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All anti-smoking policy critiques are void, for one reason

May 22, 2016

Anyone following UK news at the moment knows that the government recently scrapped 10-packs of cigarettes and all cigarette pack branding.


A number of interesting points blossomed out of the heated response to those decisions, including the possibility that scrapping 10s means people are more likely to buy 20s and thus smoke more. But what interested me most was the fact that so much irate resistance came out of it. After all, you can bet your left arsecheek that non-smokers don’t give a rat’s ballsack. It’s all come from smokers, which makes it inherently untrustworthy.

It’s like seeing an alcoholic in the gutter, who looks up at you and starts philosophising on his right to drink alcohol. And you think to yourself: this is exactly the kind of person who is damaged by their own “right” to be an addict. They say they know that drinking is unhealthy, but choose to do it anyway because it should be their free choice. That has nothing to do with policy or ideology. That’s classic cognitive dissonance, whereby a person’s logical understanding and critical engagement are disconnected. We do it all the time.

All the chatter about the “nanny state” is a smokescreen for a deep-seated desire to be left alone to do self-destructive things, without being forced to face the reality of that decision until it’s too late. Reality makes us uncomfortable. We avoid it for as long as possible, especially when we have arrested development caused by dependency.

If we were really all able to make rational decisions as per the health and welfare of ourselves and fellow citizens all the time, we wouldn’t need a government – and clearly we do, suggesting we’re not very good at this self-control thing. It’s the government’s first and most important job to save us from our own stupidity and the stupidity of others; yet here they are, being criticised for exactly that.

The “nanny state” laws – they aren’t meant for me. Ironically, they are for the very people most inclined to detest them; these laws restrict precisely those who evidently aren’t willing or able to restrict themselves. Such people are inclined to take the hyperbolic view that public health directives are Orwellian, as if a wish to stop people killing themselves equates automatically to authoritarianism. We’re being deined all our pleasures by the evil interfering government of communism, for no good reason but social mind control and stuff.

Authoritarian rule is characterised by egocentrism, whereby the ideology of the government leads them to compromise the health and wellbeing of citizens for the greater good. In a democracy where a party runs the risk of being voted out for daring to give a shit, they have nothing to gain from banning cigarettes. It sounds as though it would be a lot easier for them to do bugger all. Also, if it’s true what the smoker’s say – that taxes from cigarettes bring in more money than is spent on the NHS for treating smoking-related illnesses – the government stands to lose money and popularity from its anti-smoking campaign. How curious… It’s almost as if they’re determined to act for the health of their citizens, no matter the cost. The bastards!

Meanwhile, you’ve got smokers giving up fast food to cancel out the unhealthy effect of smoking, as if avoiding bowel cancer holistically prevents lung cancer, too. You have them saying: “You’ve got to die of something,” without considering the obvious answer: “Yes, and pretty much any death is better than the one you’re risking unnecessarily right now.” Then they say that everything is unhealthy, including water, in a high enough quantity. You point out that water is essential to life; nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide: not so much.

Indeed you can be poisoned by too much vitamin A…. But you are automatically poisoned by tobacco in any quantity. Even alcohol, which has a lot to answer for, doesn’t have that inherently addictive quality that compels people to get up at 5am and go out in the rain to indulge it, even though just last week they were only taking it “socially”. Most drinkers are not addicts for the rest of their lives. A hell of a lot of smokers are.

Whichever way you look at it, “Let me have just a little bit of peril,” is not a rational request. Smokers make that request not out of reason, but because they’re addicts. And an addict is an addict. It doesn’t matter if they’re an alcoholic in the gutter or a moderate smoker working in a bank – their opinion on their substance of choice is not to be trusted. They may be brilliant minds in all conceivable other ways; the moment they come to rationalise their addiction, they sound like children whining for sweets before tea time.

The addiction centre of the brain is the ultimate id. It doesn’t properly engage with the reality of its choices and the consequences. No group of people is more keenly aware of this than the addict in remission. Only when smokers escape the tar trap do they fully comprehend how much of a trap they were in. The constant plume of billowing cigarette smoke clouds their judgement of the issue.

There’s a clear hypocrisy to addiction. How many good parents want their children to be smokers? Whatever trap they are in, they want their children to avoid it – suggesting they know, deep down, how much of a trap it is, whether they’re admitting it or not. Parents who smoke are often angry when their children start. Yet, they make exceptions for themselves, because addicts always make exceptions for themselves; sure, addicts exist, but they can quit any time they want – they just don’t want to. If smoking parents heard their children repeating their own rationalisations back at them, they’d see how flimsy they were.

That utterance “I can quit any time I want” has never been true – the only people who feel the need to say it are dependent on the substance. After all, if you can quit any time, why don’t you, knowing the risks? And if you don’t want to, why on earth don’t you want to? The only answer is because you’re addicted in some way, be it psychological or physical. Nicotine is a loudmouth, it speaks for itself through the lips of its indulgants.

It’s too late for today’s smokers, who are already armed with addict’s stubbornness. The next generation could skip all that, and wouldn’t be missing anything, because what they don’t know, they can’t miss. If current smokers could think straight, they would see that it’s libertinism gone mad to suggest putting another entire generation through the same painful pattern of addiction and recovery (via cancer scare) just for the sake of taking a mild stimulant.

A mild stimulant which comes with a veritable smorgasbord of health problems. If the devil popped up and offered me such a stimulant, I’d ask him: Is there one without the possibility of slow and painful death, not to mention and uncomfortable and inconvenient life? Then he’d offer me caffeine, I’d thank him and we’d go our separate ways. But, so strong is addiction, that the trifling effect is magnified into this stupendous experience which represents all rights and freedoms, as if it’s the purest nectar of the gods.

I noticed, throughout the debates, a certain colour to the opposition; most people avoided addressing the central issue, which was: would these changes reduce the overall amount of smoking? For example, one major criticism of the debranding scheme is that it encourages counterfeiting. Counterfeiting is bad for the economy, it reduces the remedial tax earned from legitimate cigarettes, and it’s possible that those who smoke them get worse quality cigarettes that are more dangerous.

All these points deftly avoid answering the question: would debranding cigarettes reduce the overall amount of smoking? If it did, then the scheme would likely be worth it, despite all other ill-effects. Smokers aren’t worried about that. They’re interested in discrediting the theory as a whole that Smoking is Bad. Any attempt to restrict smoking is an act of war – not because smokers are pro-smoking in general, but because smokers are personally afraid to have their sweeties taken from them.

Addiction is fear; when an addict is faced with the imminent cessation of their preferred substance, they panic. That’s what we’re seeing played out on social media and in newspapers all across the country. We might consider; how responsible is it to let addicts hijack that conversation? Their agenda is always, and will only ever be, assuring their next fix.

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