January 7th, 2010


Will You Still Place Your Bet

On Taking Liberties, Joe Jackson was quoted as saying of the smoking ban:

When all the arguments are thrashed out, a nagging and crucial question always remains: why is it, really, that no one with any real power, money or influence, is fighting a fraud which can quite easily be demonstrated to be a fraud?

I've occasionally wondered about that too. Where are the glamorous celebrity smokers and rock stars and cigar-chewing movie moguls? Joe Jackson excluded, that is.

But the question can be asked the other way round too. Where is the celebrity non-smoking poster boy/girl fronting the antismoking drive? Where are the top 20 hits celebrating the smokefree life?

Where's anybody at all?

It seems to me that, for the most part, the power and money and influence is staying home, and sitting on the fence. They don't know which way this is going to end, and they don't want to finish up with egg on their face for having bet on the wrong horse. Not unless they're super-rich and above it all like Bill Gates or Richard Branson, who needn't worry whatever way it all pans out.

Most of them are watching and waiting. When it begins to become clear which way it's all going, they'll throw in their hands with the perceived winner.

And anyway the power and the money and the influence hasn't been affected by the ban. They don't go down to the Dog and Duck and play pool and load up the juke box. They entertain at home, where everybody can smoke as much as they like. They haven't been touched by the ban at all. They don't really have any reason to get into this nasty little war.

The ban has fallen principally upon the bottom end of society rather than the top end. Those are the people who've been hurt by it. That is where the angry people are to be found. Someone like me has got involved in this war because I simply have nothing to lose that I haven't lost already. The antis can't damage me any more than they already have.

I see it as my task to keep on pointing out just how disgusting and ineffective and dishonest the smoking ban is. I see it as my task to show how it's a miserable failure. Over and over again. In every way that I can possibly imagine doing so. I can only do so in my small way. Because that's all I can manage.

The antis, on the other hand, are doing their damnedest to show what a great success the ban is. How everybody loves it, smokers above all. How it's already saved zillions of lives and is set to save zillions more. How pubs and clubs are so much cleaner and fresher. And are closing for every conceivable reason except the smoking ban.

It's in the balance. The antis have got money and influence. Their grassroots opponents have the truth and the numbers. But lots of people can see with their own eyes what's happening. They don't need me or anybody else to tell them that it's a disaster to have all these people standing outside pubs, like shipwreck survivors clinging to lifeboats. They can see quite well that the ban isn't a success. They just wonder whether it's worth continuing with anyway, for the sake of people's health or something.

When the real power and money and influence finally steps in, it will be to back the winner. They'll either back the world's 2 billion smokers, or they'll back the WHO-enabled, pharma-funded antismoking lobby. If they decide to back the smokers, they'll show up the passive smoking fraud in ten seconds flat. If they back the antismokers, everything will get much, much worse.

The surprise, if anything, is that they still haven't picked the winner. A couple of years ago, it looked like the antismokers were winning hands down. Not any more. Sentiment has begun to swing the other way. It's not quite so clear whether they'll still place their bet against the neighbourhood threat.