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Frank Davis

Banging on about the Smoking Ban

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The Tobacco Centuries
After I'd carried bits of a Danish article which cited evidence that smokers performed a variety of mental tasks up to 30% better than non-smokers, Stewart Cowan suggested that banning smoking was an integral part of the modern dumbing-down process. Leg-iron continued the theme last night.

Today I wondered whether 30% increased mental acuity translated into 30% increased IQ. I couldn't see why it shouldn't. If your mind works better under the influence of tobacco smoke, you're likely to solve puzzles quicker. And that's all an IQ test consists of.

Lewis Terman (1916) proposed this scale for classifying IQ scores:
Over 140 - Genius or near genius
120 - 140 - Very superior intelligence
110 - 119 - Superior intelligence
90 - 109 - Normal or average intelligence
80 - 89 - Dullness
70 - 79 - Borderline deficiency
Under 70 - Definite feeble-mindedness

Normal or average intelligence measures about 100 on the IQ scale. So if IQ is boosted 30%, an ordinary guy of average intelligence will find he has a very superior intelligence of 130 once he starts smoking. If he's a smarter than average guy with an IQ of 110, he becomes a genius with an IQ of over 140. And if he's a bit feeble-minded, with an IQ of 70, a 30% increase of intelligence will boost him to IQ of 90, which is almost normal.

Today I found myself wondering what happens to a society when, almost overnight, it gets 30% smarter. I figured there'd probably be a great flowering of science and philosophy and art and music and literature. But the gains wouldn't just be in outstanding scientific discoveries and inventions and works of art, but in the performance of everybody, right the way down to the butcher and baker and candlestick maker.

Well, we can just take a look at history. The New World (and tobacco) was discovered in 1492 by Columbus, sailing from Spain, and funded by Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. This time corresponds to the period of the High Renaissance in Europe. In Spain, the Spanish Renaissance is dated from exactly 1492. Assuming that tobacco spread rapidly from Spain to the aristocracies of neighbouring countries, then since Leonardo da Vinci lived from 1452 to 1519, he could have smoked tobacco for the last 30 years of his life, while painting the Mona Lisa. Michelangelo (1475 – 1564) could have picked up the habit when he was about 25, and lit up every now and then while painting the Sistine Chapel. Nicholas Copernicus (1473 – 1543) could have lit his first pipe at age 30, while pondering the motion of the planets. The Reformation is kicked off by Martin Luther in 1517. What set him thinking? And whatever induced that larger-than-life king Henry VIII (1491 – 1547) to write poetry and music and theology? None of his predecessors did. Ah, he had a Spanish wife. By 1530, tobacco had become popular with the Spanish lower classes (which suggests that there was already a lot of it around).

It's not as if absolutely nothing was happening before 1500. But there does seem to be a veritable flood of artists and philosophers and scientists and engineers after that date. Francis Bacon was a smoker. Very likely William Shakespeare was too.

And it's not just that many of the key figures in the Renaissance could have smoked tobacco, but that many of the main players in the subsequent Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution most definitely were smokers. Isaac Newton was a smoker. Charles Darwin was a smoker. Isambard Brunel was a smoker. Johann S Bach was a smoker. Albert Einstein was a smoker. Pablo Picasso was a smoker.

The Renaissance and the Reformation and the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution were all intellectual revolutions. There's really nothing equivalent to them in the previous 1000 years or more. What could have made that happen? Climate change? In the 16th century Europe was entering the Little Ice Age. It's a bit difficult to think when you're freezing cold. Rising living standards? The Industrial Revolution didn't really get under way until about 1800. The arrival of tobacco, raising almost everyone's intellectual performance by 30%, offers an excellent explanation of this rolling series of intellectual revolutions. The timing is perfect.

Add to this that America was built on tobacco. The original colonies of Virginia grew and exported tobacco. Probably almost every single one of America's founding fathers were tobacco smokers. The US Constitution is wreathed in tobacco smoke. The most successful political experiment of the past 300 years was founded on tobacco.

This won't be the first time that a large claim has been made for a drug. Anyone who was familiar with the 1960s will remember the large claims that were made first about cannabis and later about LSD. "Feed Your Mind" was one of the mantras of the late 60s.

And maybe minds do need feeding, and humanity has long been starved of the nutrients that nourish thought, just as much as it has been starved of the nutrients that nourish physical vitality. Maybe what drives all drug experimentation is the search for the elixir not of immortality or eternal youth, but of genius. Tobacco has been one of the best.

If smoking tobacco substantially increases mental performance, then why would anyone want to prohibit tobacco? It probably just boils down to one simple thing: jealousy. Smokers have a 30% intelligence advantage over non-smokers. Not because they're inherently smarter, but because they're using performance-enhancing drugs, just like olympic athletes cheat by using steroids. It's not a level playing field. Banning smoking gives non-smokers an equal chance of winning prizes, gaining advancement, and getting the girl. If you can't speed up your own racing car, your only recourse is to demand changes in the rules to slow down the other guys' cars.

If we might want to know what a smoke-free world would be like, all we need do is wind back the clock to before 1492, when nobody smoked. Almost all intellectual inquiry is restricted to monks in the Roman Catholic Church, and if they're thinking about anything, it's most likely theology. It's an authoritarian intellectual world, where questioning almost anything is heresy. Sound familiar?

And in this world where more or less everyone is 30% less intelligent than in previous generations, there will be incompetence at all levels of society. Politicians will make stupid decisions, science will decay, philosophers and intellectuals will disappear, the arts will degenerate. Nothing will work properly. Most people will be feeble-minded. Again, sound familiar?

Ours is increasingly a world without vision and without imagination. It's a frightened world. It's a world in which people are frightened of their own shadows. Frightened of tobacco smoke. Frightened of carbon dioxide. Frightened of Terror. It's a world in which people readily accept the authority of doctors and scientists who are all too ready to exploit and dupe them. It's a world in which the Holy Father, il papa, the pope, is returning the nanny superstate is emerging, to regulate everything that anyone does, in the smallest details.

For a few centuries - the Tobacco Centuries - people were 30% smarter than they were in centuries before or after. For a few centuries science and reason triumphed over superstition and credulity, before it all came rolling back in a tidal wave of joss sticks and Vegan diets and global warming and windmills.

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As regards the anti-tobacco situation, I sometimes wonder if it is not a consequence of the American civil war. After all, the Potato famine still rankles in Ireland and the Highland Clearances still rankle in Scotland, and I know for a fact that the Spanish civil war is still very much alive in the minds of the Spanish. There will still be lots of grandparents alive who were physically involved in the Spanish civil war.

It is not inconceivable that the tobacco 'war' is not a continuation of the American civil war. The tobacco 'war' started a long time ago, being the source of finance for the Southern States, I suppose. We should remember that the slaves in the USA mostly worked on tobacco plantations.

But, of course, what I say may be utter rubbish - I am merely using my alcohol and tobacco enhanced intellectual powers to make these assumptions! In fact, the idea that the tobacco 'war' is a continuation of the American civil war only popped into my mind a few minutes ago!

I wonder if there is any similar connection in respect of the alcohol 'war'? I know little about American history, but it would be interesting to know where all the raw materials for alcohol were being grown. Were they being grown mostly in the Southern States?

The more that you think about these things, the more intriguing it gets.

"As regards the anti-tobacco situation, I sometimes wonder if it is not a consequence of the American civil war"

You could well be right, Junican.

"An observant traveller in the South in 1865 said that in his belief seven-tenths of all persons above the age of twelve years, both male and female, used tobacco in some form. Women could be seen at the doors of their cabins in their bare feet, in their dirty one-piece cotton garments, their chairs tipped back, smoking pipes made of corn cobs into which were fitted reed stems or goose quills. Boys of eight or nine years of age and half-grown girls smoked. Women and girls "dipped" in their houses, on their porches, in the public parlors of hotels and in the streets."

The “Social Dip”:
Tobacco Use by Mid-19th Century Southern Women*

“It is claimed that it whitens and preserves the teeth and sweetens the mouth, and produces a beneficial effect on the lungs, all of which is true or not, just as you choose to believe.”
Others thought that it “gives lustre to the eye and a freshness to the cheek rarely surpassed.”

Old women dipped “as it made them feel young again.” It “affords an exhilarating pleasure to those who practice it,” “a pleasant sort of mild intoxication.” “Everywhere I marked only pleasant and soothing effects from the use of tobacco"


But the people of the South had an endemic nutritional disease.

"In America, the term 'redneck' actually comes from a vitamin B deficiency that causes heightened susceptibility to sunburns."

"One of the first signs of pellagra, or niacin deficiency, is the skin's sensitivity to light, and the skin becomes rough, thick, and dry (pellagra means "skin that is rough" in Italian). The skin then becomes darkly pigmented, especially in areas of the body prone to be hot and sweaty or those exposed to sun.

The first stage of this condition is extreme redness and sensitivity of those exposed areas, and it was from this symptom that the term "redneck," describing the bright red necks of eighteenth-and nineteenth-century niacin-deficient fieldworkers, came into being."

Which is why they became a target of the Eugenicists.

Vol. XVIII No. 1, JULY 1916

"Early in the spring of 1913 the desirability of the study of pellagra from the viewpoint of heredity as a causative factor was brought to the attention of the Thompson-McFadden Pellagra Commission by Dr. Charles B. Davenport, Eugenics Record Office, Cold Spring Harbor, N. Y.

Under the joint patronage of the two offices fieldwork was begun in Spartanburg, June 1, 1913, and continued until Oct. 1, 1913. Through the winter the data collected were carefully reviewed, arranged in family groups and charted. It was found that in many instances more details were necessary, and the Thompson Pellagra Commission in 1914 decided that the results obtained were of sufficient merit to warrant another summer's work.

Accordingly, fieldwork was begun May 1, 1914, and continued until Sept. 1, 1914.
This year the association of pellagrins with antecedent cases was also carefully noted for comparison"

Medicine: Pellagra Cure
Monday, Aug. 22, 1938
"Over 1,000,000 families in the rural South eat nothing but salt pork, corn meal and molasses."

"Nicotinic acid, a distant relative (about second cousin once removed) of tobacco's nicotine, is found in yeast, wheat germ and liver."

"Early neurological symptoms associated with pellagra include anxiety, depression, and fatigue; later symptoms include apathy, headache, dizziness, irritability and tremors."

Which has a marked similarity to the current alleged symptoms of "nicotine withdrawal"


From what I gather the Civil War actually marked the end of the first (1830-1860) of America's three idiotic and seemingly cyclical Clean Living Movements. Likewise WWI ended its second such movement (1880-1920). It seems the Real wars, (as opposed to health-reform "wars") have played an important role in halting reform movements and have tended to make crusades for various health-related issues, such as temperance, appear irrelevant.

Now on to the 'Golden Years' poster following yours. The third and currently active movement is thought to have started in the 1970's with Earth Day and the adoption of the organic-vegetarian lifestyle by American hippies.

From there C. Everett Koop, hippiedom's complete and exact opposite, got the present War on Tobacco started in 1984 (Yes, 1984). Then hippiedom jumped back into the fray with Bill and Hillary Clinton's crusade to punish Big Tobacco and come across looking like heroes of The Cause by "stickin' it to The Man". That and as trial lawyers, they couldn't resist the big payoff of the Master Settlement Agreement.

I think what's really behind it all is the strange compulsion by some people to tell other people how to live their lives. It's the god damned Righteous among us.

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