Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Smokers? Evil Bastards!

I used to have a friend who had a bit of an interest in conspiracy theories, not the completely loony David Icke style, slightly more credible, but still conspiracy theories. One of his more interesting ones was about the venemous assault on smokers, this was in the 1980s before the smoking ban.

His theory was that the increased incidence of cancer had been concerning governments for a long time, they were desperate to find the cause. Eventually they found a link, so his theory went, and the evil cause of many forms of cancer were petro-chemicals. That was that then.

But no, the governmnent then looked at what it could do. The petro-chemical industry, as well as being crucial to our existence, was extremely powerful. The government was scared it couldn't win a battle to clean that particular industry up. So what could they do?

Eventually they had the idea of creating a scapegoat in order to placate the population at large, who were increasingly concerned at cancer levels. Hey presto, the government decided to hammer the tobacco industry instead.

The second strand to his theory was that the government, in attacking smoking and the tobacco industry, would use it to assess the power of propaganda in a free and democratic society. Which is what got me onto this post today.

As for the first part of his theory I doubt it very much, although I do think there has been exaggeration of the effects of smoking, especially passive smoking. Wherever you have a new ideology you get the zealots who go to the far extremes.

What got me mulling this over again was seeing this week, for the first time, the government's latest propaganda attack on Britain's last, legally oppressed and officially villified minority, the smokers. If you haven't seen it the goverment commissars are not happy with just banning smoking and forcing people outside buildings for a drag, oh no, that isn't nearly enough. They are now ordering you to smoke seven miles (or was it seven paces?) from the building you have just been kicked out of. You see, the smoke may just seep through the bricks, or waft through an open window thus killing the occupants.

The propaganda element of this theory has worked incredibly well. In fact that element could have seen off smoking but Blair, the great dictator, just had to prove he was boss and brought in the ban. But what effect has the propaganda had?

Two personal examples prove the success of the propaganda. We have friends who still smoke, I gave up about three years ago as did my beloved. But when our friends come for a meal they insist on going out onto our balcony for a fag. We insist that we are not the tedious ex-smokers who claim to need the smell of smoke surgically removing and have to burn the curtains and redecorate the house when they've gone. But they have been conditioned not to smoke indoors any more. Although the power of numerous bottles of Cahors often reverses the effect of the propaganda by about 2-00am!

The second example is a chap a few doors down who, even in the blizzards last winter, could be seen shivering on his doorstep, less than seven yards from his home admittedy, no longer allowed by himself or whoever, to smoke in the comfort of his own home. I can't help wishing he would find some backbone and sit in the comfort of his armchair, with a nice glass of single malt, drawing on a Marlboro or Benson and Hedges.

So I finish with the view that not only has the propaganda about tobacco worked wonderfully well, but it has also shown what a nation of intolerant, self-obsessed wimps we have become, ready to ask how high when the state tells us to jump rather than sticking two fingers up in the great old English tradition.

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