v.). Sense of “dependent” (1560s) is reflexive, “self-addicted,” from the notion of “give over or award (oneself) to someone or some practice;” specialization to narcotics dependency is from c. 1910. Earlier English adjective was simply addict “delivered, devoted” (1520s).’


    addict (v.)

    ‘1530s (implied in addicted) “to devote or give up (oneself) to a habit or occupation,” from Latin addictus, past participle of addicere “to deliver, award, yield; make over, sell,” properly “give one’s assent to,” figuratively “to devote, consecrate; sacrifice, sell out, betray, abandon,” from ad “to” (see ad-) + dicere, which was usually “to say, declare” (from PIE root *deik- “to show,” also “pronounce solemnly”), but also “adjudge, allot.” “It is a yielding to impulse, and generally a bad one” [Century Dictionary]. Related: Addicted; addicting.’


    addict (n.)

    ‘”one given over to some practice,” 1909, first in reference to morphine, from addict (v.).

  6. Dmitry says:

    Try to dig coffee’s history. Absolutely the same, including attempts to ban it at the end of the 18th century (since the Yakobins all over Europe were gathering in coffee-houses to discuss toppling yet another monarchy). And look at today’s endless research: coffee kills you, coffee prolongs your life…In fact, the moment we start really liking some product, out hop some bastards telling us the product and us, its fans, are a public menace. So what;s the difference with tobacco? Simple: there is no industrial lobby with a product, alternative to coffee, strong enough to start a campaign to kill the competitors, like the medical lobby does it with tobacco.

    • RdM says:

      Yes I’ve thought of that re coffee.
      Imaginary counter campaign claims:
      “Over 1000 chemicals in a cup of Coffee”
      “Stains your teeth!”
      “Bad Coffee Breath!
      “All those useless people sitting around in cafes when they could be working! For Us!”

      So CRT, Caffeine Replacement Therapy?
      No Doz 100mg caffeine tablets from decades ago, truck drivers &etc.

      How about Alcohol Replacement Therapy?
      We could call it ART!

      Instead of victims of alcohol polluting themselves with single malts or any flavored spirits, all those complex chemicals . they could line up at a chemist to get their pure dose fix.

      Yeah, Right!

      • smokingscot says:

        Odd that each of the examples you cite involve people relaxing, associating and interacting with each. (I do not mean they talk to anyone, just being there is enough for many – self included).

        Taking that a stage further, all the rules and the absolute need to have public liability insurance has ended many village fetes, while noise issues have affected low margin events like banger races.

        So it seems we may in due course be left with good healthy, quietish venues, so gymnasiums, karate and the like. With football reluctantly tolerated, partly because big ticket events attract the subscription tv lot. And they’re useful for government propaganda.

        Having watched our largest subscription outfit (BBC) push Stewart as the next PM, it’s clear to me that their none too subtle efforts to give him maximum exposure has left us with a serious political problem – one that’s unlikely to go away even when he loses.

  7. Frank Davis says:

    like the medical lobby does it with tobacco.

    With Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) patches? Are they an alternative to smoking tobacco?The only genuine alternative is to vape.

    • Dmitry says:

      No, Frank, the plans were bigger than just NRT. First, there is a Giving It Up industry, which – only in the US – is estimated to be about 90 billion annually. Doctors, prescripted drugs… Then add to it the insurance business, claiming extra money (like 30%) if the victim is smoking. Third, what do people do if they have no tobacco? They use medication to feel better, and also go to gyms… All in all, that could have been trillions of dollars. But it failed, because NRT and psycho-drugs have a rate of success at best 10%, and the number of smokers doesn’t go down as it should, etc.
      While there is no obvious competing product to coffee, since it goes well with drink, and even tea is doing OK alongside.

  8. mandy vincent says:

    If it was just nicotine we were “addicted” to, then those useless patches would work. They would be cheaper to start with, those clever people who came up with the idea, must have assumed it was just nicotine we needed. So why are the vapes doing so well, because it keeps your hands busy ? because you still get a hit in your throat ? They are never going to produce a little plaster to fix that.

    • waltc says:

      Because they also allow you to inhale and exhale deeply, regulating your breathing which itself is relaxing and restorative. . Just like those deep breathing exercises, but more fun. I once wrote of a charcter in a tense situation, “Sometimes he couldn’t take a deep breath unless it had smoke in it.” I believe that’s often true.

    • Frank Davis says:

      assumed it was just nicotine we needed

      It’s like assuming that people listen to Bach or Mozart just for the A flat in them.

    • RdM says:

      I found a brief dip in to vaping utterly unsatisfying, and still so.
      (And it makes me cough;- unlike tobacco;- I can only roll it around my mouth, like a cigar or pipe intake.)

      But do a search on the acronym WTA e juice or some such,
      WTA Whole Tobacco Alkaloids


      Then consider WTE, Whole Tobacco Extract, just for flavouring, specific brands.

      Put them together (getting a little expensive!) and maybe it’s getting back to …

      Then maybe a vape might be as pleasurable as the boutique RYO or pipe tobacco?
      Or even brand name factory made cigarettes you were used to?

      I doubt it. But I think it might get much closer to being satisfying.
      And I’d be interested to try it out, if I thought I could afford to import it.

      Nevertheless, vaping (no flavours) seems to me about as appealing as going to a cafe and getting a cup of hot water and a caffeine pill to dissolve in it …

      None of the richness of real coffee.

      And I like the idea of coffee flavored with syrups even less.

      But that’s just me.

  9. Smoking Lamp says:

    This study presents a different view: “The reports of US Surgeon General on smoking are considered the authoritative statement on the scientific state of the art in this field. The previous report on nicotine addiction published in 1988 is one of the most cited references in scientific articles on smoking and often the only citation provided for specific statements of facts regarding nicotine addiction. In this commentary we review the chapter on nicotine addiction presented in the recent report of the Surgeon General. We show that the nicotine addiction model presented in this chapter, which closely resembles its 22 years old predecessor, could only be sustained by systematically ignoring all contradictory evidence. As a result, the present SG’s chapter on nicotine addiction, which purportedly “documents how nicotine compares with heroin and cocaine in its hold on users and its effects on the brain,” is remarkably biased and misleading.”
    Hanan Frank, Rueven Dar. If the data contradict the theory, throw out the data: Nicotine addiction in the 2010 report of the Surgeon General. Harm Reduct J. 2011; 8: 12.

  10. beobrigitte says:

    I’ve been re-reading Deborah Arnott’s 2007 Guardian piece: (Don’t) Hate the smoker. It’s a litany of antismoking dogma.

    “While it’s important to accept the rights of smokers to carry on smoking, it also needs to be recognised that being a smoker is not a matter of free choice; they’re gripped by an addiction fuelled by the tobacco industry and they need support to give up.”

    Addiction is something interesting. People becoming addicted to whatever find themselves constantly reducing the time between their whatever and also increase the dose. About a week ago I did point out to my friends that we must become addicted to walking. We certainly have reduced the time in-between our walks AND we are increasing the distance we walk. We used to walk maybe once every 6 weeks for 3 – 5 miles or so, now 2 weeks have passed and we’re itching to walk again. Weirdly, we take less breaks (it hasn’t occurred to us we can smoke whilst walking, so we smoke LESS and don’t miss it) and by now a walk less than 8 miles is no walk.
    I begin to think we have become addicted. Like many gym goers, joggers, bike riders….

    But then, Deborah Arnott is a PR person and has no background in any science. She just hates smoking and smokers and blabbs whatever the other anti-smokers tell her to say.

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