If Nobody Complains

It always puzzles me that smokers are so invisible. Why is that? Why are some social outcast groups highly visible, but not smokers?

The answer perhaps is that smokers don’t complain. They just adapt to the new circumstances they find themselves in, and just get on with life.

And because they don’t complain, the new circumstances become even more oppressive. But once again the smokers just adapt to the new worse circumstances they find themselves in, and just get on with life.

Whereupon their circumstances get even worse.

It’s perhaps not that Tobacco Control is particularly oppressive, but that they never get any complaints from smokers.

Why don’t smokers complain? Why do they quietly endure everything that’s done to them? Is this peculiar to smokers? Other people complain. Some people complain a lot about almost everything.

Parallel example: A road gets blocked by local council roadworks when new sewerage systems are being installed. When commuters and shoppers find the road is blocked, they change their planned routes to avoid the blocked road. They quickly adapt to the new situation. They expect the roadworks to be completed within a few days or weeks. Nobody complains to the local council. But because the local council gets no complaints from blocking one road, they then block another. Everybody adapts once again. Nobody complains. So the council then feels free to block as many roads as it likes, because nobody ever complains, whatever they do. In the end, the few roads that remain open are blocked with traffic jams. The whole road network grinds to a halt. Maybe then, when everyone is suffering, everyone starts complaining. Or rather the people who will complain about almost anything will start complaining on behalf of all the people who never complain about anything.

It takes an effort to complain. There are costs attached to complaining. People would rather not do it. Nobody in a restaurant wants to send back a plate of food for being inedible. Instead they usually just don’t eat it. Or they order something else in addition. Maybe the chef only realises that he didn’t cook the potatoes for long enough when plates come back laden with uneaten potato. It would have been quicker if some one had complained, and said “These potatoes are undercooked”, and the chef could have fixed the problem. But if nobody complains, how is the chef to know that he hasn’t cooked the potatoes enough?

Or perhaps it’s that, in any society anywhere, some people are at the top of the pile, and some at the bottom. If you’re at the top of the pile you expect your every whim to be granted. But if you’re on the bottom, you expect none of your wishes to be granted. If you’re at the bottom of the heap, you never complain. You just endure what’s thrown at you.

So in the past, when blacks and gays and women were at the bottom of the pile, they didn’t complain. It was only when a Rosa Parks or an Emily Pankhurst started loudly complaining that people began to notice them. Up until then, nobody noticed any of them. They were invisible.

The pile is always moving. There are always people who are rising up the pile, and there are other people descending. Smokers are people who have been descending. They’ve gradually been expelled from more and more places. The same probably once happened to blacks and gays and women way back whenever. One day they were on top of the world, and then the next they were on the bottom. It’s perhaps only when you get to the very bottom that you start complaining. But before you’ve got to the bottom you just adapt to your changing circumstances. You endure it, until it becomes unendurable.

Also smokers now expect to be excluded. The nasty little round red-rimmed No Smoking signs are always telling them that they can’t smoke here, and they can’t smoke there. They expect things to get worse. And so things actually do get worse. And they’ll get worse and worse until they’re unendurable.

For a long time blacks and gays and women didn’t complain. But at some point it probably became unendurable. And smokers will eventually reach that point too. And then what…?

About Frank Davis

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11 Responses to If Nobody Complains

  1. roobeedoo2 says:

    If a road gets blocked by local council roadworks, for whatever reason, the council will be inundated with a fuckton of complaints.

  2. Mark Jarratt says:

    A harried smoker goes to the doctor in a state of agitation, saying “Doctor, I think I’m completely invisible!”. Doctor impatiently replies “Look, I just can’t see you today”. 😷

  3. Tom Macaulay says:

    I have complained. I complained to my MP and his response was to quote the mythical figure of 80,000 deaths per year attributed to smoking. A computer generated figure using an algorithm based on statistical correlation of cause of death and percentage of smokers.

    • Frank Davis says:

      I’ve complained too. I wrote to my Conservative MP back in 2007, and was more or less told “Too bad.” More recently I’ve been complaining to my latest Conservative MP about prison smoking bans, hospital smoking bans, and other smoking bans. He’s far more sympathetic than my last MP. And he sends on my letters to the government, and tells me what their reply was.

      Back in 2007 I was telling other smokers I knew to write to their MPs. But they said it was “Pointless”. And they’d get angry if I pressed them on the matter. Their view was that there was nothing that could be done about smoking bans (and they hated them as much as I did). Unfortunately I think that most smokers are like those friends of mine. Very few people complain.

  4. Smoking Lamp says:

    I have complained an continue to do so. I first complained when the major hotels started eliminating smoking rooms. Then I complained when Starbucks banned smoking on their outdoor patios. I complained loudly when they imposed the smoking ban in New Orleans bas. same without door bans at beaches and parks. I still try to get heard, writing legislators, posting on the few news articles that allow dissents, and the blogs all here know support smokers freedom of choice. I also support NYC C.L.A.S.H. when I can. I hope that others join in from time-to-time. Smokers need to heard and our rights restored!

  5. jaxthefirst says:

    It’s a funny one, this. I think that there’s generally a bit of an accepting mentality amongst the UK public – possibly other countries, too – that because they live in a “democracy” and they have voted for people to represent them, then in some way they have tacitly agreed that they should thereafter do as that “representative” (along with their other friends in Parliament) tell them. Like that’s sort of “the deal” – we’ll agree to let you represent us, but then we’ll agree to abide by your wisdom when legislation is passed. And I think that is born of a natural reticence of huge swathes of the public to engage with the nitty-gritty of life and make their own decision on what are often complicated and sometimes plain boring issues. So, there’s an element of trust in this relationship. Or at least that’s how it should work, and although I think that over the past few decades we’ve seen that trust being gradually eroded (e.g. Brexit), I think that traces of it still remain – indeed in many ways I think that the subconscious inclination towards that relationship has increased – despite many people saying amongst themselves what useless liars politicians of all stripes are these days, they nevertheless keep trotting down to the same old polling station and putting their cross in the same old boxes for the same old people. Maybe it’s a sort of collective madness – don’t they say that the definition of insanity is constantly repeating the same actions, but at the same time expecting a different outcome?

    But the point I want to make is that I think there is a rather lazy passivity inside many people in the UK that translates in their attitudes towards persecution and bullying. I once had a debate with someone about the persecution of smokers and pointed that that in principle it was no different to the erstwhile persecution of the Jewish people under the Nazi regime or of black people in the southern states of the US. Their response was that “Oh, but that’s different – because smokers can do something to stop being bullied, whereas the Jews or the black people couldn’t do anything about being Jewish or being black.”

    Now, when you analyse that sentiment closely, what that person was actually saying was that, as a basic principle, state bullying is OK, provided the means are there for the victim to comply with the bully’s demands. Which, to look at it from another angle, is a bit like saying that it’s OK for the big boy in the playground to bully the little kid for his sweetie money, because the little kid can easily stop the bullying by giving it to him! And yet, if you cited that as an example, those very same people would say that it would be totally wrong to say to the little kid: “Well, you’re daft if you don’t give Big Fred your money. Just give it to him and then he’ll stop threatening to thump you!” No, the advice that these people would probably give to the little kid wouldn’t be to passively hand over his sweetie money – it would be to tell one of his teachers what was happening, so that they could take steps to stop the bullying behaviour. Why? Well, because these people realise that at heart bullying is simply unfair. But what he people who would pass out this advice to the little kid never, ever stop to contemplate is what advice they should give to the him if he is unfortunate enough to go to a school who completely ignores the problem or denies that it’s happening or, worse still, agrees with the bully, on the basis that the little kid is just being silly not sorting it out for himself when he could quite easily do so by handing his money over! Because that’s the situation that bullied smokers are facing, i.e. the only people who could, and should, address this problem and put a stop to it are both on the side of the bullies and, in many cases, are actually actively participating in the bullying themselves! Who is one expected to complain to in that situation, I wonder?

    I think that this odd dichotomy of opinion about smoker-bullying stems from the fact that smoking as an issue has become something of a moral question for most people, rather than a health one or a freedom one or a practical one, even if they don’t realise it. Perhaps it’s because anti-smoking is such a leading light of the new Healthist religion that everyone seems to be “converting” to these days. Or maybe it’s just because many people like to have a Bad Guy that they can feel better than (which tends generally to be a semi-religious sentiment). I really don’t know, but I once heard someone on the radio saying: “Well, let’s face it – smoking is just bad.” Not “bad for your health” or “bad for other people’s health” or “bad for your bank balance” – just “bad,” full stop. And when such bald, black-and-white, unqualified statements are made – that X is “good” and Y is “bad” – then you’re into the realms of moral and quasi-religious belief arguments, rather than logical arguments about life and reality and variation and all the complicated human questions which actually arise when those “good” or “bad” actions are taken, and the often unintended consequences of each. And devotees of all religions, as we know, certainly don’t object to the chosen “guardians” of their religion bullying those who transgress against whatever moral “wrongs” that religion has decreed. In this respect, the newly-converted Healthist religion-followers are no different from any other religious movement.

    • waltc says:

      That’s the crux if it. There’s no one to complain TO. Audrey and I have testified at city and state “hearings” where nobody listens because they’ve already made up and closed their minds about the latest place they want to ban us from, or the tax they want to impose. The media agree with them, too. So do most judges. And a growing percent of the increasingly non- and ex-smoking public. Smokers also become literally invisible either because they attempt to briefly pass as nonsmokers in workplaces and playplaces (under pain of law, fines, or “being asked to leave”) or because they just stop going to them.

      But, yes, if you want to complain, contribute to CLASH’s lawsuit against HUD’s smoking ban in public housing. A win there could have snowballing ramifications. http://www.nycclash.com

    • RdM says:

      Who is one expected to complain to in that situation, I wonder?

      Brilliant erudite commentary as so often;- thanks!

      doesn’t include smoker harassment.

      An addition might be (after sexual orientation)

      Smoking status

      (Taken to mean a binary smoker or not, tobacco lover or not, in my view.)

      After all, although there might be status involved, I don’t think tobacco lovers, whether rich cigar smokers through exotic pipe enthusiasts and RYO aficionados to varieties of factory or ‘tailor’ made cigarette smoking habitues, would look down on each other …

      For their choice to smoke.

      Further comment later.


    • Frank Davis says:

      “Well, let’s face it – smoking is just bad.” Not “bad for your health” or “bad for other people’s health” or “bad for your bank balance” – just “bad,” full stop. And when such bald, black-and-white, unqualified statements are made – that X is “good” and Y is “bad” – then you’re into the realms of moral and quasi-religious belief arguments…

      Exactly right. The War on Smoking is a moral crusade. It’s just a moral crusade that cloaks itself behind epidemiological science and a supposed concern for Public Health.

      The antismokers hate smoking. My Dr W hated smoking. He declared it to be a “filthy” habit – hardly a medical opinion. The antismokers hate smoking in the same way that alcohol prohibitionists hate alcohol. Or antisemites hate Jews. Or white supremacists hate blacks. And so on, ad infinitum

  6. Dirk says:

    This guy complained:

    Student allegedly stabbed teacher 14 times after being scolded for smoking, charged with premeditative murder.

    A vocational school (SMK) student in the city of Manado, North Sulawesi, identified as 16-year-old FL, has been charged with the murder of his own teacher — an incident that occurred on school grounds.

    According to reports, FL and his friend arrived to school late on Monday after he spent the previous night drinking. They were told to plant some flowers as punishment, after which they took a break by having a smoke while still on school grounds.

    Alexander Pangkey, a 54-year-old religious studies teacher at the school, saw FL and his friend smoking and scolded them for it.

    FL then went home to grab a kitchen knife and returned to the school looking for Alexander. In an incident that was caught in a highly disturbing viral video, FL repeatedly stabbed Alexander, who pleaded for the student to stop.

    “In the name of Jesus, stop. In the name of Jesus, help. Take me to the hospital,” Alexander can be heard saying in the video.

    Alexander managed to walk toward a field while calling for help from other teachers, but FL followed him and stabbed him several more times. FL then fled the school. He reportedly stabbed Alexander 14 times in total.

    Alexander was taken to a nearby hospital, where he succumbed to his wounds.

    FL was soon arrested and has been charged with premeditative murder.

    Source: https://coconuts.co/jakarta/news/student-allegedly-stabbed-teacher-14-times-after-being-scolded-for-smoking-charged-with-premeditative-murder/

  7. Supergran says:

    Bleedin ell Dirk! What’s THAT gotta do with smokers having someone to complain to? Besides, it’s put a right dampener on my day. Reading Frank always cheers me up :o(

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