01 Oct, 2009

Anti-smoking bigots, butt out

Posted by: admin In: Guardian

I plead guilty to enjoying smoking – and hating the busybodies who turn the proscription of small things into a kind of tyranny

Deborah Arnott is a professional anti-smoker. She makes her living from it. She thinks she can “save lives”. Since we all get a lifetime and she is not offering immortality, what she means is you might have a longer life.

Given the choice of 50 years as a free person or 70 years as a slave, she would choose slavery. I wouldn’t, and I suspect there are many like me, as most people seem to go for quality of life not quantity. Time, the great mystery, is elastic. Watch the kettle boil and it takes “a long time”. Ten hours in a police cell might seem like 10 months. There are many jokes playing with this idea or observation.

This quantitative view of life seems dominant today among the medical profession and politicians – as though they can and should make these kind of choices for us. It seems a recent phenomenon, and not really very wise. On big issues it might be good, but on small ones it’s tyrannical.

There are a lot of people who don’t like smoke or smoking but there are a lot of people who do. Tobacco is a great calmer, it relieves stress, it can put you in a contemplative mood. Bertrand Russell, Albert Einstein, Clement Attlee and Stanley Baldwin, with their pipes, don’t look too stressed. I used to hitchhike in my youth with a pipe, counting on a pipe smoker picking up a fellow contemplator. It worked many times. If tobacco is taken away, something else moves in to replace it. We can now see in the US what this is. Television there is saturated with drug advertising painkillers and antidepressants and all sorts of other things, all on prescription. Just tell your doctor you need whatever the product is and you’ll be fine. It’s hardly an improvement.

I am hyperactive, I seem to have more energy now than I did 10 years ago, I am producing more work with a clearer head. I am aware not everybody is like this, certainly on the surface we are all different. I cannot drink alcohol – I am prone to pancreatitis, it knocks me out quickly and I’m in bed for three or four days. I gave it up 15 years ago. I have never had pancreatitis since. Others have a constitution like a horse and can consume large quantities of alcohol. It must be the same with smoking.

The madness of anti-smokers is not seeing this. Deborah Arnott, with her cold abstractions of statistics, says “half of all smokers will die from their addiction”, but as we know the other half will die of something else (she’s not offering immortality), most people laugh or shrug their shoulders. She seems obsessed with death and “saving lives”. I don’t suppose she’s much fun or has much humour. She must think the late Keith Floyd was terrible, and I’m sure he wouldn’t have thought much about her view of life. Just another boring busybody telling people how to live.

We don’t have a very representative parliament. They seem to discuss trivia and nothing else. Because of technology we are probably moving into a period of chaos. Power is shifting, and I’m aware this has a great deal to do with images and their distribution. The political class is confused. There seems to me to be a growing madness, smoking is down, obesity is up; is there any relationship here?

Politics seems so dishonest. It is said smokers “cost” the NHS money. How, one wonders. They pay a lot of tax. If they die younger, as it says on the packet, one can only conclude that the government can’t rip them off any more – a high cost, really?

I have thought for a long time that a political and media elite imposes things on us that people did not request. They must have a low opinion of most people who simply can’t be trusted to keep things in order. The tax on cigarettes is raised at practically every budget. It is an iron law that as the tax rises, so does smuggling. It is now enormous.

Putting cigarettes “under the counter” is now quite funny. That’s where a lot of people buy them already, so this is just going to get bigger. It will mean non-smokers will pay more tax, as revenue still has come to the government. From where? This is never debated, because the press has the same agenda as the government. We’d all be healthier without tobacco. I, for one, just don’t believe it. Like alcohol, it won’t go away. People will make their own and to stop that will need a bigger tyranny than we have now. Deborah Arnott won’t mind so long as it’s “smoke free”.

A far more lawless society will emerge, and the statistics might please her. Others will know they are not true.

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