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Frank Davis

Banging on about the Smoking Ban


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Downwave
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A line in an article in Der Spiegel from a few months back caught my attention:

In an interview with the German daily Die Welt, Dalli announced that he would take much stronger action against smoking and that the European Commission would introduce plans for new legislation in 2011.

"Because of the higher levels of illness it creates, smoking damages the economy by diminishing productivity and burdens the health care system each year with billions of euros in costs," he told the newspaper.

Diminishing productivity? Productivity, according to Wikipedia, is a measure of output from a production process, per unit of input. Labour productivity is typically measured as a ratio of output per labor-hour, an input.

This isn't an antismoking argument that gets aired very much. Not in the UK, in my experience. Usually the complaint is about health, odour, etc. Yet the Spanish health minister suggested the same not long ago. So in what way does smoking reduce productivity? If the notion that smokers are any less healthy than non-smokers is discounted, it may simply be that smoking makes for relatively leisurely work. It's rather difficult, but not impossible, to do much physical work - carrying stuff around, etc - if you've got one hand occupied holding a cigarette. Even if you're doing 'intellectual work' sat at a desk thinking, you're still lighting, repeatedly drawing on, and stubbing out cigarettes. Either way (and even more so when they stop all work for a cigarette break) smokers are relatively leisurely workers. Perhaps this is the real reason why many employers won't employ smokers now. They want hard-working workers. It may also be why antismokers hate smokers.

It then occurred to me that a lot of the antismokers are rich people, almost always with their own companies. Bill Gates of Microsoft, Richard Branson of Virgin, NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg (Bloomberg), Duncan Bannatyne (care homes and health clubs). And, 100 years ago, there was of course Henry Ford of the Ford motor company. Perhaps when you become the chief executive of a company, rather than an employee, you want to see your employees working hard. Same also if you're a senior politician, because that's equivalent to being a top executive.

And perhaps this desire to see your employees working hard intensifies during a recession or a depression? Because then prices tend to fall, competition intensifies, margins get tight, and any slack in the system has to be squeezed out. Smoking is one example of slack. During boom years, it doesn't matter too much. But during a deep depression it does.

Back in the 1930s' depression, it was alcohol that was seen as the principal cause of slack, and it brought Prohibition in the USA. Now, in what is arguably the deepest economic slump since the 1930s, there's a new prohibition, but this time of tobacco. It may not be the medical establishment who are the only drivers of this new prohibition. On their own doctors are all but powerless, but once they get the support and funding of the bosses of industry, they become very powerful indeed.

Employers almost always want to get as much work as possible out of their employees for as little money as possible. Employees almost always want the opposite, and to do as little work as possible for as much money as possible. During economic booms, employees gain the upper hand over employers, and wages rise, and the conditions of work improve (i.e. become more leisurely). Conversely, during economic slumps, employers regain the upper hand over employees, and wages fall, and the conditions of work get harder.

And the deeper the slump, the worse it gets. The employers may even drive wages and the conditions of work down to the levels of slave labour. The Nazi state of the 1930s with its labour camps, and also the gulags of the Soviet Union at the same time, may have simply been the consequences of a far deeper economic slump in those countries. In WW1 Russia had been pretty much defeated in war by Germany, and its tsar overthrown. And then a few years later in 1918, Germany was pretty much defeated in its turn. Both countries entered into far deeper slumps than was experienced in Britain or America. Hitler was perhaps simply the energetic, non-smoking, non-drinking, vegetarian CEO of Germany who led by example, and who acted vigorously to restore the German economy and to get rid of its burden of criminals and invalids and misfit workshy Jews and Gypsies. All of it accompanied, of course, by a propaganda drive to cut smoking and drinking and obesity, and produce fit, hard-working workers.

If some of us feel we are witnessing the dawning of a new Nazi era, it may be because we are entering (or already in) a similar period of economic slump as that in which the Nazi state emerged, and history is simply repeating itself, although not in precisely the same way as before. Instead of Jews and Gypsies, this time it's smokers and drinkers and fat people who have been deemed necessary to eliminate.

I have a book somewhere called Downwave, by Robert Beckman, published in about 1980. In it he argued that deep depressions happened every 70 years or so, at the end of a 50-year upwave of rising prices that everybody thought would never end. When the downwave hit, prices (and particularly house prices) fell. During the upwave, people borrowed money, because with rising prices money was continually being devalued. During the downwave, the opposite happened, and people hoarded cash (banks don't seem to be lending much money these days). During the upwave, people splashed out, and women's hemlines rose. During the downwave, people spent the minimum, and women's hemlines fell.

I must dig it out. Although I don't think he actually made any of the arguments that I've just been making.

Anyone seen any long skirts yet?

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In my personal experience the best, most productive, effective, creative, focussed, co-operative and adaptable employees anywhere I have ever worked have always and without exception been the smokers. There was a study not so long ago done in Sweden whereby they discovered that employees who take regular breaks away from their work were actually more productive than those who stayed at their desk, or their workbench, or their machine continuously. Sorry, don’t have a link – it was a while ago – but I think the reason given was that the brain needed some “switch off” time every now and again to rest and refocus itself.

So I think this is rather typical “attack first” anti-smoking tactics and in an odd sort of way is quite encouraging, because it hints at the fact that before long, with increasing numbers of anti-smoking employers refusing to take on smokers, what those employers are likely to discover to their dismay within a fairly short time is that when they turn down smokers, they are also often turning down the best people for the job. And of course, when those “best people for the job” are then snapped up by more tolerant competitors, they might well start re-thinking their policies. So the antis seem to be making a bit of a stab at getting their propaganda in first here, before reality strikes. Shame that not so many people seem to be listening so hard to them any more …….

In my personal experience the best, most productive, effective, creative, focussed, co-operative and adaptable employees anywhere I have ever worked have always and without exception been the smokers.

I agree.

But if you're looking to cut costs, and increase productivity, getting rid of the guy with a cigarette in one hand and a mug of coffee in the other may well look an awful like the most obvious way to go.

Frank

Productivity

(Anonymous)
It's not the smokers, it's the bans. The bans force the smokers to stop working and take a break to smoke instead of doing both at once.

For the rest, there are endless studies showing smokers are better at both physical and mental jobs. Better concentration, better memory, better inspiration, faster physical reflexes. Not only are smokers "better" when they can smoke than when they can't, but they're "better" than nonsmokers. (But we knew that, didn't we?)

So far several companies (CNN being one) and cities/counties that refused to hire smokers on the grounds of health costs, were forced to quietly change their policy, admitting they couldn't find enough qualified workers, were forced to turn down some of the most qualified, and didn't save a dime. But that notwithstanding, the trend of refusing to hire smokers is apparently growing.

That aside, the idea that we supposedly exist to be "productive" cogs in the state machine is uncomfortably statist and downright dystopian. Fritz Lang comes to mind,

If anyone wants or needs citations on the "smokers are better," let me know,

That's very interesting. If you have some links on the subject that I could follow, I'd be most appreciative.

I've always found non-smokers to be somewhat more dour and introspective in the workplace, but hadn't realised it was a quantifiable issue. I have to say I'm not altogether surprised though. I remember a while ago getting into a minor spat on a forum with a guy who smugly (why are they always so smug?) proclaimed that he always asked prospective employees if they smoked, and if the answer was an affirmative he would tell them (gleefully) that he didn't employ smokers. I remember saying that I'd tell anyone who asked me a question like that to stuff his job where the sun don't shine. (Not that I've applied for a job in a long time, having been an independant operator for 25+ years.) I also seem to remember asking him if qualification for the job was irrelevant, pointing out that he was severely limiting his choices. But he was the typical anti, blind to anything but his own over-inflated opinion.

It's not the smokers, it's the bans. The bans force the smokers to stop working and take a break to smoke instead of doing both at once.

Good point. People never used to take cigarette breaks. So in that respect smoking bans reduce productivity.

That aside, the idea that we supposedly exist to be "productive" cogs in the state machine is uncomfortably statist and downright dystopian.

When I started writing the above piece, I was going to address this matter. I ended up writing something else.

f anyone wants or needs citations on the "smokers are better," let me know,

I'd like to hear more too.

Frank

And, 100 years ago, there was of course Henry Ford of the Ford motor company. Perhaps when you become the chief executive of a company, rather than an employee, you want to see your employees working hard.

Employment discrimination against smokers is not new. It was a feature of the eugenics-driven antismoking crusade of early-1900s USA. There was a trend in the antismoking fervor to not employ smokers. Henry Ford was one of those.

http://www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/ah/1981/2/1981_2_94_print.shtml
[Note that Dillow makes no reference to eugenics, let alone the eugenics domination of the time, i.e., poor research]

Consider Henry Ford’s 1914 Antismoking booklet “The Case Against the Little White Slaver” in which he recommends not employing cigarette smokers:

http://www.archive.org/stream/caseagainstlitt00fordgoog/caseagainstlitt00fordgoog_djvu.txt
Around this time, sterilization laws and a ban on the sale of tobacco were passed in quite a number of American states.

Another indication of Ford’s rabid antismoking mentality:
“Ashtrays were offered at first only in luxury vehicles, but were standard in most cars by the 1920's, David Lewis, a professor of business history at the University of Michigan, said. One holdout was Henry Ford, an anti-smoker who published a pamphlet in 1914 called "The Case Against the Little White Slaver."
Mr. Ford did not install ashtrays in his Model T. But he caved in by the 1930's, though he advertised his lighters as "cigar lighters." Cigars were permissible because Mr. Ford's hero, Thomas Edison, smoked them.”

http://www.nytimes.com/1994/01/05/business/for-car-buyers-smoking-is-no-longer-standard.html

Ford, and others of the megawealthy elite (e.g., Rockefeller, Carnegie), was also a supporter/funder of USA and Nazi eugenics. He is also known for penning the collection of anti-Semitic literature titled “The International Jew”:

http://www.archive.org/stream/TheInternationalJew/InternationalJew_djvu.txt

Ford also had a subsidiary in Nazi Germany manufacturing/supplying trucks to the Nazis:
INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS; Suit Charges Ford Profited By Nazi-Era Forced Labor

http://www.nytimes.com/1998/03/05/business/international-business-suit-charges-ford-profited-by-nazi-era-forced-labor.html?scp=90&sq=&st=nyt

Magnetic

Consider another insight into the eugenics mentality:

Proctor (1997) provides considerable detail as to the extent of antismoking sentiment and measures by the Nazi regime: Tobacco was opposed by racial hygienists fearing the corruption of the German germ plasm, by industrial hygienists fearing a reduction of work capacity, by nurses and midwives fearing harms for the ‘maternal organism’. Tobacco was said to be ‘a corrupting force in a rotting civilization that has become lazy’, a cause of impotence among men and frigidity among women. The Nazi-era antitobacco rhetoric drew from an earlier generation’s eugenic rhetoric, combining this with an ethic of bodily purity and performance at work. Tobacco use was attacked as ‘epidemic’, as a ‘plague’, as ‘dry drunkenness’ and ‘lung masturbation’; tobacco and alcohol abuse were ‘diseases of civilization’ and ‘relics of a liberal lifestyle.’ (p.441).

Eugenics represents a self-installed elite that view themselves as owning/ruling the rest of the population. Its essential foundation is physicalism and the cult of the body. Eugenics is statist/fascist in disposition where it dictates to members of the “herd” how they should conduct themselves in all things concerning the body which is “owned” by the elite/State. The “herd” members should conform to prescriptions/proscriptions as their “duty to the State”. The major interest of the elite in the “herd” is as a labor force servicing the industry owned by the megawealthy: Herd members are no more than “cogs” in the overall “system” or machine, either a cog in the industrial, military, or administrative machines.

Eugenics is antismoking. It views smoking as a waste, an act that has no positive aspects or redeeming value. Smoking is viewed as an addiction that detrimentally affects work performance. And, as the Nazis noted, it is a symptom of degeneracy and laziness. All of these views are entirely questionable. Yet we are currently seeing the entire spectrum of the eugenics view of smoking. We are currently hearing the same claims that have been made for at least a century. And we don’t recognize that it is dangerous eugenics.

Magnetic

Even the US Military is attempting to go “smokefree”, claiming a detriment to physical performance – even in young men. [Both the government health bureaucracy and the Defense Force health bureaucracy are dominated by the eugenics mentality] Yet this really contradicts the history of the cigarette in the military.

It is of interest that WWI “saved” the cigarette from the eugenics onslaught in the USA. Cigarettes were viewed as indispensable in the military kit. Smoking was also highly prominent in WWII troops. The only exception was particular German troops where Hitler (also devoted to eugenics) attempted to deny them tobacco rations. These troops were demanding rations and it was only through the pleading of medical doctors that Hitler begrudgingly relented.

The cigarette not only provided general stress relief, but was also associated with periods of reflection in quieter moments and a shared cigarette with buddies was commonplace. It helped counteract long periods of tense waiting and boredom. Tobacco can also assist with cognitive acuity, very helpful in battlefield conditions. There is a strong psychological component (an alien concept to the materialism of eugenics) in smoking which makes whatever pharmacological action of nicotine and other smoke components bi-phasic: It can be alerting or calming. Then there’s the behavioral aspect and the sensory aspect. Smoking is a multi-aspect habit.

So we had troops where a large proportion were not only smokers but probably tending towards heavy smokers. These troops were also subjected to all sorts of battlefield exposures such as vehicular fumes, the acrid smoke of exploding armaments and fires, bio-weapons, and the fetid stench of death. Battlefields were in some of the most inhospitable places on earth such as deserts and rainforests with their own risks of specific disease.

Operating in difficult, constantly stressful, dangerous circumstances, these smoking troops were able to trek many miles per day carrying a full pack and probably other equipment – and smoking while doing it. And they did this day after day, after week, after month, after year. Many made it through harrowing circumstances to abide in calmer times and, hopefully, a healing of the terrible memories.

Yet we now have the eugenics brigade and its many delicate hangers-on, pontificating from air-conditioned offices that one whiff of smoke will either drop you dead or severely hamper physical performance - even in young adults. These delusional fraudsters are completely at odds with sensibility and history. These self-absorbed, healthist gangsters even have the temerity to approach the military where members have already signed-up for potentially catastrophic, immediate-term risk (e.g., being blown to pieces) and demanding, through coercion, that these individuals reduce their “smoking risk” by quitting. And, on and on do they preach their derangement to a captivated, mesmerized, unquestioning, terrified global audience. Can anything but tragedy ensue from these disciples of tripe?

These eugenics dolts are not particularly good at anything other than self-promotion. They are poor at science, they are poor at coherent argument, they are poor at history, and they have essentially no psychological insight. Yet they want to rule the world! They are cleverly stupid (self-deceived). That’s why they want to rule the world.

Magnetic

Ian B from Counting Cats In Zanzibar

(Anonymous)
I love your writing Frank. A great piece as always.

Just one minor quibble tho, Prohibition in the USA ended during the Great Depression and was brought in during a "boom" time after the Great War. It had however initially been enacted during the Great War as a temporary measure... to improve productivity.

The same reasoning justified our own Temperance (Licensing) Laws of course.

"Hitler was perhaps simply the energetic, non-smoking, non-drinking, vegetarian CEO of Germany who led by example,"

But that doesn't take into account the amazing amount of strange drugs he was taking.
Looking at the list it is a wonder that he could speak, let alone stand.

Hitler's Medical Care

Abstract
"For the last nine years of his life Adolf Hitler, a lifelong hypochondriac had as his physician Dr Theodor Morell.

Hitler's mood swings, Parkinson's disease, gastro-intestinal symptoms, skin problems and steady decline until his suicide in 1945 are documented by reliable observers and historians, and in Morell's diaries.

The bizarre and unorthodox medications given to Hitler, often for undisclosed reasons, include topical cocaine, injected amphetamines, glucose, testosterone, estradiol, and corticosteroids.

In addition, he was given a preparation made from a gun cleaner, a compound of strychnine and atropine, an extract of seminal vesicles, and numerous vitamins and 'tonics'.

It seems possible that some of Hitler's behaviour, illnesses and suffering can be attributed to his medical care. Whether he blindly accepted such unorthodox medications or demanded them is unclear."
http://www.rcpe.ac.uk/journal/issue/journal_35_1/Hitler%27s_medical_care.pdf

Hitler's Drugged Soldiers

"The Nazis preached abstinence in the name of promoting national health. But when it came to fighting their Blitzkrieg, they had no qualms about pumping their soldiers full of drugs and alcohol. Speed was the drug of choice, but many others became addicted to morphine and alcohol."

"Many of the Wehrmacht's soldiers were high on Pervitin when they went into battle, especially against Poland and France -- in a Blitzkrieg fueled by speed.
The German military was supplied with millions of methamphetamine tablets during the first half of 1940."

"After it was first introduced into the market in 1938, Pervitin, a methamphetamine drug newly developed by the Berlin-based Temmler pharmaceutical company, quickly became a top seller among the German civilian population."
http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,354606,00.html


"The period to recover from the drug effect was getting longer and longer, while attention concentration ability was getting weaker and weaker.
This eventually resulted in messages of lethal outcome in several Nazi divisions in France and Poland."
http://english.pravda.ru/science/tech/14-02-2003/1872-nazi-2/


Methamphetamine

"An overdose of methamphetamine can result in seizures, high body temperature, irregular heartbeat, heart attack, stroke and death"
http://www.camh.net/About_Addiction_Mental_Health/Drug_and_Addiction_Information/methamphetamine_dyk.html

Naturally this was blamed on tobacco.

"Late in the war nicotine was suspected as a cause of the coronary heart failure suffered by a surprising number of soldiers on the eastern front. A 1944 report by an army field pathologist found that all 32 young soldiers whom he had examined after death from heart attack on the front had been "enthusiastic smokers."

The author cited the Freiburg pathologist Franz Buchner's view that cigarettes should be considered "a coronary poison of the first order"
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2352989/pdf/bmj00571-0040.pdf

Incidentally

From the second link.

Alcohol

"According to an internal statistic compiled by the chief of the medical corps, 705 military deaths between September 1939 and April 1944 could be linked directly to alcohol.

The unofficial figure was probably much higher, because traffic accidents, accidents involving weapons and suicides were frequently caused by alcohol use.
Medical officers were instructed to admit alcoholics and drug addicts to treatment facilities.
According to an order issued by the medical service, this solution had "the advantage that it could be extended indefinitely."

Once incarcerated in these facilities, addicts were evaluated under the provisions of the "Law for Prevention of Offspring with Hereditary Diseases," and could even be subjected to forced sterilization and euthanasia."


Rose

They mean the reduction in productivity when you get lung cancer and have to take time off work. I'm sure they'd rather employ someone who doesn't take a fag break every hour, too.

Smoking actually increases your risk of hypertension and other illnesses, so you're may think you're more relaxed, but you're actually putting your body under additional stresses that it could well do without.

Anon, 12:27

All you’re demonstrating is that you are highly prone to brainwashing, bigotry, and cultism. Congratulations!

Magnetic

Smokers are smarter: studies

(Anonymous)
When I dove into my files, I saw that most have source but with one exception, no links. However, a google should turn them up. Here goes:

"Experimental studies of performance show improved cognitive functioning on measures of attention, reaction time, reasoning and memory [after smoking].. The results also support the contention that nicotine enhances CNS function and can mediate the influence of fatigue and boredom. Raised alertness, a reduction in drowsiness and the apparent lack of pharmacological tolerance to either may be important facts...,,."

SOURCE: Sherwood et al, Med Sci Res, 1991, 19,


"Nicotine triggers a sense of well-being. Concentration increase appreciably, Memory is enhanced...and anxiety and tension disappear." Recent studies at Columbia University reveal that nicotine triggers a neurotransmitter associated with memory, learning and problem solving,"

SOURCE: Dr. Peggy O'Hara, associate professor of public health, Univ. of Miami, Orlando Sentinel,3/2/96.

"Smoking can improve memory, PREVENT BRAIN CELLS FROM DYING and...markedly reduce stress. New research on animals explains why smokers ae less likely to develop Parkinson's Disease. Rats were better at learning their way around mazes and solving new problems. Other rats with symptoms of Alzheimer's had their memory and learning problems completely reversed," said Dr. Edward Levin, associate professor of toxicology at Duke University, "and it even kept brain cells from dying when they were exposed to toxic chemicals that should have killed them."

SOURCE: "Study: Nicotine can help memory, save brain cells," Knight Ridder, 11/9/98.

"In addition," Levin said,"other people have done studies with aged rats and monkeys showing that NICOTINE REDUCES AGE-INDUCED IMPAIRMENTs."

Source: "Burning Questions About Nicotine," NY Newsday, 4/5 94,

"[smoking] can enhance learning, memory, cerebral blood flow, and performance of certain repetitive tasks. Dr Paul Newhouse, of the Univ of Vermont College of Medicine said researchers found significant increases in short-term recall, improvements in spatial memory and better reaction time on tests."

SOURCE; "Researchers Investigate..." NY Times, 1/14/97.

"Smokers were quicker and more accurate [than nonsmokers] on a test of working memory."

Source: "Researchers Study..." AP 11/20/96

"Experimental work (Mangan, 1982; Parrott and Winder, 1989) suggests that nicotine... has a specific role in ehancing cognition and psychomotor performance."

Source: "Pleasure: the politics and reality," D.M Warburton, John Wiley & Sons, 1994

Ian Hindmarch, U of Surrey, has done a lot of experiments on the effects of nicotine. Can't find the reference at the moment but recall one of his studies showed a smoker who's just smoked can stop a car many car-lengths faster than a nonsmoker can. You might get in touch with him, as well as Warburton, who's also a Brit prof, dept of Psychology, U of Reading.. See his "Effects of Cigarette smoking on human information processing"

"Nicotine has been shown in a variety of studies in humans and experimental animals to improve cognitive function. Nicotinic treatments are being developed as therapeutic treatments for cognitive dysfunction"

SOURCE: Levin et al, Psychopharmacology (2006) 184: 523–539 "Nicotinic effects on cognitive function..."
http://bci.ucsd.edu/~pineda/COGS260/nicotine%20and%20caffeine/nicotine%20and%20cognition.pdf

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