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Frank Davis

Banging on about the Smoking Ban

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Collective Madness
I think that I've changed my mind about more things over the past couple of years than I did over the previous 20 years. And all because of the smoking ban. I'm beginning to think that there was the person that I used to be before the smoking ban, and the person I became after it.

Let's see. Before the ban I was a left-leaning liberal, and a Lib Dem voter. And I vaguely looked upon Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth and the green movement and environmentalism in a friendly, approving sort of way. And although I didn't do it myself, I really wasn't bothered if friends of mine stopped smoking, and started eating organic vegetarian food and going to yoga classes and Buddhist retreats. I was tolerant to the point of super-tolerance. Lesbians, are you? Pleased to meet you.

That's all over now. It all ended around about 1 July 2007. After nearly all the Lib Dem MPs voted for a complete smoking ban, and I realised that they weren't really liberals at all, I could never vote for them again. I was quite astonished at the way my esteem for them simply fell through the floor. I feel rather ill when I see Nick Clegg these days.

But I've also changed my mind about Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth and the green movement and environmentalism and organic food and yoga and Buddhism. I've shifted from being mildly approving or at least tolerant of them to detesting the whole damn lot of them. That's harder to explain. I think that a large part of it is that, now that smokers like me are no longer tolerated, I don't see why I should continue to be as tolerant as I used to be. You can only tolerate other people, I've learned, if you are yourself tolerated. It's a bit like buying rounds in a pub: people will only buy you rounds if you buy them rounds. It's a two-way thing. And once one partner pulls out of the tacit deal, the other one pulls out too.

And, when it all comes down to dust, I've never had any time at all for organic food or vegetarianism or yoga or Feng Shui or Buddhism or the latest health scare. Maybe there's something in Buddhism, but the rest of it is all baloney. It's all irrational nonsense from start to finish. And so is Gaia-worshipping, human-hating, tree-hugging, global-warming environmentalism. And the man-hating wimmin's movement. And astrology and homeopathy and crystals and Glastonbury and ley lines and Arthurian legends and UFOs and crop circles. I heard today that Andy Williams is going to top the bill at Glastonbury next year, and felt like writing to him to say: "Don't go!"

Now when I see people eating vegetarian food I see people who will, when there are enough of them, one day ban the consumption of meat in restaurants, and the next day ban it in people's own homes. They'll be the kind of people who want to be able to go into any restaurant anywhere in the world and not have to put up with the stench of roast beef and fried bacon. And they'll justify it on spurious health grounds which will barely conceal their real motivation. And they'll do it without a second thought. And without the slightest trace of compunction.

And, apart from the fact that they both voted for the smoking ban, one of the reasons I don't like Kerry McCarthy and Paul Flynn is because he's a druid and she's a vegan. And that means that they're both profoundly irrational people, who also happen to be MPs, unfortunately. They may as well be worshippers of Cybele or Osiris or some alien American god.

A few months ago I met up with one of my profoundly irrational vegan-type friends, and she started to tell me how she'd begun to think that Neil Armstrong had never actually walked on the moon, and it had all been shot on a movie set somewhere. And I was silently screaming Please Stop, I Don't Want to Hear. Nor do I want to hear any more 9/11 conspiracy theories. Or about the mystery shooter on the Grassy Knoll in Dealey Plaza. I'm tired of conspiracy theories. They're all profoundly irrational. They're all deeply insane.

I've actually been swimming steadily away from irrationality for a long time. Sometime back in the 1970s I got sick of New Age mysticism, and started to re-acquaint myself with physics and mathematics and cold reason. For the 1960s was a revolt against reason.  People get sick of cold disenchanted reason after a while. And the 1950s was a dull, disenchanted, measured, rational time. And there was nothing rational about the sex and drugs and rock'n'roll that followed. It's most enchanting. But I fairly rapidly got sick of the syrupy, foggy, idealistic mysticism that came with it. The multitudinous Indian gurus. The dawning of the Age of Aquarius. The weird little twisted cults that sprung up like weeds. L Ron Hubbard's dianetics. The Rev Jim Jones in Jonestown.

Back the 1960s, the mysticism was contained within a largely rational, liberal, secular society which had exorcised most of its demons. But these days, 40 years later, that mysticism has grown and burst the vessel that contained it, and has infected everything with its brand of magical thinking. We live in a new age of unreason, and all the bad news these days is about the advance of irrationality, as one mad law or other is enacted, or some new insult to reason articulated. In some ways, when Tony Blair became a Roman Catholic, it marked a point where mysticism and credulity and superstition captured the highest office in the land. Antismoking is a religion. Global warming is a religion. Europe is a religion. 

It's said that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged. And I got mugged. The smoking ban was a mugging that stripped me of an ancient freedom, the freedom to sit in a pub with my friends, and drink beer and smoke cigarettes. And it was my own government that mugged me, not some footpad on a dark road. Which makes it all the worse. Have I become a conservative? I have no idea.

It'll all swing back the other way one day. People will get as sick of mysticism as they once got sick of cold reason. When reason becomes intolerable, people turn towards madness. But sooner or later madness in turn becomes intolerable, and people turn back to reason. It's probably a regular 100-year cycle that swings from collective rationality to collective madness, and back again. And we're now somewhere near the height of collective madness, as windmills march across the land, and people sniff for tobacco smoke and carbon dioxide, and adults can't be left alone with children.

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The environmental or green movement is the progressive or fascist movement. This is not a metaphor or an analogy. More good reading here ecofascism (http://www.ecofascism.com/index.html)

A superb post as always.

Chris Snowdon

Welcome to the club. I realised a long time ago that many of the causes and beliefs that irk you were all fundamentally part of the same movement. Feminists, anti-racists, anti-capitalists, environmentalists, vegans, animal rights nutters – you name it, they’re all essentially the same. They all imagine the world to be run by a shadowy cabal of greedy, selfish, exploitative, meat-eating, war-mongering racist, sexist, elitist and homophobic white men. They either see themselves as disenfranchised victims of society, or brave champions of those who are. They all want to change the world so that they or their sponsored victims can be liberated from our unjust social order.

Of course, most of these people have got things completely out of proportion. They probably hold some personal grudge that they have magnified many times over then projected onto a cause that fits the same emotional framework. There is an infinitude of candidates for this psychology: the bullied schoolboy, the frustrated academic, the overlooked employee, the jilted lover, the abused wife – anyone, in fact, that sees the machinations of others as the cause of their failures and dissatisfactions.

It’s not just the truly hard-done-by that feel this resentment either. Just look at the hoorays who are protesting against cheap flights. I’m sure their lives have been easier than most, but with great privilege comes a sense of entitlement that is easily frustrated. Maybe they became resentful when they realised society wouldn’t grant them the unconditional wealth and approval afforded by their parents, so they sought out a cause that chimed with their feelings of mistreatment. Or maybe they feel the need to assuage their middle-class guilt and deflect the envy they fear from others by expressing their solidarity with the downtrodden. Or perhaps they leap to the defence of the weak and vulnerable as a pretext for hectoring the masses, giving them a sense of superiority that they have few other outlets for in these days of anti-elitism. Whatever there reasons, I doubt very much it is a reasoned response to a genuine problem.

The same goes for all manner of weird ideas. People don’t hold beliefs in mysticism, alternative medicine and so on because they make sense or appear to be true. They hold them precisely because they defy convention. If they believe on some level that these weird ideas are true, then the reality peddled to us by society – the cold, hard one that risks feelings of disappointment and inferiority – is not the final word on matters. If we believe in homeopathy then by extension we can believe that anything is possible, and that those people who decide who’s right and wrong, whose better and worse, don’t know everything. Batty beliefs are a beach head from which those who are dissatisfied with the status quo can make raids inland.

Frank, my conversion has been equally Damascene. I was left-leaning enough to be a Labour Party member for many years because I disliked Thatcher and the Tories so much -I ignored the LibDems because I found out very early on some time in the mid 80s) that they were vehemently anti-smoking, while I never thought Labour would become like that.

When I say left-leaning, I mean that my sympathies lay with Social Democracy, and never with Communism. I was delighted when the Labour party removed the Marxist wording from their constitution and appear to become a modern Social Democratic party – this, I thought, is a party I can join, particularly if they can boot out the odious Tories.

Eventually, and far too late, I resigned my membership from the party, citing the smoking ban as my principal reason. I wrote a long letter (or more accurately, rant) about the baleful effects of the ban. I won’t bore you with all of it, but here is an extract:

“I’m sorry to say that I am indeed leaving the party, and have been considering this move for some time - ever since the first of July 2007, to be precise. It was on that date that the pub smoking ban caused irreparable damage to our hospitality industry and to our social institutions, with a disproportionate effect on the elderly and poor, who often had no social pleasures in their life beyond a pint and a smoke at their local, and who are now staying at home instead. The ban has also caused divisions between colleagues, friends and families and has made evenings out frustrating rather than relaxing for many people – for my part, it has caused me more depression than any other legislation ever passed.

I had hoped that the party would see the damage that was being caused by the ban, and the fact that there is absolutely no factual basis to the claims of lives saved, drops in heart attack rates and all the rest of the propaganda emanating from ASH and their ilk. Unfortunately it seems that the blanket ban, unlike the more reasonable and successful alternatives in place in other European countries, is one of Labour’s sacred cows and amending it doesn’t feature in any attempts to reconnect with their rapidly diminishing core support. In fact, quite the reverse is happening – further bullying of smokers over shop displays, new figures suggesting that smokers cost the NHS even more than was previously thought (so all those previous figures were wrong, were they? Why should we trust the latest ones any more?), constant promotion of NRT cessation services and general attempts to “denormalise” smoking still further.”

Their reply?

“I am sorry you believe that you no longer identify with the party and you that the Smoking Ban introduced in July 2007 has caused irreparable damage. The UK is now smoke free, with no smoking in almost all enclosed public places and workplaces, and the legal age for buying tobacco has been raised from 16 to 18. A recent Omnibus survey reveals that 89 percent of people visit pubs either as often, or more frequently, that they did before the ban was put in place in July 2007, suggesting that the large majority of people support the legislation”.

Well, all I can say is that I tried to help them. Their drivelling, nonsensical and illiterate response, padded out by statements of the bleedin’ obvious, needs no further comment other than a brief speculation as to how the Omnibus survey was carried out (one would guess it was by interviewing people in pubs, rather than the people who used to go to pubs).

Anyway, to conclude (and I’ve gone on far too long already!), last night I was watching the Commons debate on the display ban and the amendment regarding vending machines. I found myself bawling abuse at every Labour MP who opened his or her mouth, while cheering Tory Philip Davies to the rafters. I never thought that would happen, but it has happened – and all because of the smoking ban.


There was something else I meant to say. The great German writer Thomas Mann veered from left to right and back during his time in Germany, ending with his relocation to the USA when the Nazis came to power. One of his comments was something along these lines: "I am a man of balance. When the ship of state leans too far to the left, I lean right, and vice versa". Now we've obviously moved from left and right to lunacy and common sense, but I think his principle still stands. In the 80s, I saw the Tories as the crazy ideologues ("There is no such thing as Society") and Labour as the sensible, pragmatic party. Now it's completely the other way round.

My thoughts here:

http://velvetgloveironfist.blogspot.com/2009/10/inevitable-consequences.html (http://velvetgloveironfist.blogspot.com/2009/10/inevitable-consequences.html)

Chris Snowdon

Thank you for all your comments.

In response to Christopher Snowdon, I've posted another essay on the same theme.


Every person like you who does yoga atuomatically does not smoke.

I think all people who are simply adding to Global warming has to be at least punished so that they know what they are doing.

There are some who contribute to global warming out of neccessity and they can offset it by buying carbon credits.

Carbon offsets aim to neutralize the amount of Co2 emissions contribution by funding projects which should cause an equal reduction of emissions somewhere else, such as tree planting. Under the premise, first reduce what you can, then offset the remainder, offsetting can be done by supporting a responsible carbon project, or by buying carbon credits.

You can calculate how much you have saved by not smoking from the calculater you could find in the link below.


Thank you.

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