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Frank Davis

Banging on about the Smoking Ban


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Two Wannabe Puritans
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Simon Clark earlier today pointed to recent remarks by Clegg and Cameron on smoking. He also asked How Liberal is Cameron's Cabinet? It doesn't make happy reading. Cameron first. I've highlighted a few words.

Cameron now keeps fit by running, a habit he started at the same time as he gave up smoking just over a year ago. He laughingly explains how he kept failing to quit. "I am now clean! But I still dream I have just had a cigarette and then have deep remorse on waking, until I realize it was only a dream. The yearning has gone. I have genuinely given up and do not even miss it.

In the same interview, Cameron spoke of his religious belief. And I could help but think that being "clean" and feeling "deep remorse" had religious undertones as well. Cameron was repenting of his ways, and had been backsliding into sinfulness, but now he had been washed clean of vice. He didn't miss smoking, he said. But quite obviously he did, because otherwise he wouldn't have dreamed about it.

I found myself imagining him saying the same about sex. 'I still dream about sex,' he might have said, 'And then have deep remorse on waking, until I realise it was only a wet dream. The desire has gone. I have genuinely given up sex and do not even miss it. No, not one little bit.'

The sheer puritanism of what he was saying becomes more apparent when it's transposed from cigarettes to sex. And I found myself wishing that there were people who spoke unashamedly of their love of sex, and tobacco, and alcohol, and any number of other pursuits.

It can only be a matter of time before sex becomes as taboo as cigarettes now are, and alcohol is rapidly becoming. I'm rather surprised that it hasn't already. The one thing that the righteous can't stand more than anything else is sex.

In fact it is happening already. The big sexual no-no these days is paedophilia. Everything else is okay. But not that. It's the thin end of the wedge. Soon all forms of sex will be rendered obscene and unmentionable. Parents will be required to not Do It 'in front of the children', because it 'sets a bad example', and 'sends the wrong message', and is 'unacceptable'.

Now Clegg.

Nick Clegg is an occasional smoker, he has admitted.

The Liberal Democrat leader revealed his habit during a half-hour interview with politics.co.uk, conducted in association with Yahoo!.

Asked if he would repeal the ban on smoking in public places, Mr Clegg admitted the ban made him miss the days of smoking in pubs, but insisted he believed it was the right thing to do.

"I have a confession to make," he told politics.co.uk. "I do take the occasional puffs of cigarettes myself.

"I understand that if you do, the days of sitting in a pub drinking a pint and having a cigarette is something you feel very attached to."

But the Liberal Democrat leader insisted the ban confirmed to his liberal philosophy.
"One of the first principles of a liberal is that you allow people to do what they want as long as it doesn't harm others," he said.

"Smoking is one of those classic examples where it's not a harm-free activity because it harms others around you and therefore I struggled with it a bit, but I voted for the smoking ban and I wouldn't seek to reverse it or dilute it."

The Lib Dem leader is not the first politician to admit to retaining a love of smoking, even if election strategists are stringent in making sure politicians are never photographed with a cigarette.

"Admit", "Confession". Again the religious undertones. Clegg also "struggles", much like Cameron. He too is on the way to becoming a puritan. It's just that Cameron is just a bit further down the track than he is. I wonder if Clegg is allowed to smoke in his new Deputy Prime Minister's office, or whether he has to go outside into the garden. Perhaps we'll soon see shots of Clegg sitting on the steps outside 10, Downing Street, smoking.

I highlighted the "right thing to do", because that's what Blair said about invading Iraq. It was a very Blair-like thing to say. It can be pulled out to cover any course of action, mass murder included. Blair got religion too. And it's complete tosh, of course, that smoking harms anyone other than the smoker. If Clegg really believes that, he's devoid of common sense. And, if he believes that, he'll believe anything. And probably does.

So we have two leaders who are well on the way to becoming as puritanical as Gordon Brown. You never saw him smoking and drinking, did you? Can you imagine him having sex? No? Well, neither can I. It's easily possible to imagine Cameron and Clegg in a pub, smoking and drinking and having a laugh. Well, it's possible to imagine what they were like, not so long ago. It's much harder to imagine Brown perched on a bar stool, with a dram of good whisky and a cigar, cracking jokes. It's hard to even imagine Brown laughing.

I suddenly realised today, now that he's gone, that Brown reminded me of Dr W - the first antismoker I ever met, way back in the 1960s. Dr W was incapable of laughter. The best he could manage was to hitch up the corners of his mouth into a sickly grimace. And that's what Brown does too. As well as grinning mirthlessly at the wrong time.

I think it's a result of the iron self-discipline that puritanism requires. You're always having to exert self-control. And the tighter that self-control becomes, the more rigid and unnatural you become. In the end you can't do anything spontaneously, like laughing or smiling. You can only simulate it.

The voice changes too. Those little muscles in the throat also cease to operate fluidly and spontaneously. And the voice becomes rather dead. Dr W had a dead voice. Whatever he was talking about, it was oddly lifeless. It was devoid of emotion. He could only do quiet or loud. And Brown's tractor-stats voice was a similar voice. It was loud, and rather droning. Another person with the same sort of dead voice was Sir Liam Donaldson. And Peter Mandelson has a similar sort of voice.

So as Cameron and Clegg proceed together in their path to puritanism, we can expect their voices to change, and their smiles and mannerisms to gradually become more and more forced. Watch for the signs.

Once one has witnessed it, one has to wonder what the point of it all is. Self-denial leads to a progressive diminution of humanity. Why on earth does anyone think that it is praiseworthy? Why do the righteous feel so self-righteous about their self-denial? But they do.

I've begun to think very seriously that we are entering a new puritanical religious age. It's somehow slowly creeping over everyone, like the greyness that overtook the cartoon characters in the Beatles' Yellow Submarine, before the Beatles returned to bring them back to vivid and colourful life again.

It's a new religious age because people have learned to believe things which are nonsensical. It's nonsense that smoking harms anyone but the smoker. It probably doesn't even harm smokers either. But people like Clegg and Cameron will believe it anyway. And they believe all the global warming tosh too. Chris Huhne, I heard today, is to be given the Climate Change portfolio. I couldn't but think that it was a bit like being given the Department of Fairies and Elves at the Bottom of the Garden.

Which reminds me that, after a long absence during which nobody mentioned it, climate change has returned on BBC radio. There was a half hour programme about it this evening, the gist of which was that, despite the Climategate revelations, climate change was happening anyway. They were arguing about the best way to motivate people to do something about it. The unquestioned assumption was that it actually was happening.

The most terrifying part of the programme came when they were talking about the poor in India, cooking on open fires, the walls of their kitchens blackened with soot. It was quite seriously suggested that the emissions from all these open fires were causing the Himalayan glaciers to melt, as the soot rained down on them. Although they wouldn't have completely melted as early as 2035, as the IPCC had been suggesting until recently. 2036 maybe.

There was some new efficient cooker available that produced a lot less soot. It was much better for people's health. Using those maybe the glaciers would melt more slowly. Maybe they'd last until 2039.

'It's a scandal that people are still cooking on open fires,' one of the presenters said, rather angrily.

He followed through even more forcefully.

'Don't you think it's a scandal? Well, don't you?!'

Did I think it was a scandal? Well, no I didn't. The human race has been cooking over open fires for the past few million years. Was that a scandal too? And was it a scandal that they didn't have trainers and ipods and lots of bling too, back in 1 million BC?

As I listened, I could only think that everything I was hearing was complete barminess. It was bad craziness. The smoking ban is bad craziness. Global warming is bad craziness. I found myself wondering whether in a few years there's be people like me holed up in caves, with a dwindling stash of cigarettes and whisky, while the rest of the world had gone completely bonkers.

And as I thought about it some more, I realised that there was one real scandal I could think of. And it was that it's a total scandal that I don't have a silver Mercedes Benz convertible. With alloy wheels. And an ashtray. Gotta have an ashtray. Don't you think that's a scandal? Well, don't you?

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Quitting smoking, drinking, bad eating, etc. - that's all just a cop-out - so someone doesn't have to stop doing the REAL sins - like the 7 deadly ones, the ones that REALLY kill - you know, like pride (#1 one killer), envy, greed, etc. So if one can manufacture a false-god, idolatory, then one can flex a little will-power for the sake of giving the appearance of being very righteous in the face of the false-god, that of no smoking, drinking, bad eating, non-green activities, etc. - and take control of an entire generation raised to believe in that false-god - as opposed to the REAL one - the one of course who would still frown upon the pride, envy, greed, etc. that the anti/non/ex-smoker thinks he or she are so self-righteously getting away with a clean walk into heaven. In actuality, they're all just going to hell. And, because things like smoking, drinking, bad eating, etc. are more or less just repetitive habits and things to make some people more at peace with God, the REAL one, it might just be that those people commiting the heresies against the false-god, against the idolatry of anti-smoking in particular, might be the very same people who end up going to the REAL heaven - while the anti/non/ex-smoker lying to himself and others on the REAL truth of what is God - ends up being the ones going straight to hell - the REAL hell too. I wouldn't doubt it. Nothing new under the sun, so says the Bible, which coincidentally doesn't harp on in the Ten Commandments, beginning with things like Thou Shalt Not Smoke, Thou Shalt Not Drink, Thou Shalt Not Eat Fatty Foods, Thou Shalt Not Eat Salt, etc. So you tell me who the heretics bound for hell are. The smokers/drinkers/fatty-food eaters? Or the idolators to the fake-god that's made-up to enforce a temporary political power condition here on earth?

Fantastic piece, Frank, glorious insights.

Anon wrote: 'it might just be that those people commiting the heresies against the false-god, against the idolatry of anti-smoking in particular'. Now that is an interesting take on things. That wretched advert for the nicotine tampon which replaces cigarettes in classic movies has precisely that overtone - investing the absurd and useless with magical properties while simultaneously destroying the real joy and edge of being alive. The HealthAmish are among us and we will obey....

PT Barnum

Waves

(Anonymous)
Puritanism and Austerity come in waves.
The 50's then the party ,the 60's
The edwardian era ,then the 20's.
Puritanism was hoofed out of Britain after the Commonwealth and protectorate which had some really miserable ideals on smoking and drinking linked to some punishments the Taliban would be proud of.
It fails because most people are not puritan in nature ,to be a puritan you have to have that mindset ,if you don't have that mindset in the first place you will probably lapse back into normal behaviour.
I agree I think sexual repression is on the way back as well.
Who's going to be Mary Whitehouse II then ?

Holed up in a cave with a supply of whisky and cigarettes. Living quietly, doing no harm to anyone. They will find you and you will be sectioned 'for your own good' of course. They will come for you and drug you until you become compliant. Nobody is allowed to live apart from the Rightious.

As the old adage goes, if it looks like sh*t, smells like sh*t and behaves like sh*t, then no matter what you call it, it’s sh*t. Similarly, the whole healthism movement is, measured by any standards, a cult – not a religion, a cult - and anti-smoking is, for the moment at least, its sacred cow. All the elements are there in spades – the respected leaders whose words must not be disputed; the start-small-then-get-bigger approach; the drip-drip-drip of brainwashing to eliminate any subversive thoughts or alternative views; the extremism (“no safe level of smoking”); the threat of dire consequences of not following the right path (death, illness, social exclusion); the expected/accepted sacrifice of friendships and relationships from those failing to “see the light;” the encouragement of intolerance and bullying of others “for their own good.” The similarities just go on and on, and are startling in their exactness.

It’s insidious - that's what makes it fit the "cult" description even better than the "religion" one - and it’s widespread. Even those who don’t think they are affected actually are, and end up touting the cult mantra – “Smoking bad/non-smoking good” – in one form or another, as your quotes from Clegg, above, and countless similar phrases no doubt heard by us all on an everyday basis, from smokers and non-smokers alike, so clearly demonstrate.

And, as anyone who has been involved in de-programming ex-cult members will tell you, it’s a long, hard, stumbling struggle to get people to recognise the truth as it really is, when they’ve been, almost from birth, bombarded with an alternative version of reality.

As I say, if it looks like sh*t, smells like sh*t and behaves like sh*t, then no matter what you call it ………

It's a well known fact that "reformed" smokers are the worst for whatever reason. I for one do speak unashamedly about my love for tobacco, alcohol & sex. I really hate hypocrisy. I look at life to-day and think "damn, there is absolutely no fun to be had anywhere anymore!" It's a crying shame to those of us who do not want to be Puritans.

I have always maintained that the one single issue which holds smoking bans together is the passive smoking theology. My wife read out a letter to me from a Spanish newspaper for British holidaymakers. It was written by a Brit who even said that he was 'allergic to smokers'! I was thinking about how impossible it is to try and present true facts and common sense to this kind of person, and something dawned on me.

There are many non smokers, both never smokers and ex smokers who see smoking in the same way as any civilised person sees physical torture. A smoker physically tortures themselves AND PHYSICALLY TORTURES OTHERS. Imagine if someone tried to justify physical torture to you. It would not be possible. This is why, as a smoker, I know that there are people who cannot be reasoned with.

Depends what people regard as torture.

I don't like celery. It's torture for me to eat the stuff. I think anyone who eats celery is torturing themselves. I hate to watch people torturing themselves eating celery. So celery should be banned everywhere?

And if this applies to tobacco and celery, it can apply to absolutely anything. Anything can be described as torture.

Frank

scandal

(Anonymous)
Frank, just came across your blog last week and its really perked me up. I'm a married 43 year old woman, who, like yourself, never go out socially to dinner or the pub due to the ban. The pubs rolled over without a fight and i dont feel they are due my loyalty. i smoke at home, with my six year old around, and my husband, both non smokers.


I have the girls round for dinner and drinks and fags, and we have a high old time. Meanwhile the pubs a closing at a shocking rate. My father is also fuming about this ban. He objects to smelly, cheap aftershve, so where is the law banning that?

I'm glad I perked you up.

In my own case, I used to go to my local pub every day, just to sit quietly drinking a pint and smoking cigarettes. After the ban I never did that again. I'd only sit outside (and only if it was warm and sunny).

I still meet up with friends at pubs, but far less often that I used to. I never suggest going to pubs to anyone. But I'll go if asked, but won't enjoy it much.

Things have changed a bit since I got an e-cig six months ago. Some pubs allow people to 'smoke' them. And for me they're (just about) a substitute for the real thing. So I now go to my local pub again, and sit inside with my e-cig. But I go much less often than I used once to go. And don't stay as long.

Leg-iron does something a bit like you do. He goes to a 'smoky-drinky' place most weeks. He goes on about the smoking ban almost as much as I do. Check him out if you've not come across him before.

Frank

THanks for waving the wand of clarity over this trend Frank. It's normally hard to see the lunacy due to it's universality.

G

Now, you see, I have a little bit of a problem.

I love my beer, I love my food (good food, and proper, and I won't have anyone telling me that I shouldn't eat certain foods) and I love my photography. I love taking photographs. Particularly of urban scenes, which really seems to wind the righteous up.

Only one trouble. I am the size of an house.

I have never tried the sin of sex. So, in order to make that more possible, I am thinking of having a gastric band fitted on the sole proviso - and I will tell my doctor this - that I can keep all my old bad habits and maybe find some new ones. I want to try sex - all different kinds. But no-one really wants to try them out with me due to my lardiness.

So I think I'm going get a band (I am incapable of losing weight on my own - I don't have that puritanical mindset and have the willpower of someone who clearly enjoys what he does) but I hope I will be able to continue enjoying what I like. And if the worst comes to the worst I can always move from real ale to Laphroaig.

Will it work, is the question? Will it work? Interesting one.

Any food going on that open fire?

Religion is universal which isn't surprising if, as human beings, we are hard-wired to need it to make sense of the world. In the absence of a 'proper' religion, we'll resort to religiosity. As cultures develop so their religion changes from, for example, the totemism identified by Durkheim in primitive tribes to the sophistication of the Christian Church in the Western world. It's also been suggested that the greater the insecurity of a people, the more prescriptive the religion.

In the UK, we have a decline in Christianity with some people, the militant atheists, such as Dawkins, not just rejecting it but wanting it to be banished from the public square. Given that we've enjoyed a long period of prosperity (since the 1950s) this trend isn't surprising but the rejection of Christianity entails the loss of belief in the afterlife as well as the prescriptivism of the Christian Virtues in guiding behaviour in this one. This results in existential and psychological insecurity which has to be addressed. If this life is the only one we have then death becomes terrifying and behaviour that carries risk is to be avoided and the greater the risk, the more horrifying the behaviour. Any prescriptions to prolong life will be embraced with fervour. Behaviours will be imbued with moral value and the doer judged accordingly.

It's totally unsurprising that we have the cult of healthism with its self-obsession. The self-obsessed won't judge others as good people on the basis of the Christian Virtues of, for example, toleration and kindness but on the effects that their behaviour has on their health. If the medical profession insists that smokers curtail their own lives, then the healthists will be utterly bemused by smokers; if it insists that smokers damage the health of others, the healthists will hate smokers. They'd probably use the word 'evil' if it weren't associated with religion which they've rejected.

Jay

If this life is the only one we have then death becomes terrifying

Yes. That's occurred to me too.

Frank

Sex

(Anonymous)
"It's the thin end of the wedge. Soon all forms of sex will be rendered obscene and unmentionable."

In this case, the trend is in the opposite direction, thanks to the influence of the homosexual rights lobby. They will denounce anyone who isn't sufficiently encouraging about their lifestyle.

The planned destruction of pubs as a feature of British life means that the defining moment for smokers' rights will be more like Rosa Parks than Stonewall.

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