More prohibition-related nonsense

One of the quiet joys of blogging is the opportunity to highlight idiocies of the anti-smoking movement for the purposes of ridicule and contempt.

In this spirit I’ve been checking out the SmokeFree North West website which has the rallying cry ‘Let’s make smoking history for our children.’

The people of the North West have responded in their masses to the Government’s consultation on the future of tobacco control, through the SFNW campaign ‘Let’s make smoking history for our children’.

Over 60,000 responses were generated urging Government to take measures to protect children and young people from the harmful effects of tobacco. This was a collaborative effort between the SFNW team and tobacco control colleagues in PCTs and Local Authorities across the region.

Consultations are a popular tactic for the prohibitionist movement because they are self-selecting: you don’t have to respond to them and people who do are generally extremely passionate about the issue being discussed – and anti-smokers are much more passionate than smokers or liberal non-smokers.

But I love the assumed link with the Make Poverty History campaign. The anti-smoking movement’s one weakness – actually, one of many – is that it has no sense of proportion. Make Poverty History was a vital campaign to help starving people in the developing world. It had international support. By contrast, the anti-smoking movement only benefits homeowners in the rich world who don’t like the taste of cigarette smoke in All Bar One.

Unlike Make Poverty History, people involved in anti-smoking campaigns don’t tend to have a history of activism – trade union work, anti-racist work: you know, stuff that matters. SmokeFree England is supported by almost no one and nobody would care if it disappeared from the planet tomorrow. (Although the prohibitionist movement does provide some economic benefit in that it creates jobs for public sector time-servers who would be otherwise unemployable – Regional Tobacco Policy Manager, anyone?)

Given that the anti-smoking zealots have banned tobacco in every public building you’d think they’d be satisfied. No. In the ‘Hot Topics’ forum, SmokeFree NW turns its attention to art and culture:

We all know that advertising tobacco on TV and in film is illegal and no longer happens, correct? In fact although paid on-screen tobacco advertising is against the law, if you watch your favourite movies and TV programmes again carefully, you might be surprised just how many feature smoking and tobacco brands.

Smokefree Movies has emerged as one of the new themes in the field of tobacco control to have emerged since legislation was introduced to restrict smoking in public places and the workplace. There exists a body of evidence which supports what we had believed for some time; smoking in movies has a significant impact on young people starting to smoke.

The website says its aim is to ‘remove smoking from youth-related films’. But why stop there? Surely adults are at risk too? And why just movies? There must be thousands of books featuring characters that smoke. And characters who drink, and do other antisocial things. I see a ‘Literature Compliance Officer’ advertised at 35K in the pages of the Society Guardian.

Another hot topic is mental health, and this is why it’s necessary to be harsh with our puritan friends. From July this year residential mental health services fall under the blanket ban. This means that, while convicted killers can smoke in their prison cells, mental health patients cannot. From the website:

People with mental health conditions be hard to reach and engage with. Other people’s perceptions of people with mental health conditions and their desire to stop smoking can also be a challenge. As part of one innovative programme to support the introduction of the new legislation, mental health service staff were questioned about service users and smoking. Feedback included: ‘They can’t quit’, ‘It’s their only pleasure’, and ‘It’ll all kick off’.

Well, it looks like the anti-smoking movement didn’t engage with feedback from these medical professionals. There’s no mention of engagement with service users. Too ‘hard to reach’? Or did SmokeFree England just think ‘fuck it, they’re only crazy people’?

A good friend of mine was sectioned last year. She was incarcerated for three months, she was extremely emotionally distressed and vulnerable and it incensed her that she wasn’t allowed out to buy tobacco and could only smoke in a little walled enclosure that was, naturally, rammed. A commenter on the weblog of Kerry McCarthy MP (who, to be fair, is a good blogger and does respond to criticism) had this to say:

I have suffered mild depression most of my life and my cigarettes are my ‘sanity sticks’ – without them I suspect that control of my depression would have been reliant on drugs.

Once the vote was in for the total ban it caused me so much distress that I suffered the worse bout of depression ever, was off work, was agrophobic, caused my husband a great deal of stress and worry, attempted to take my own life on a couple of occasions and started to have regular panic attacks. All that before the ban had even started!

I am now back at work, on reduced hours – this is 2 years later. I am still on medication and was lucky enough to attend a CBT course at the end of last year/beginning of this. In order to attend, however, I had to reduce my working hours further which cost me money I could not really afford!

And then there’s this from Nick Cohen:

Last week, a young NHS psychiatrist, who blogs under the pseudonym Shiny Happy Person, described how she ‘was just taking five minutes out, enjoying the sunshine in the surprisingly pleasant grounds of my new hospital, when the flowerbed spoke to me’.

She went on to reassure her readers: ‘No, I’m not neuroleptic-deficient. Other people heard it too. One moment, all was quiet and the next a disembodied voice was bellowing from somewhere in the vicinity of the begonias. Strictly speaking, it wasn’t actually addressing me and I know this because it said, ‘This is a no-smoking area. Please put your cigarette out. A member of staff has been informed.’ I gave up smoking six weeks ago. But, really, how Orwellian is that?

‘The smokers looked understandably alarmed, glanced furtively around and then scarpered. I can’t help questioning the wisdom of installing a talking flowerbed to tell people off in the grounds of a psychiatric hospital, of all places.’

I’m coming to the conclusion that the anti-smoking movement is not full of well-meaning people who are concerned about public health. It’s full of bullies and scumbags and should be addressed as such.


(Thanks to Swings and Roundabouts for the image)


One Response to “More prohibition-related nonsense”

  1. Sarah Franco Says:

    I don’t smoke but my husband does. Since the laws banning smoking in public places in Portugal was introduced, I stopped having a social life, and that had very serious consequences in our relationship. I look at this as a way for certain people to feel the taste of power. This thing about psychiatric hospitals only confirms my impression that the ‘insane’ are not necessarily those locked inside.

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