Frank Davis

Banging on about the Smoking Ban

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A Separate Reality
The current draconian Spanish smoking ban came into force on 2 Jan 2011. Translated from El Correo.

Doctors and restaurateurs have declared war. Navarra Basque Society for the Prevention of Smoking entered yesterday into the controversy of the 'smoking ban' to attack the restaurants with two accusations that could hurt them a lot. Health professionals claimed that owners of bars and cafes of "being sponsored by the tobacco industry" and said they do not believe they have been losing money since it was forbidden to smoke on their premises. The sector's response was immediate. "We challenge Navarra Basque society to say openly that our association has received some support from the tobacco industry, and it will be in court immediately," the federation said.

The stakes are high. A document sent to the mail by the president of the Basque Navarre Society for the Prevention of Smoking, Carlos Cortijo, said that the statistics of membership of the Social Security Ministry of Labour "shows that the number of people employed by the industry increased "from January 2010 to January 2011."

So let's get this right. A bunch of antismoking doctors have claimed that Spanish restaurants and bars are being paid by tobacco companies to protest about the smoking ban. In addition, they say that restaurants and bars haven't actually been losing money as a result of the ban. Their evidence? The fact that they took on more staff last year.

This is crazy. It's completely unhinged. It's more or less routine for antismokers to claim that anyone who disagrees with them is in the pay of Big Tobacco. And indeed sometimes they are. But the entire hospitality industry? That's crazy. But even crazier is the notion that the trade must be doing fine this year, simply because it was last year. It's as if these antismokers occupy a separate reality.

And that's perhaps exactly how it is.

For the reality of things according to the antismokers is that smoking bans don't harm business, but actually improve it. And that smokers almost universally approve of smoking bans, and carry on going to restaurants and bars just like they always did, only more so. And that there are dramatic improvements in public health. And that smoking bans are always a great success, and there have been countless examples of this success. This, as far as the antismokers are concerned, is the simple reality of the matter. Anyone who disagrees is either uneducated or in the pay of tobacco companies.

And so, when the antismokers read reports of bars and restaurants losing business, they know that it simply isn't true, and that it has to be those damn tobacco companies up to their usual mischief.

It would seem that these new realities (and the antismoking reality is not the only one) are conceived and nurtured in small closed communities (a bit like Heaven's Gate), very often in San Francisco, in which all concerned become true believers before they set out to bring their new reality to the wider world. There it circulates first in the highest strata of society, among politicians and journalists and senior executives and professionals of every sort. And then, once safely ensconced there, it is rolled out for general public consumption. And only a few hundred top executives and opinion formers may be needed to do that. A prince or two helps, of course.

It seems entirely plausible that there was a one-day seminar held somewhere in London in, say, 2004 for a number of top executives from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and several newspapers, and also the CEOs of a number of pubcos, and several senior politicians from the Labour and Conservative and Lib Dem parties, and maybe a couple of celebrities as well. Senior doctors like Sir Liam Donaldson or Sir Charles George would have addressed this select gathering, outlining the known dangers of tobacco smoking, and the newly discovered menace of secondhand smoke, and the medical imperative of denormalising smoking. In a slick Powerpoint presentation, somebody from ASH would have assured all those present that smoking bans had proved to be a great success in America, particularly in California, and there had been no loss of trade in bars and restaurants, and a dramatic improvement in public health and worker productivity. Afterwards, over tea and smoked salmon and egg-and-cress sandwiches, many of these executives would have no doubt expressed their enthusiasm for the idea of smoking bans, given the many clear benefits, and the zero costs. Any doubters would have been referred to the relevant pages of the accompanying glossy brochure for them to be quickly assured that, for example, 70% of smokers wanted to give up smoking. Once everyone was on board, the smoking ban could be rolled out across the nation with the all the political parties and the whole of the mass media and most of the hospitality trade each playing their pre-assigned roles. All that had been needed to be done was to persuade a hundred or so key figures of the coming new reality, and they could be counted on to do their bit to help to create that reality.

Of course, more or less everything they were told was untrue, or was a half-truth. But these busy executives didn't have the time to give the matter serious consideration. They were as impressionable as anybody. All they needed to know was that Sir Liam Donaldson and Sir Charles George had 'Sir' in front of their name to trust them implicitly. Furthermore most of them hadn't been inside a pub or a cafe in years. And many of them no longer smoked.

And so when the ban was introduced, they all did their bit to help launch it, and it was accordingly immediately hailed as a great success, particularly among smokers. And almost immediately, as ever, the usual health benefits were claimed.

But if this is how the 'new reality' was created in Britain, why isn't it quite working in Spain? The answer may be that the British mass media, and the hospitality business, and political power, is concentrated in relatively few hands, and so relatively few people needed to agree among themselves to make it work. And in Britain we currently have pretty much a one-party state, with Labour and Lib Dems and Conservatives all but indistinguishable from each other. And most pubs belong to chains of one sort or other, and for the proprietors of these chains they are simply another business opportunity, not different from a baking or a mining business. And there are only a handful of media outlets. Relatively few people were needed to help create the new non-smoking reality.

But this couldn't be done in Spain where most bars and restaurants are small family businesses, and where the mass media isn't quite so centralised, and where politics is rather more fractured. In Spain, and even less so in Greece, it wan't possible to create and sustain this new reality. In fact, it can probably only be done in fairly advanced Western societies, with well-established media outlets (like the BBC), well-established political parties, and well-established hospitality chains (e.g. Starbucks). For they all have to work together to create and sustain the new reality.

And of course the new reality, when it is rolled out in public, comes up against the old reality, which is one of traditional smoky pubs and bars. It becomes a struggle of one reality against another reality. It becomes a struggle of the political class, the media, and the hotel and restaurant and pub chains, against the ordinary pubgoer, whose reality - all too often of broken communities, fractured friendships, isolation, exclusion, and loneliness - can never be allowed to mar the perfection of the new reality (by being reported, for example).

The new reality is an illusion, of course. But if the illusion can be sustained for long enough, it may become reality. If people can be got to stop smoking for long enough, the ancient vice might yet be expunged from society.

And what applies to the new antismoking reality that has been rolled out over the world also applies to several other new realities. The global warming reality. The European Union reality. And probably a whole bunch more realities. All of them conflict with pre-existing realities in one way or other. And the wars between these realities are all conducted the same way, by suppressing the old reality as far as possible, and supplanting it with the new reality. So the old smokers are never allowed any say. And nor are climate sceptics. Nor eurosceptics. They mustn't even be permitted to be seen. In this manner a new public consensus is created, without any apparent dissenters, with which even ordinary members of the public often feel unable to openly disagree.

Nevertheless, none of these new realities has yet been successfully installed in the public arena. While most of the European political class, with one or two notable exceptions (e.g. Vaclav Klaus), is on board for the EU, the general public in almost every European country is becoming increasingly disenchanted with it. And the global warming reality struck a rock in the form of Climategate last year, and hasn't recovered. And the antismoking reality has encountered strong resistance in Holland and Spain and Greece and most of the old Eastern bloc countries.

It's far from over.

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The USA has never had a serious prospect of the jackboot. For the time being, the USA is irrelevant (not that it is not important in the long run). The battlefield is mainland Europe, which has felt the jackboot. Our problem in Europe is to stop prohibition crossing the Atlantic. It will not be, and is not, easy because the persecutors are well prepared. But it is only a matter of time before even Americans begin to see persecution for what it is. Have you noticed how it is the people of countries who have never been invaded in the near past who are accepting the shit arguments? - Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Ireland,the USA, etc?

Tobacco Control, Global Warming are genies which have somehow escaped from the bottle. They need to be shoved back in.

We can reasonably take the example of Global Warming. there has been a huge discussion going on in the Guardian for several day about the BBC being biased IN FAVOUR OF climate sceptics! The argument of the climatologists is that only climatologists are qualified to comment, because they are the experts. Again we see that the climatologists must be right because there are thousands of them and they are all peer reviewed.

But there is this essential question. Where have all these thousands of climatologists suddenly appeared from? How on earth did they get funding to personally erect weather stations all over the world in order to independently check the facts? Well.....they didn't, did they? They are all interpreting the same facts and backing each other up - all at public expense!

These genies need to go back into their bottles. A fresh start is needed and a 'sine qua non' must be that 'the facts' must be placed in the public domain - no more lost data and no more hidden computer algorithms.

As regards Frank's main argument - that there has been collusion - this is not a conspiracy theory. There is no doubt that the pubcos went along with the ban in order to achieve a 'level playing field', but it was not a level playing field for all - it was a level playing field only for the pubcos. There lies the rub. As Frank points out, this is not the case in Spain.

If the smoking ban were amended to allow small bars to decide for themselves in this country, one could certainly see a mushrooming of small businesses of that nature in England. Would that be the beginning of the end for the pubcos? That possibility is rather intriguing!

As regards Frank's main argument - that there has been collusion - this is not a conspiracy theory.

No, it's not a conspiracy theory.

These are people who have been swept along with the new coming antismoking thing, just like they've been swept along with the global warming thing, and the EU thing.


Have you noticed how it is the people of countries who have never been invaded in the near past who are accepting the shit arguments? - Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Ireland, the USA, etc?"

Excellent point Junican. And most Americans don't have any recollection of the real misery and folly of Prohibition, it ended in 1933 - 78 years ago.

The other aspect of this is what I like to call the Lush Apathy Syndrome. Too fat and sassy to resist much of anything. Cheer on the Egyptian resistance from the comfort of the easy chair.

Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Ireland,the USA, etc?

Etc. including Canada.
One might think of all the (or former) UK Commonwealth states, even all European colonies.

(I'm not going to go into the UK / Irish Question here!)

All, including the USA, heavily targeted by Soviet espionage and influence campaigns since the 50's, 60's & beyond. 'Peace' movements infiltrated, etc. Governments, too.

Think it all 'just stopped' with the 'break up' of the old Soviet Union?

Successful influence campaigns utilise 'third parties' and keep their real sources hidden, even to those parties, let alone the actual targets.

Is it just a coincidence that Godber (and a club of British docters who visited Russia) admired the Soviet health system?

That a Russian is high up in the WHO FCTC? (citation needed)

That Russia has weak, non-standard "health" warnings on cigarette packets & cites internal difficulties in complying? (ditto)

Call me a conspiracy theorist if you like, but the world is toppling, and the new social systems don't look pleasant for those who prefer individual freedoms.

Yes, but if some of what is dreamt up in America and then put into the mainstream as a "big success" is then used as the excuse to incorporate elsewhere, including overseas, then it has some relevance.

And the last time Europe came under the Jackboot in a very heavy way, it was US involvement in that issue that was of extreme assistance in the matter, again not entirely irrelevant, nor is it a foe of UK as it wasn't the last time around either.

I think gathering support for anti-smoking ban sentiments inside the US is better than trying to make enemies with it or let the anti-smoking experiments as currently conducted, heavily in California and New York go completely unnoticed as if trivial. California in particular has a reputation going back in time of being highly supportive of people such as Mussolini and Hitler and smoking-bans (16 years going on 17 years now), there are historical facts of it being an experimental zone for imposing this type of thought through the mainstream and pushing the agenda onto other areas.

Anti-smoking is global in funding and reach and anti-smoking-ban efforts should at least seem cognizant of what is happening on opposite shorelines, as the oceans have not stopped the anti-smoking people from dragging their purported success stories from one location into another. It is an international anti-tobacco treaty signed by UN.

It alarms me for example, if I hear of some new anti-smoking development going on inside Europe or UK, that it won't show up here one day next, saying it's been proven a success over there - and vice-versa, I would think it important for over there.

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