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Life and times of a dedicated smoker

Yesterday's E-Cigarette Summit in London provoked a minor spat on Twitter.

One or two vapers were shocked, apparently, by the strength of Pat Nurse's comment (on this blog) about the New Nicotine Alliance. One responded by calling her a "nutcase" who is "not worth the bother".

Now, I've known Pat for ten years and I don't always agree with her or the way she sometimes expresses herself online, but she doesn't deserve that.

Frankly, she deserves rather more respect.

Over the years Pat has put her career on the line by frequently speaking and writing about smoking-related issues. She hasn't received a penny for doing so yet she often appears on television and radio as the smoker who doesn't want to quit.

She doesn't do it for the publicity or the infamy. Quite often she'll moan and say "What's the point?" but after some gentle persuasion she'll almost always relent because she believes passionately in the cause.

By sticking her neck above the parapet, Pat has made herself a target for the most outrageous abuse, some of it of a very personal nature. As I say, I don't agree with everything she says but I admire her so much for sticking to her guns.

Anyway, I want to draw her detractors' attention to the following article, written by Pat and published in 2008. It was no longer online and I think it deserves to be.

Personally I think it's her finest hour because she's not fighting the world or using language and insults that, I think, can be counter-productive. She explains simply and without fuss the background that led her to smoke (she started at the age of eight) and puts it in a wider context.

Pat Nurse is as passionate and feisty about tobacco as some vaping advocates are about e-cigarettes. Most important, she believes in choice. If that makes her a "nutcase", what does it say about them?


Life and times of a dedicated smoker
Guest post by Pat Nurse

I am not proud of the fact that I began smoking so young, but I don't regret it either. It is a fact of life that some children will smoke whether we like it or not and it is certainly ingrained in my culture as much as in anyone else's religion, race or class.

Back then it was almost expected if not fully accepted. Doctors advised my mum to start smoking in her thirtes to relieve the stress of being left alone to bring up five children. Years later they advised that she gave up for her health. The argument was that each cigarette she didn't have extended her life by x amount of years. We worked out she should have lived to be 150. She died aged 75. If I live that long I will be happy. She was not as fortunate as a neighbour who began smoking in his teens, gave up aged 92, and lived to be 104!

My teachers told me that smoking would stunt my growth and give me cancer but so far it hasn't done either. My father told me he used to smoke with his mates during the war in stressful situations and I suppose the comradeship I shared over a cigarette with my friends behind the school bike shed, in between bouts of bullying from other kids, was also my reason for enjoying it.

The fanatical anti-smoking stance was not something that affected me until relatively recent years. We used to call these people 'health freaks' because of their unnatural obsession with the subject when we all know that none of us can live forever. If smoking was eradicated tomorrow the graveyards would still be full of people who die at the beginning, middle and end of each generation for a variety of reasons. We are missing the real health issues by concentrating on just one and hiding behind a smokescreen of abuse and false accusations towards smokers.

I remember the health warnings of the 1970s. Some people took these on board and gave up. Good for them but other people chose not to. The cost of cigarettes was the next big persuader to get people to stop smoking. The thought of putting away fag money for a nice little holiday at the end of the year appealed to some who gave up but not to others like myself who couldn't think of anything better to spend their money on.

Then came the social insults. I recall the TV ad campaign which suggested women who smoked were unattractive because they smelled. Some gave up, others didn't because in the scheme of things, smelling of smoke was not nearly so bad as bad breath, BO, mouldy clothing or cheap perfume - something that some smokers and non-smokers were, and still are, guilty of.

Recognising that this approach didn't work, the health lobby began to produce 'evidence' (which they are still trying to prove conclusively 30 years on) that smoking did not just hurt you but other people through passive smoking. This encouraged some smokers to quit but not others. Personally it had no effect on me.

I felt victimised because worse environmentally damaging factors were ignored such as traffic fumes which have been proved conclusively to cause lung cancer in pedestrians and still nothing is being done about banning traffic in public for the good health of 'innocent' people who choose to walk and not drive.

Bullying, misleading advertising campaigns and social exclusion seem to be the latest tactics used. I'm told by a health worker that the fatty cigarette is an untruth. Smoking does not cause that to happen. The smoking babies' ad is also false. You would not see that much smoke coming from a child's mouth unless it inhaled directly from a Jamaican bong!

I resent being made to feel that I am putting my children's lives in danger by smoking in another room of the house while there are no qualms about encouraging me to get my youngest child to walk to school and be poisoned by the huge amount of traffic fumes in the air that make my eyes water because they are so strong.

If I really had to sit and worry that I am going to die early and leave my children - three of whom are grown up - then I would never take a plane, a boat or a car again in the knowledge that I am more likely to die from a something like a car accident than smoking. I recently gave up horse riding because an accident meant a month off work and caused me to think how easy it would have been to break my neck instead of my arm. Time off work for a 'smoking related illness' is something that I have never had.

No smoking policies at work places, while not ideal, are something that I don't object to. It is an employer's right to choose as it should be my right to choose what I do out of work or whether I work for a firm that operates such a policy. I'm currently looking for a new challenge but dismayed by job adverts that wants 'non-smokers only'.

Outraged, I contacted the Equal Opportunities Commission to find that discrimination legislation does not cover this. Apparently, it is OK and perfectly legal to exclude this certain section of society. I'm sure that will go down well at the dole office as a reason why someone is unemployable.

But why bother being hypocritical and pretending we have a fair and equal society that offers the same chances for all if in reality it doesn't? If we cannot practice tolerance for smokers what chance have we got that others will tolerate people from different ethnic groups or religions because they are not shown the same kind of tolerance because they indulge in a habit that is unpopular in some circles?

I am not really the sort of person who visits pubs very often but I do love cafes. A cup of tea without a cigarette is like taking it without sugar or milk, or coffee without cream. I think when the war on obesity begins in earnest, banning cream and sugar and telling restaurants and cafes what they can put on the menu is only a step away.

Now there is smoking ban there is no point my ever visiting cafes again. On the one hand our Government moralises on the importance of social inclusion and then sets about socially excluding what in effect is a certain class of people because they smoke. And then they wonder why they can never reach people from such classes.

Despite the fact that I pay my taxes, I have only ever used the services of a hospital when I've had babies, and a broken arm, but I have been refused treatment in the past because I am not prepared to lie and say I don't smoke.

I recall a young women in hospital at the same time as me who gave birth to dead baby boy at eight and a half months pregnant. She was made to feel that it was all her fault because she smoked. This was despite the fact that she had four healthy kids and five Caesareans - when only an absolute maximum of three is advised and her womb just could not take the pressure.

The poor soul lost so much blood that she almost died. When she came round the only comfort she needed for her grief was a cigarette. The hospital had recently got rid of it's smoking room and she was wheeled outside into the cold air, half dead with blood bags and lines going into her arm. The local priest, who had been sent by her worried parents to read her the last rites, was appalled at the cruelty, lack of care and comfort offered to this 'anti-social pariah'.

One of the few issues I do agree with is the cost of smoking to the NHS but for very different reasons. I recently noticed that four smoking cessation posts advertised locally were offering £25,000 each per year salary. That is £100,000 in one county. Spread that across the whole country and you have a lot of money that could be better used for patient care.

Anyone who really wants to give up smoking can without too much difficulty because experience tells me that smoking is habit forming but not physically addictive. Such money spent in a bid to try and get people like me off cigarettes is being thrown into a black hole. Better still if that money was combined and pooled into providing drug treatment centres to help people who really need it like heroin and alcohol addicts who do cause huge problems to society because of their addictions.

Smokers like me will never give up. Any hope of that has gone because of the constant bullying, exclusion and pressure which only makes my resolve to exercise my right to choose even stronger. I would rather die than give in to the sanctimonious, biased, and prejudicial pressure heaped upon me by anti-smoking propaganda that often uses tenuous and exaggerated scientific 'evidence' while pulling figures out of the air that are never tested but have the desired dramatic effect.

Pat Nurse is a freelance journalist

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Reader Comments (18)

I have defended and stuck up for vapers to be allowed to vape inside. How many ex-smoking vapers have fought to allow smoking indoors? I suspect that if they can vape they don't care less about smokers.

Vapers can call me a nutcase but if it's based on my obsession at just wanting to be left alone then I imagine they're the same kind of nuts.

It may not be helpful but until vapers stop using anti-smoking propaganda to drive their cause then my attacks will continue and frankly I couldn't care less what they think.

Friday, November 13, 2015 at 15:24 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

I totally agree with everything Pat writes. Its a pleasure to encounter someone who thinks exactly like me.

Friday, November 13, 2015 at 15:43 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy Goodacre

Thanks very much for this Pat x.

I'm a dual user vaper / smoker - and utterly sick to death of people who assume I'm giving up smoking because of the vapouriser. One particular vape shop assistant always enquires how many cigarettes I'm smoking these days, under the assumption that smoking cessation has simply universally happened to everyone as if some change in the weather.

My favourite trick with judgementalisers (which appears to be just about everyone) is to take a drag on a cigarette at the same time as pulling on the vapouriser. You don't have to say "Ahhhh, lovely lovely nicotine", but it helps.

Have thought about carrying around a nicotine patch to slap on my forehead at the same time. I could write some kind of motivational message on the patch, like "Legalise Freedom".

These people want to police the inhaled ingestion of nicotine under all circumstances everywhere, and they are like witchhunters, including some of the born again sanitised vapers.

Obo the clown got it right when he called the effect of anti smokerism on smokers as one of being "psychologically coshed".

Thank you very much for resisting.

Friday, November 13, 2015 at 16:09 | Unregistered Commenteralanxxx

Yes, bravo for that post, Simon. We need more people like Pat who are unafraid to express their opinions and to expose the state sanctioned discrimination that smokers suffer.

As for vapers, in many ways they find themselves in a difficult position insofar as most of them really believe that smoking is a very dangerous habit (thanks to the relentless propaganda over the past few decades), and that vaping is a relatively harmless substitute.

So when they find themselves in the cross-hairs of Tobacco Control, the natural reaction is to throw smokers under the bus in an attempt to show how different vaping is. Not as BAD as smoking at all. Even those who I know don't condemn smoking and smokers are using the Twitter hashtag #aBillionLives, the inference being that if smokers switched to vaping, a billion lives would be 'saved' over the next decade or something.

When I replied to one of the major players in the vaping movement that I didn't believe the 'billion lives' thing at all, she agreed, but saw it as a useful endorsement of vaping anyway. And I know full well she isn't in any way anti-smoking, and supports the rights of smokers to smoke as much as vapers to vape.

But the 'billion lives' thing implicitly endorses the lies and propaganda of Tobacco Control. And that, essentially, is throwing smokers under the bus in an attempt to make vaping acceptable. And we see it whenever debates about e-cigs come up. "E-cigs are so much less harmful than tobacco cigarettes.

Well, I may be an heretic, but I don't actually believe that tobacco is anywhere near as harmful as we've been led to believe. Quite apart from my observations over the 66 years of my life which give the lie to the scaremongering, I've done a huge amount of reading on the subject, and frankly, given the lies, exaggerations and data manipulation that Tobacco Control employ as a matter of course, I don't believe a word they say. They are zealots blinded by their ideological agenda, and if the facts don't fit their agenda, then they will either change or ignore them. They are pathological liars.

Friday, November 13, 2015 at 17:07 | Unregistered Commenternisakiman

All credit and respect to Pat Nurse for her campaign. I know, from my own experience, among friends and acquaintances, most of whom condemn smoking, that emotionally and socially this can be very wearing. I think her stand has been sacrificial in its defence of choice. Thank you Pat. And for your sake and ours, pace yourself as well!

Friday, November 13, 2015 at 17:32 | Unregistered CommenterNorman Brand

^^ I've had the same thing happen to me with snus. I enjoy both smoking and snus, but I get comments from people who assume I must not smoke when they see I use snus, about how snus is "better than smoking" as if I'm using it just to quit. I love tobacco in many forms.

Pat- I agree with you completely about vapers. I do support their rights but it's becoming almost a sick joke because 99.9% of them don't do the same in return.

Friday, November 13, 2015 at 17:40 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

Stay strong, Pat.

If anyone are the nut cases, it’s antismokers. Unfortunately, most are not familiar with the history of antismoking. Antismoking isn’t new. It has a long, sordid, at times very violent, 400+ year history. There were antismoking crusades long before the large tobacco companies came on the scene. There were antismoking crusades long before the mass-produced cigarette. There were antismoking crusades long before movies and mass media. There were antismoking crusades long before attempts, however bastardized, at scientific investigation of smoking. There were antismoking crusades long before the recent concoction of secondhand smoke “danger” [The term “passive smoking”, without basis, was coined during the N#zi era].

The common theme over those 400+ years is the extent to which rabid antismokers will lie to rationalize their incoherent hatred of smoke/smokers/smoking. Hostility, violence, cruelty, bigotry, neuroses, megalomania, pathological lying, a “god complex” – antismoking has it all. There’s more than ample evidence over the last few centuries that the rabid antismoking mentality (misocapny) is a significant mental disorder. Yet here we are again.

Having spent a considerable time on a variety of blogs, some of the most rabid antismokers are from the vaping brigade. There are exceptions but these are a rarity. The bulk of vaping blogs typically use all the standard, inflammatory antismoking slogans to legitimize their peculiarity of vaping.

Friday, November 13, 2015 at 21:48 | Unregistered CommenterPoint

Pat Nurse does use robust language yet does not (as far as I am aware) descend to the level of personal insult. I met Pat briefly at Stony Stratford and, as I recall, she came across as polite and passionate.

Refraining from personal insults, even when the debate is robust, is part of mature public debate. The NNA do aim to have a mature debate (see below) so I do hope the NNA do not condone personal insults and make it clear that is the case. I certainly do not condone it. I also agree with Simon's comments.

In earlier comments, Jessica did question whether people who smoke could join the NNA.

From About NNA:
We wish to see a mature public and organisational understanding of the potential of safer nicotine products for reducing cigarette smoking, including their safety and efficacy, and hence contribute to the reduction in cigarette smoking

In would seem to support the NNA you need to support "for reducing cigarette smoking". This could put people who smoke off joining, especially as to be an associate you have to fully buy-in to this, though they may not have a policy of exclusion. In any case perhaps someone in the NNA can clarify.

I am not sure Forest can support NNA as such, perhaps this too could be clarified. Forest do support general freedom and personal autonomy and speak out when this affects Vapers or people who smoke. It is a pity this is not reciprocated.

Friday, November 13, 2015 at 23:17 | Unregistered Commenterwest2

Simon, Thanks you for supporting Pat Nurse and her right to voice an opinion. Clearly, the Antismokers have sown division (they seek to divide and conquer all users of all forms of nicotine and all else they reject (i.e. alcohol, sugar). Supporting choice is central to sustaining liberty. It's sad the tobacco control propaganda and deliberate stigma applied to smokers is being accepted by some vapers.

Saturday, November 14, 2015 at 1:58 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

Great article, Pat. And one that I'd missed, too, I think, so a double bonus (thanks, Simon!)

I have to say that I really, really miss your "Tea and Cigarettes" blog. It used to be a daily must-read and I was heartbroken when you moved on to other things. Any chance of reviving it? Please? Pretty pleeeeeeese?

Saturday, November 14, 2015 at 3:06 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

Well written and typically passionate article from Pat and hats off, Simon, for rising to her defence.

Saturday, November 14, 2015 at 10:45 | Unregistered CommenterJay101

"...safer nicotine products for reducing cigarette smoking, including their safety and efficacy, and hence contribute to the reduction in cigarette smoking.."

If that really is the NNA's view then it seems to me West 2 that to be accepted by the NNA, and vapers, one has to be an anti-smoker - or at least hate smoking and want to eradicate it. If so then smokers and Forest should be very wary of going any further down the road with that lot.

I repeat : There is nothing wrong with smokers and nothing wrong with smoking for those who enjoy it and have no intention of quitting - not now not ever.

We are only in it together with vapers if we fight for them while fighting to destroy our own culture. It is time for vapers to decide whose side they're on. Obviously not ours or they wouldn't engage in casual smokerphobia without even realising the offence they're causing.

Let's be clear. We are smokers. They are ex smokers. We can tolerate them and their product of choice. They cannot tolerate us or ours.

In the spirit of my robust language, I say to those precious holier- than-thou and victim hugging vapers - go fuck yourselves.

Saturday, November 14, 2015 at 12:01 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Absolutely right Pat ! I totally agree.

Saturday, November 14, 2015 at 17:38 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy Goodacre

"Smokers like me will never give up."

Nor should you, if that is your choice.

"Any hope of that has gone because of the constant bullying, exclusion and pressure which only makes my resolve to exercise my right to choose even stronger."

I exercised *my* right to choose by choosing to vape instead of smoke.

"How many ex-smoking vapers have fought to allow smoking indoors?"

I did, and still do at every opportunity.

"I suspect that if they can vape they don't care less about smokers."

I can't speak for all vapers, but I care.

"that to be accepted by the NNA, and vapers, one has to be an anti-smoker - or at least hate smoking and want to eradicate it."

I'm accepted by the NNA and vapers in general, I'd rather see the likes of ASH eradicated, they are nothing but a blight on society. The constant propaganda being put out in the main stream by tobacco control organisations and sock-puppet charities has created a bitter resentment (from me) towards "the establishment" that supports such demonisation.

I really couldn't give a flying fuck if people smoke, if that's what they want to do then I'm all for it. Same if they want to drink, do drugs or any other activity that the nanny-state thinks is bad.

Smokers may not like me because I'm a vaper and associated with vaping organisations, but frankly I don't care. I'll continue to stand up for smokers rights.

Sunday, November 15, 2015 at 10:20 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

Thanks Paul but one or two vaper friends in a army of a movement looking to eradicate smoking in favour of vaping won't help us that much.

There are others like you, and I could name some really lovely people who like vaping over smoking but see us as being in the same fight and that to protect vaping, smoking must be fought for, but on the whole the vaping orgs depend on bashing smoking to win favour with tobacco control. Frankly as a smoker, I don't see much difference between tobacco control and orgs like ASH and the NNA anymore.

This "ecigs saves lives" and "one billion lives" crap is enough evidence for me to rest my case. Both casual smokerphobic slogans and if I have to explain why then clearly vapers don't get it and never will.

Sunday, November 15, 2015 at 14:47 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Pat, I strongly agree with your feelings about the nonsensical support of the "one billion lives" concept, but I believe we have far more than "one or two" vapers out there who are strongly on our side. The "antismoking wing" of the vaper movement was strongest early on -- driven by the individual small-scale vaping entrepreneurs who were trying to sell their products by jumping on the antismoking sloganeering bandwagon.

My first real personal contact with the vapers came through the Vapers Place interview (which, unfortunately, I cannot find on SoundCloud right now. :/ Anyone know a pointer for it?) where I was not only amazed at how warmly I was welcomed by the hosts but more particularly I was amazed that of the 20 or so chat guests in the side columnt there WAS NOT A SINGLE Antismoker blasting away!

There ARE vapers today who still haven't realized how foolish it is to throw their support to the wolves rather than their fellow sheep of a slightly different species. In NOLA our freedom fighter Juliette Tworsey was practically tearing her hair out over the way so many vapers were supporting the smoking ban while thinking they'd escape unscathed. Heh, they found out, much to their chagrin, that they ended up thrown in the pit with the rest of us.

Smokers have the historical experience, the knowledge of tactics, and the long term drive that a lot of vapers lack. The vapers meanwhile have more money, youth, organization, and energy than a lot of us long-term-smoker-warriors. The two groups can be very strong working together, much stronger than if they work separately, but Pat Nurse is right when she growls at the vaper segment that seeks to profit off the attacks on smokers. While it may seem attractive to pick up the weapons Antismokers are offering vapers, the vapers will find that their own throats are cut just as deeply in the end.

Who was it? Ben Franklin? "We must hang together, or assuredly we'll all hang separately."


Thursday, November 19, 2015 at 21:10 | Unregistered CommenterMichael J. McFadden

I have found a copy of the April 2012 VP Live interview and will be happy to send it to anyone who'd like to put it on their website! I think it shows how smokers and vapers can, and have, work(ed) together!


Thursday, November 19, 2015 at 21:32 | Unregistered CommenterMichael J. McFadden

To be honest, Michael I do agree, but I am a little impatient at the pace of support blowing our way from the wider part of the vaper community and I don't think any of us can afford the complacency of hoping things will all turn out right in the end. We have to mobilise as one strong, united unit or we won't get anywhere.

I'll scream and throw stinkbombs any time I think ecigs,vaping or vapers are being used by the anti-smoker industry and smokerphobics as weapons against smokers.

The issue that caused me to growl so violently in the first place was a comment I saw that suggested smokers had never fought smoking bans and were happy to keep rolling over or smoke ecigs.

It pissed me off because, probably like you and many more that we have been in contact with over the decades, I have fought this issue all my adult life against each and every unnecessary ban that could accommodate both sides of the debate instead with choice, technology, etc..

The reason I fought was because I knew these little bans would lead to *the* final ban which then in turn would lead to bans that go beyond what is acceptable in a free society and would eventually lead to criminalisation of the product and revulsion and discrimination against the smoker, plus all then they could lose - jobs, homes, children, families, rights to healthcare....

Many other smokers along those decades have woken up to the fact that each ban was never really about health but the next ban and the next, and we have fought harder and longer than vapers who, all credit due are more organised, but don't seem to acknowledge that there was a fight at all before they arrived on the scene.

Therefore, I find it pretty bloody insulting to suggest that smokers don't fight. We do. All the time. We just get ignored, drowned out, or silenced.

Friday, November 20, 2015 at 20:07 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

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