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.