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Frank Davis

Banging on about the Smoking Ban

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Outing the Antis
Regardless of any claims to the contrary, it has always seemed perfectly apparent to me that the war on smoking is above all a moral crusade. The fundamental objection of antismokers to smoking is that it is a vice, a perverse instinct, an unnatural practice, a species of self-abuse. This is where the antismokers start out. This is their underlying conviction.

It is not, however, the main thrust of the case that antismokers actually make against smoking. They do not say, "Smoking is wrong" or "Smoking is bad". Instead they say, "Smoking is bad for you" and "Smoking causes lung cancer". They do not make a direct assault on smoking as something that is immoral in itself, but instead make an indirect attack by pointing to the consequences of smoking, rather than to smoking itself. After all, nobody is going to say that lung cancer is a good thing. And if lung cancer is an evil, and smoking causes lung cancer, then smoking is also necessarily an evil. QED.

In adopting this indirect line of attack, antismokers are on much firmer ground than they would be if they were to launch a direct moral assault upon smoking as something evil in itself. Because it is not entirely clear that smoking actually is evil in itself. What's wrong, in and of itself, with rolling up a pinch of tobacco in a piece of paper, setting it alight, and inhaling the ensuing smoke? What's so bad about that? And antismokers are hard pressed to say just exactly what's wrong with that. And so they shift away from such a direct attack, and come at smoking upon its flank indirectly. Unable to penetrate the smoker's frontal shield, they swing their swords against his unprotected sides. 

It may of course be that antismokers do not see smoking as something evil in itself, and have only discovered the evil of it by discovering its consequences. If this were so, then if it were to be shown that smoking did not cause lung cancer, antismokers would call off their war on smoking. "Oh, sorry," they'd say. "We were really convinced that smoking caused lung cancer. But now we know better. So forget everything we ever said. Carry on smoking. Here, let me light your pipe for you."

Is such a thing imaginable? No, not really. If it were to ever be shown that smoking doesn't cause lung cancer (and it probably doesn't), there would be a brief pause before antismokers would start claiming that smoking caused every other disease known to man. And if that also proved to be untrue, they would start hunting around for some other evil consequence of smoking. And this is because antismokers know that smoking is wrong, in and of itself. Antismokers know, in advance of any enquiry into the consequences of smoking, that smoking is an evil. Antismokers know that smoking must cause lung cancer, or some other misfortune. It is as plain as day to them.

Should it ever be conclusively demonstrated that smoking doesn't cause lung cancer, or any other disease, antismokers may well be forced to launch a direct moral assault upon smoking. That is, if the blow to the flank is parried, they may be forced to return to frontal attack.

And what sort of direct attack might they launch? There are at least a couple of possibilities. They might claim that smoking was an unnatural practice. Or they might claim that smoking was an unnecessary practice. Indeed, it may be considerations of this sort that first convinced antismokers of the evil of smoking.

It may be appropriate to widen the debate a little here, and point out what everybody knows, which is that those puritanical sorts of people who disapprove of smoking usually also disapprove of drinking, of drugs in general, of gambling, and above all of sex. Or at least of every kind of sexual behaviour other than that which is needed to produce a new generation of humans. And these various vices can also be condemned as being unnecessary and unnatural.

The argument from necessity

The argument from necessity against smoking - or any other vice - is that it simply isn't necessary for people to smoke tobacco, or drink alcohol, or engage in sex. People need food and shelter to survive. But they do not need tobacco, or alcohol, or sex, to survive. They are things that can be stripped away from a life, like so much ornamentation, to leave a pure and unadulterated life. The puritan sets out to strip away the unnecessary from life, as so much excess baggage. The puritan sets out to strip off the icing from the cake, and the marzipan, and the hundreds and thousands, and the candles, to leave just the basic plain simple cake. In the journey of life, the puritan insists, we cannot go around carrying upholstered armchairs and stereo speakers and other frivolities. Crossing the great desert of life, we cannot afford to burden ourselves with chairs and tables, art and music, gold and silver. We must carry the bare minimum of simple food, and clean water, and light garments, and perhaps a map and a compass and a knife. And we should take our delight in the majestic stars above us, and in the rolling sand dunes that spread around us, and the delight of simply being alive.

The argument from nature

So goes the argument from necessity, which could of course be further pursued (is living a life really like crossing a desert?). The other argument, the argument  from nature against smoking, proceeds down a rather different line. Here it is argued that everything has its natural function, and it is an abuse to use it for any other purpose. One should use screwdrivers to drive screws, and hammers to drive nails, and one should not use hammers to drive screws, or screwdrivers to drive nails. Each tool has its own use, and its own instruction manual, and these instructions should be closely observed. There is only one right way to do anything, and everything else is wrong. And in the case of smoking, it is an abuse of mouth and lungs to fill them with smoke. They're not supposed to be filled with smoke. Lungs are for breathing air. And mouths are for eating food and drinking water. It is an abuse of them to do anything else with them, just like it is an abuse to drive screws into walls with hammers. And it is equally an abuse of the human body to poison it with alcohol or any other drug. It wasn't designed to do that. And there is only one appropriate sheath into which a male member should be introduced. Anything else is an abuse of it. Particularly putting it there. And it is an abuse of the body to dance, because it is not the natural purpose of the body to hop and jiggle about. And it is an abuse of the voice to sing, because the human voice is not designed to sing. 

And so on. Underlying this argument from nature is a notion of a natural man, living in a state of nature, of whom modern humans, drinking and smoking and doing all sorts of other unnatural things, are a perversion. An aberration. Morality consists in man doing what is natural to man. Everything else is immorality.

Such are, I suggest, the kinds of reasoning that underpin the antismokers' hatred of smoking. And that underpin puritanical abhorrence of any and every vice. It's a reasoning which has barely been explored at all here.  What antismokers really believe is that smoking is unnecessary and unnatural. And this is really why they don't like it. And why they don't like lots of other things as well.

However they are not, as noted, the reasons they advertise for their abhorrence of smoking. They prefer to say that smoking causes lung cancer rather than say that smoking is unnecessary and unnatural, even if it is the latter which they truly believe.

Outing the Antis

And this opens up the possibility of a counter-attack by smokers. Smokers (and drinkers, and all the rest) might not just parry the blows that puritanical antismokers rain down on them, but might strike directly at the hidden but real justifications that antismokers depend upon in their war on smoking. They might say, "You're not really against smoking because it causes lung cancer. You're against it because you think that it's an unnatural and unnecessary practice. Why don't you come out and say so plainly, and stop hiding behind all your epidemiology and statistics? Are you frightened of something?"

They must be frightened of something. There must be reasons why antismokers don't just call smoking an unnatural or an unnecessary practice. They must know that there are weaknesses in such arguments. And that is why they conceal them. And if they aren't going to come out of their closets, they should be pulled out bodily in the bright light of reason, and made to answer.

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" .... those puritanical sorts of people who disapprove of smoking usually also disapprove of drinking, of drugs in general, of gambling, and above all of sex."

That's a very interesting point, Frank. There are quite a lot of people around who present as extremely liberal, tolerant people in every respect. They don't criticise people of other races, other religions, different sexualities, people who drink too much, who take drugs or who do anything else which in past years might have invoked censure. But they make their one exception when it comes to smoking. I've been surprised many times by such people, although I guess I shouldn't be by now - and it's often got me thinking; are they REALLY as tolerant as they make out in all those other respects, or are they just too cowardly to admit that they have closet racist/sexist/other tendencies which it simply isn't acceptable these days to admit to? Maybe then, their expression of their prejudice against people who smoke is merely the only avenue they have for expressing their hated/intolerance of many (or all?) of those other groups. Which, in my view, makes them the most cowardly of the whole bunch.

I know the sort of people you're talking about. And I ask the same question: are they really as tolerant as they make out? These are sometimes people that I've known a long time. Or people I thought I knew.

But then, 60 years of incessant antismoking propaganda has probably twisted everybody's heads. People have been taught to hate smoking. They've been conditioned. Maybe the rest of them is genuinely liberal, but they just jump the tracks when it comes to smoking. And they don't notice.

But for the most part I'm inclined to think that they're just not as liberal as I thought they were. Civilization is pretty skin-deep. I begin to notice things about them I never noticed before. I look at them with far more critical eyes.

The universal anti smoking paranoia is fuelled partly
by financial reward and partly by deep seated dislike
for the habits of others not convivial to those of
the activists themselves.Like schoolyard bullies they
will go to any extreme to get what they want.They know
that normal ,law abiding, correct,polite smokers will
cave in to any law or discrimination.They can claim
compliance with a law is approval and therefore justified.
Only when they feel fear will they curtail their enthusiasm,,when they start worrying ,who is behind them
in the supermarket,who is sat at the next table in the

No hiding place

Yes. Smokers are too polite, too law-abiding, too normal. They've been slowly retreating, apologetically, for half a century. And that's just emboldened these bullies.

The bullies will only stop when they start to feel something they've never felt before - fear for their own sorry asses.

It's coming, that fear. And you're right, there'll be no hiding place.

One should use screwdrivers to drive screws, and hammers to drive nails, and one should not use hammers to drive screws, or screwdrivers to drive nails.

I'm a marine engineer and have at times broken the rules above on numerous occasions. When water is rushing in through a hole in the ship's side, rules go out the window.

However to the puritanical, "Rules are rules". After all it's nobody else's business if I wish to abuse my body. It doesn't yet belong to the state. (they wouldn't want mine anyway). Anyway I'll do them a service if I die younger. They will save on pension benefits. Ramble finished.

They make it their business, unfortunately.

"There must be reasons why antismokers don't just call smoking an unnatural or an unnecessary practice"

I don't think that intellectually speaking they're that advanced. Their irrational zealotry is rooted very simply in the fact that they don't like it and therefore, no one else should either.

BTW, i've been writing about you this evening Frank.

"BTW, i've been writing about you this evening Frank"

Actually, on reflection that looks a bit creepy. Reminds me of John Malkovich in 'In the Line of Fire'... :)

Yeah, you had me worried for a while!

Perceptive comments you made. Yes, I've been denormalised. And my social life has been turned to cinders. It's a scar I carry. It's made me very angry.

But it's maybe worse for you. Because you've been denormalised twice, by the sound of it. I'm in full working order, physically.

And I haven't really found a voice either. Or rather, I have various competing voices. The posts of mine that have moved you are the ones that I've written about myself. I kinda wish more people would write like that. I wish they'd roll up their trouser legs and say: "Here. See that? That red gash. That's what the smoking ban did to me." A bit like that scene in Jaws I, when they're all sitting drinking in the cabin.

They aren't doing it because they're scared. They're doing it to watch people do as they're told. Control for the sake of control. Its all they want, it's the only thing they want and it's the only explanation that makes sense.

Minimum pricing for booze makes no sense, global warming has been debunked over and over, banning filament bulbs from houses packed with cookers and tumble dryers will make no difference at all. It's just control for the sake of it.

They managed to demonise smokers, now they've moved on to include other groups. None of it is for 'health', it's all for control. Just to watch the puppets dance.

As for cancer, I've been convinced for a long time that most of that is caused by stress. Consider those smoking beagles, held up as 'proof' that smoking causes lung cancer. You take a dog with a vastly more sensitive nose than a human, put it in a box with its head poking out and force it to inhale smoke. The dog has no idea what's going on and is under tremendous stress. It thinks something's on fire and it can't escape. That experiment only proves that you can scare the crap out of a beagle in a box to the extent that you make it ill.

Over and over again I hear of people who quit smoking cold turkey and developed lung cancer shortly afterwards. It's blamed on smoking... but they had stopped. Stopping smoking does not reduce your chances of lung cancer, it increases it.

Your lungs become used to smoke. They don't like it but they learn to deal with it. There's a repair mechanism running continuously. Sure, it's not biologically ideal but it works.

Take away the smoke all at once, and that repair mechanism doesn't immediately stop. It's still fixing a problem that's not there and it's going to add cells where they're not needed. Add in the stress of giving up something you've enjoyed for years and there's your cancer cause. Not the smoke, the sudden change.

Anyone who wants to stop smoking should give it up gradually. The 'just stop' recommendation is killing people. I now have an electrofag but I'm not throwing away my tobacco. Partly because it's not quite the same, although its good for a quick hit when there's not time for a smoke (and it'll come into its own in winter here, for sure). But mostly because I'm sure if I drop that real smoke too abruptly, the shock to my system could kill me.

It's stress, I tell ye, that's the biggest cause of cancer out there. I don't suffer from it myself but I think I'm a carrier.

Control for the sake of control. Its all they want, it's the only thing they want and it's the only explanation that makes sense.

It depends who 'they' are. If 'they' are this Labour government, then yes, they want to control everything. It's what socialists always want to do. They can't let things happen of their own accord. They're like people who never learned how to ride bicycles, and always needed stabilising wheels, or stuck with tricycles. They couldn't let things just happen.

But that's the Labour party. The smoking ban is just one small part of their desperate and futile attempt to take control of everything they possibly can.

I was writing about the health-obsessed antismokers rather than New Labour control freaks. I was writing about the Morally Righteous, and trying to explore their intense loathing for smoking. I was trying to get inside their heads. A bit like Michael McFadden does with Inside Antismokers' Brains. His categories of antismokers are set out here somewhere (I think).

Consider those smoking beagles, held up as 'proof' that smoking causes lung cancer.

I take your point about giving up smoking being a shock to the system. There was an Indian study a couple of years ago which reported that most of the lung cancers they were seeing were among smokers who'd given up smoking.

But did the beagles get lung cancer? Do you have a link? I don't think that any animal studies have managed to induce lung cancer in smoking animals. If they painted their skins with tar, they'd sometimes develop cancer. But painting isn't the same as smoking. Sir Richard Doll conceded 5 or so years ago, in court (McTear v. Imperial Tobacco), that the animal studies hadn't shown lung cancers.

Dysfunctional Beagles...

I may be a bit off in my memories at the moment, but I think Auerbach did the big smoking beagles experiment back about 30 years ago and basically found some cell changes in bronchial linings that were sort of "predecessors" to cancer. I believe the experiment was generally regarded as a failure by everyone except the antismoking extremists.

In terms of their motivations, it's worth taking the possibility of ASDS (AntiSmokers' Dysfunction Syndrome)with some seriousness. Read:


Michael J. McFadden
Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains"

Re: Dysfunctional Beagles...

Thank you. That's the link I wanted.

It's stress, I tell ye...

Consider shingles (herpes zoster). Shingles is caused by a reactivation of the herpes zoster virus (varicella-zoster virus, or VZV). This virus causes the childhood illness chickenpox. The virus then remains in a dormant state in nerves of the body. In about one out of five people, the virus "wakes up" many years later and causes an attack of shingles. The majority of patients who get shingles are over the age of 60. An attack of shingles can be precipitated by a period of stress. Been there, done that. Twice. Each time after a series of catastrophes that approached the ridiculous. In shingles we have a virus caused, age related disease precipitated by stress.

The herpes simplex virus 1 (cold sores) and herpes simplex virus 2 (genital herpes) also go latent and can be awakened by stress.

Then we have cervical cancer caused by human papilloma viruses, with a possible extension to oral cancer ... and to the age related disease, lung cancer? A phrase often found at the tail end of scientific studies: "More research need to be done."

Lauren A. Colby on Auerbach's poor tortured Beagles

Discourse on Shingles was by jsidney

Whoops. Forgot to add my signature to the discourse on shingles.

In "Outing the Antis" you give me more beautiful phrases and good arguments. Thank you, Frank.


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