I’m still puzzling over the two antismokers in Tobacco Control who’ve swum into my view over the past few days: Marewa Glover and Ronald Bayer.
“In tobacco control over 35 years, we have exaggerated the effects deliberately to scare people off smoking,” she told the Health Select Committee on Wednesday.
…the case for interventions depends on weak evidence and involves degrees of dissimulation.
They’re both saying the same thing. Tobacco Control has “exaggerated” the effects of smoking, and engaged in “dissimulation”.
dissimulation meaning: concealment of one’s thoughts, feelings, or character; pretence. “an attempt at dissimulation”
synonyms: pretence, dissembling, misrepresentation, deceit, dishonesty, duplicity, lying, guile, subterfuge, feigning, falsification, shamming, faking, bluff, bluffing, counterfeiting, posturing, hypocrisy, double-dealing;
So essentially they’re both saying that Tobacco Control has been telling lies.
And these are both antismokers from inside Tobacco Control.
This rather suggests that there are divisions opening up within Tobacco Control.
Beyond their shared belief that Tobacco Control has engaged in deception, Glover and Bayer seem to part company. Glover empathizes with smokers (a little), and points to unnecessarily draconian antismoking measures:
“(We) are now taking these extreme, punitive measures, when the evidence does not support the need for it.”
Bayer, by contrast, is concerned that the result of telling lies will be a loss of public trust, and thinks that Tobacco Control should come clean about its wish to denormalise smoking:
“Advancing claims that mask the underlying public health goal of denormalization is a perilous strategy. Public health must, in the end, rely on public trust.”
Clearly Bayer thinks that the aim of denormalising smoking is a perfectly laudable goal. But it would appear that others do not:
“…advocates have sought to avoid the charge that outdoor smoking bans represent yet another case of overreaching by the “nanny state,” of unjustified paternalism that lacks any respect for adults’ fundamental autonomy.”
That is to say that while some of the bullying bastards in Tobacco Control do not want to be thought of as bullying bastards, Ronald Bayer himself is perfectly happy to be regarded as one. He doesn’t want to avoid being charged with nanny state overreach, unjustified paternalism, and contempt for adult autonomy. And that’s probably because he thinks that nanny state paternalism is perfectly justified, and smoking is something that must be quite simply completely stamped out. Bayer:
In 1939 Norbert Elias published The Civilizing Process , a history of manners in which he sought to explain how acceptable behavior becomes revolting. Drawing on Elias’s classic study, in 1993 Robert Kagan and Jerome Skolnick noted that “smoking has not yet, like blowing one’s nose in one’s hand, or spitting, or eating with the fingers, been stigmatized as ‘disgusting.’”
…In this article we examine contemporary efforts to extend smoking bans to beaches and parks, seeing in them policy initiatives designed to denormalize smoking and having as their ultimate goal a profound transformation in public norms and behavior.
Has eating with the fingers really become stigmatized as ‘disgusting’? Whenever I eat a sandwich, I hold it with my fingers. Same when I eat a piece of chocolate or cake. I’ve never seen anyone eat these things using knives and forks.
And spitting in Muslim countries is mandatory, I believe, during those periods when Muslims are forbidden to swallow anything, including their own saliva.
Undoubtedly customs and norms change over time, but do they change as a result of deliberate public campaigns to change behaviour, or as a result of an unguided gradual evolutionary process involving the interaction of large numbers of people?
To frame the question in a different way: do Americans speak English with a characteristic twang in their voice as a result of a deliberate public campaign to change (or fix) their accent, or was this accent the result of a natural evolutionary process? Or – same question – do Liverpudlians speak in a characteristic scouse accent because there was once a deliberate public campaign to get them to talk that way, or was it something that happened of its own natural accord? I suspect that the answer in both cases is that it just happened that way, entirely unplanned. In which case why does Bayer believe that a deliberate public campaign to denormalise smoking is ever likely to be successful?
After all, was there ever a deliberate public campaign to stop people eating with their fingers? Was it once made illegal to eat with your fingers? Were there No Eating With Fingers signs everywhere? The answer, I suspect, is that there was never any such campaign, but instead some people stopped eating with their fingers, and other people gradually began to emulate them, in the same way that people emulate the way that other people dress and speak. And if there had been a public campaign, complete with bans and fines, to get people to stop eating with their fingers, would it have been successful? Could it have been successful? I suspect it would not have been successful, and could not have been successful, because this isn’t how social norms and customs arise. Social norms are not things which can be imposed upon people, because if they are imposed by force they can never be norms to which people will naturally adhere (school rules being a good example of rules imposed by force).
Tobacco Control’s attempt to denormalise smoking can never succeed. If anything it will result in the renormalisation of smoking, and the destruction of Tobacco Control