Finally. It’s over. I never really had any interest in this election anyway.
Why should I be interested? It’s not as if there’s any party that’s proposing to repeal, or even slightly relax, the UK smoking ban. And that’s really the only political issue in which I’m interested. Yet it’s one in which most people have no interest whatsoever. In fact, most people would probably say that it isn’t a political issue at all.
But for me it’s the primary political issue in my life, and has been since 1 July 2007. Because on that day I was expelled from society, and became persona non grata, outcast and outsider. And that remains as shocking for me today as it was 12½ years ago.
I do take an interest in other political issues. But I only do so if they are related in some way to the smoking ban. And my interest in global warming alarmism grows out of its many similarities with tobacco smoke alarmism: both are concerned with trace amounts of chemical compounds in the atmosphere. They are, in short, closely related forms of madness. And in fact they both made their appearance at around about the same time in the 1970s and 80s. Both entail exaggerating a minor threat, building it up into a monster. But there are differences between the two. For while hundreds of millions of smokers have been expelled from bars and cafes and restaurants and clubs, almost everywhere in the world, the same has yet to happen to car owners or airline passengers.
I take an interest in Brexit as well. But here again it’s because I’ve discovered that the EU is as antismoking as the UN or the WHO or any other international organisation. If the smoking ban is ever to be repealed, we must leave all these organisations. And I also fail to see how the EU can ever be a successful political organisation, if it has determined to expel from society something approaching a quarter or a third of the people inside it. I’m not a politician, but it has always seemed to me that politics must be about including as many people as possible, not excluding them.
Both global warming alarmism and Brexit are hot political topics, ceaselessly debated every day. So I find it strange that the only political issue that I’m really interested in attracts no interest or debate whatsoever. There’s dead silence about smoking bans.
And part of the reason for that is that there’s been dead silence from smokers about the smoking bans that have proliferated everywhere in recent years. Smokers don’t like the bans, of course, but they’ve just shrugged and stepped outside to smoke.
Including Ivanka Trump.
She’s the daughter of very arguably the most powerful man in the world, but she still has to stand outside on the street with all the other smokers, as shown at right.
Yet she’s an eloquent and articulate woman, as she demonstrated when she spoke in introduction of her father’s presidential bid. But she says nothing about smoking bans.
But who does? Who speaks up for smokers? Among the great and the good, hardly anyone speaks up for smokers. Even Nigel Farage, who campaigned against the proposed street smoking ban in Stony Stratford, hardly ever mentions smoking bans. As I’ve been pointing out recently, a number of the new populist politicians in Europe – like Marine Le Pen and Matteo Salvini – are smokers, but none of them talk about smoking bans either.
Isn’t it strange? Isn’t it such a strange silence that surrounds the matter of smoking bans? Is it really that nobody is interested? Surely there ought to be intense interest in the exile of hundreds of millions of people to the outdoors, all over the world?
One simple answer might be that it’s very difficult to describe the experience in words. Most smokers don’t have the words to describe what it was like to be exiled one day to the outdoors. It’s a very shocking experience. So shocking that I remain shocked by it 12½ years later. It used to be a terrible shock for me whenever I lost a girlfriend, but I’d recover from it after a year or two. It was a shock when my parents died, but I had anticipated the event, and it was easy enough to absorb. But the UK smoking ban of 1 July 2007 is a wound that never heals. And it’s something that I’m always trying to find words to describe. For I haven’t managed to put it into words either.
Smokers are silent because they have no words to describe what happened to them, much as most likely the survivors of the White Island eruption on Monday probably won’t be able to describe the experience. How do you describe the experience of standing inside the crater of a volcano just at the moment it explosively erupts?
And if most smokers haven’t got words to describe what happened to them, that must also include politicians and pundits. They’re very likely as lost for words as everyone else. And when you’re lost for words, you must perforce remain silent.
One day, I think, some author or playwright or musician will find the words. And then the silence will be broken. And then millions of people will say: “Yes, that was my experience too.” But until that day the silence will persist.
I’ll keep trying. But I feel rather like the old Abbé in the Count of Monte Cristo, who having dug for years through the walls of his prison, simply ended up finding his way into an adjoining cell.