I was watching a UK Labour party supporter talking, among other things, about Why the Left Has Abandoned the Working Class, and thinking that there’s no better example of this than the 2007 smoking ban which was brought in by the Labour party.
But as soon as I thought this, I also thought that it wouldn’t be cited as an example, because the smoking ban never gets mentioned by anyone, ever.
And indeed, the smoking ban didn’t get mentioned.
A controversial opinion piece in the Guardian also didn’t mention the smoking ban, but did offer an explanation of why some topics shouldn’t be aired:
Free speech advocates also misunderstand the motivation of those who might want to shut down a debate: they see this as a surefire mark of intolerance. But some debates should be shut down. For public dialogue to make any progress, it is important to recognise when a particular debate has been won and leave it there.
Even the most passionate free speech advocate might not wish to reopen the debate into whether women should be tried for witchcraft, or whether ethnic minorities should be allowed to go to university, or whether the Earth is flat. No-platformers are not scared – they simply think certain debates are over. You may disagree, but it does not mean they are against free speech.
Perhaps this is why nobody talks about the smoking ban? It’s because the debate about smoking is over, and has been over for 60 years. Everybody Knows that Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, and they have known it all their lives.
In fact they know this with even greater certainty than they know that the Earth is flat. How do you demonstrate that the Earth isn’t flat? It’s actually a very interesting question, and one that I’ve discussed on this blog. I’m still not sure how to do it.
Anyway, perhaps that’s why nobody discusses the smoking ban: the debate about smoking is over, and has been over for a very long time.
But there never was a public debate about the UK smoking ban. It didn’t happen. And even on the day the smoking ban came into force – 1 July 2007 – it barely got a mention. On the BBC 6 pm news that day, it was item number 5 or 6. It never got another mention again. It wasn’t important.
Or maybe it was too important.
Smoking was going to be banned, and there was going to be no debate about it. There was never going to be any debate about it, ever.
So there’s an eerie silence surrounding the matter. And it’s not just that nobody on the Left ever talks about it: nobody on the Right does either. Alex Jones doesn’t talk about it. Jordan Peterson doesn’t talk about it. Michael Savage doesn’t talk about it. None of them talk about it.
But I think that all these smoking bans that have been introduced over the past decade or two all over the world are one of the most important things that are happening in the world. After all, in my experience, they are about the single most divisive thing that’s ever happened in my lifetime. Smoking bans have made me change my mind about almost everything. And if they’ve had such an effect on me, the chances are that they’ve had similar effects on lots of other people as well. And the ISIS survey that I helped conduct found exactly this.
Perhaps it doesn’t matter whether there is any public debate about smoking bans or not. These bans have consequences, which are currently being played out, regardless of any discussion about them.
For example, if they are indeed socially divisive (and how can exiling millions of people to the outdoors not be socially divisive?) then you should expect to see mounting social division in those countries where smoking bans have been introduced. Smoking bans may not be the cause of all the social divisions in these countries, but they will be the cause of some of them.
And indeed places like Britain and the USA now seem far more divided than they used to be. France also seems to be a deeply divided country. And also Italy. The ostensible single causes of the divisions – Brexit in the UK, Trump in the USA, immigration in Italy – almost certainly conceal other contributory causes.
In fact, the whole world seems to be more divided now than it was a few years ago. International tensions are at a maximum. Last week the USA almost went to war with Iran. Do these international tensions only arise in some sort of self-contained field of international politics? Or are they expressions of tensions and divisions within these countries as well as those between them?
Is there a smoking ban in Iran? Yes, there is. And it’s not been very successful, apparently:
Iran Is Losing Its Jihad on Tobacco
The Islamic Republic’s anti-smoking campaign is yet another example of the government’s shaky control over its population.
So that’ll be a contributing factor to tensions within Iran. And the article above recognises that fact.
But nobody’s going to recognise the contribution of smoking bans to tensions within the UK and the USA and France and Italy. Because nobody ever talks about it.