I generally think of antismokers as people who are frightened of everything. I think of them as being frightened of tobacco smoke and frightened of global warming and frightened of everything else as well.
But this morning I wondered whether something else might be going on here. The thought was prompted by a chance meeting I had with an ex-paratrooper in a pub garden a couple of weeks ago. I think of paratroopers (and soldiers in general) as being brave and daring people, far more so than I. And there I was sat talking to one of them, both of us smoking roll-ups, and him telling me that if I carried on smoking I’d die of lung cancer. He’d completely swallowed the kool-aid about smoking. I said I didn’t believe anything that was said about tobacco, and I didn’t believe anything that was said about alcohol or sugar or salt or fat or anything else. But he insisted that if I carried on smoking, I’d die a horrible death.
And then he offered to get me some pot to smoke. I declined the offer, saying it was a long time since I’d ever smoked the stuff, and I no longer had any interest in it. He seemed not to think that I’d die a horrible death of I smoked any of that.
And this morning I was thinking how odd it was that here was a very brave and daring man, who was also daring enough to smoke pot, yet who believed everything he was told about tobacco. And I began to wonder, not for the first time, whether a lot of antismokers might actually be pot smokers.
Smoking cigarettes and drinking beer was something daring that I used to do in my teens. Smoking pot was something daring that I used to do in my twenties. Other people I knew were far more daring than me, and would try every single new drug that they encountered. Drug users are daring people.
In this sense they’re not really much different from mountaineers who dare to climb the highest mountains they possibly can, or solo round-the-world sailors who brave the greatest storms, or long distance runners, or Formula One drivers, and so on.
Pot smokers were daring people who dared to do something most other people didn’t dare to do, and they had a certain contempt for their less daring fellows. And cigarette smoking ceased to be in the least bit daring when everybody smoked, including women. In fact it became a rather contemptible habit, a bit like sucking your thumb. Pot smokers looked down upon cigarette smokers. What was the point of smoking something that didn’t have a powerful psychotropic effect? Pot smokers never regarded themselves as addicts of their drug, but they quite happily regarded cigarette smokers as addicts. Pot smokers would also happily believe that cigarette smokers were killing themselves, but usually believed that pot was not only completely harmless and non-addictive, but also medically beneficial in ways too numerous to list (even if pot smoke contained all the same chemical compounds as tobacco smoke, except nicotine).
Is it very surprising if we now live in a world where pot is being legalised, while tobacco is being criminalised? Pot is being legalised as pot smokers outnumber tobacco smokers. And tobacco is being criminalised for the same reason. The same thing is happening with meat, sugar, and all the rest. You promote your own habits, and demote other people’s.
And pot smokers regard themselves as being not only daring people, but also enlightened progressives, and morally superior to everyone else.
There are other forms of daring. It might be suggested that homosexuals are simply sexually daring people (and paedophiles and transexuals even more daring), and they have the same contempt for run-of-the-mill, plain, ordinary, vanilla heterosexuals as pot smokers have for cigarette smokers.
Anyway, that ex-paratrooper was a daring soldier who had also dared to smoke pot, and was probably very daring in all sorts of other ways. Maybe he wasn’t actually smoking roll-ups when we sat talking. Maybe he was just a pot smoker telling me about his contempt for tobacco, like pot smokers do.
More generally, maybe the great political divide in the USA and UK (and everywhere else) is between pot smoking progressives and tobacco smoking conservatives. And I’m unusual in being a pot smoking progressive who became a tobacco smoking conservative, in much the way that communists sometimes become liberals.