Tempted by the smoke of another
Tuesday, August 2, 2016 at 19:35
Simon Clark

Last week, following the launch of a new "vapers' rights" campaign, it was suggested it was wrong to make vapers stand outside in the cold with smokers, breathing in their smoke.

I read that to mean it might be bad for their health even though there is no evidence that smoking outside is harmful to anyone other than the smoker - and even that should be qualified because millions of smokers live long and healthy lives regardless of their habit.

Well, that interpretation was wrong, apparently. What the author and campaign manager meant was that the smell of tobacco smoke is alluring and might tempt vapers back to smoking (which is a terrible thought, obviously).

Now I know I should let this go but I can't. This is a blog, after all, and if we can't have a lively discussion here what's the point? All I would ask is that no-one should take this personally. I'm just trying to have a debate, nothing more.

Anyway it's nagged away at me because I remember a similar argument was used to justify the ban on smoking in pubs and clubs.

According to tobacco control campaigners it wasn't fair that ex-smokers and those wishing to quit couldn't go to the pub without being exposed to an enticing pall of cigarette smoke.

Likewise the ban on tobacco advertising, graphic health warnings and the display ban were justified, in part, to stop ex-smokers relapsing.

We were told that the sight of a packet of cigarettes behind the counter couldn't fail to tempt a child or ex-smoker. Solution? Put them behind shutters. Out of sight, out of mind, and all that.

The latest thing is that "E-cigarette advertising has the power to drive former smokers back to real cigarettes."

According to the Herald Sun in Australia a new study has "prompted calls to ban e-cigarette promotions in the same way tobacco advertising was restricted decades ago."

Quit Victoria director Dr Sarah White said failing to ban e-cigarette advertising could undermine the resolve of former smokers as well as decades of gains since tobacco advertising was outlawed.

"Some of these ads look very much like people using a cigarette, (and) probably just watching people using that ­motion doesn’t help former smokers suppress their urges," she said.

The underlying message behind all these campaigns and policies is that smokers and ex-smokers (including vapers) are essentially rather dumb.

They are so easily influenced that almost anything - advertising, packaging, the smell of tobacco smoke - will encourage them to light up or relapse.

I accept that some people are weak-willed (I'm one of them) but should society be regulated exclusively for our benefit?

In my case should crisps, Bombay mix and salted peanuts be regulated to the nth degree to stop me snacking and becoming even more obese?

Should cartons of double cream carry a health warning and be hidden behind sliding doors to remove the shameful grip it has on me?

Likewise alcohol and anything else that, consumed regularly or to excess, might not be 'good' for us.

The idea that ex-smokers must be protected from the company of smokers and the "allure" of tobacco smoke is the same argument public health campaigners use to justify a ban on e-cigarette advertising.

It implies that ex-smokers (including vapers) are so feeble and lacking in personal responsibility that the state must step in and protect them - for their own good.

According to the tobacco control industry very few people choose to smoke. From that first tantalising cigarette smokers are caught up in a web of addiction and the overwhelming majority, so we are told, want to quit.

Pat Nurse has strong views on this subject and will be writing a guest post when she returns from holiday. In the meantime a comment by Nate in response to this post is worth repeating:

The idea that all ex-smokers live out the rest of their lives in some sort of "recovery" mode, wherein they are constantly tempted to "relapse" and fall off the proverbial wagon, is in itself an extension of the nonsensical tobacco control worldview.

Specifically, it requires an acceptance of the "addiction" model, in which smokers are nothing but weak-willed, morally deficient drug junkies with little or no agency over their own behavior. Under this model (which has been prevalent in tobacco control for around 30 years now), no one smokes because they want to or because they enjoy it, and no smoker can take it or leave it whenever they like.

As those of us know who inhabit a real world filled with actual people, everything about this model is spectacularly incorrect.

I couldn't agree more.

Article originally appeared on Simon Clark (http://taking-liberties.squarespace.com/).
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