Photo by Cristina Quicler/AFP via Getty Images
Artillery Row

Let the people smoke!

Life is boring enough without making it duller

I’ve never smoked. I probably never will. Truth be told, my views on smoking do not stretch far beyond mere indifference to it. In full consideration of the valid and numerous reasons people smoke — the taste, the ritual, the company, the sensation — I can assure you there’s good reason, not only to abstain from smoking, but to aggressively regulate it.

Consider this: for every Brigitte Bardot, Alain Delon or equivalent thereof, there’s a million people under the delusion that they look like Brigitte Bardot, Alain Delon or equivalent thereof when they take a puff. For every instance of well-handled decadence, there’s an undivided mass of spluttering hunchbacks; for every exemplar of cinematic elegance, there’s a clump of sticky-fingered layabouts. In the ideal state, smoking would be utilised (primarily, if not solely) for the discovery of the artist: those with a touch so magically transformative, they can turn the grubbiness of sucking on a stick of nicotine into a symbol of aristocratic refinement.

Whilst many may find my stance on smoking to be illiberal, elitist or inegalitarian, at the very least it’s not rooted in animosity towards smoking itself.

This is more than can be said for the Labour Party. In a recent bout of imaginative poverty, the likely — that is, almost certainly — next party of government is, according to Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting, looking to the latest progressive model for civilisation: Jacinda Ardern’s New Zealand. Specifically, Labour is considering a policy similar to New Zealand’s recently implemented, and alarmingly popular, smoking ban.

In summary, anyone born after 2008 will be banned from buying cigarettes over the course of their life. With the age limit set to be incrementally changed each year, Ardern’s government seeks to nanny the nation out of smoking by 2025.

It is the creed of the short life versus the bare life

New Zealand’s Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall stated, “thousands of people will live longer, healthier lives and the health system will be better off from not needing to treat the illnesses caused by smoking.

It is a thoroughly dreadful idea all around, theoretically, politically and culturally. The one concept arguably more detestable than a liberal understanding of “harmlessness” is a socialistic understanding of “health”.

Just as “harmlessness” is the go-to excuse for the selfish juvenile, “health” is the go-to excuse for the selfish geriatric. The former disintegrates whilst the latter cajoles; the former is the midwife of the latter which reacts against the desperation left by the former. At bottom-level, it is the creed of the stooping addict versus the creed of the crazed hypochondriac, the short life versus the bare life.

Far away from preventing a few “harmless” teenage delinquents from lighting one up behind the bike shed, the policy is portrayed as a public necessity. It is necessary for the maintenance of public health and finances, to keep the nation healthy and ensure that the healthcare system can be sustained.

Unsurprisingly, Labour’s policy consideration comes at a time when the British healthcare system is in turmoil, and voters are highly supportive of a smoking ban. It is further unsurprising that an institution defined by the sainted “freedom of access” can be used to whittle down the freedom of action of those who are basically forced by the monopolistic nature of the NHS to use its services, smoker or not.

In view of attitudes towards smoking, a potential ban is practically redundant. Smokers are an ever-dwindling demographic, with over half of them wanting to quit anyway. That makes them a politically viable target. Blaming their publically inexpensive preference is meant to give the impression of radical reform without having to deal with any of the major structural, supply and demand problems the NHS currently faces — problems our politicians are too cowardly and stupid to address.

So often referred to as post-war Britain’s national religion, less is said about the NHS as the nation’s favourite narcotic. Indeed, it’s far more comparable to a narcotic than a religion. At least Christianity promises life after death. The NHS promises you no such thing — you just die.

Far above nicotine, it is the basis for a longstanding, destructive, national dependency. Britain is so fixated on the thing which, as it is currently administered, causes so much imprudence, inertia and sclerosis — politically, culturally and economically. The cause of and solution to all of our nation’s ills, it’s more draining than any potential tumour set to eat away at the smoker’s lungs. That’s another benefit of smoking: it kills you before the NHS can.

Only in Britain do people work to keep the healthcare system healthy

The irony is not lost on anyone. Britain is the only country in the world in which people work to keep the healthcare system healthy. Instead of mandatory fitness campaigns to promote national vitalism, the people are willingly taxed into poverty for an institution they’re advised to use as little as possible.

Manufactured by the regime as a cornerstone of “Modern Britain”, presented as a quirky idiosyncrasy to set us apart from the Americans, such rank idolatry has only accelerated Britain’s descent from the heights of liberty to the depths of licence.

As things stand, the last thing we need is another “lawful excuse” that the already anarcho-tyrannic police can use to avoid dealing with serious crimes.

However, the most obvious — and therefore, the most frequently missed — objection to smoking prohibition, is that it would make life more boring for everyone. Forget the NHS, forget freedom to choose or the potential for a black-market explosion, barricading against civilisational boredom must come first.

A total ban on smoking kills the joy of being a killjoy. In a world without smoking, how could smokers and non-smokers proselytise to one another? How could smokers make jokes at the expense of prudish kale-slogging health bores? How could non-smokers disdain the inverse-voyeurism of lowlife reprobate scum? Precisely. Nobody wins!

For the smoker, few things are more insufferable than the non-smoker who complains about his favourite treat, even when he’s not currently enjoying it. Likewise, for the non-smoker, one of the few things more boorish than smoking is a smoker who wants to but can’t. Again, everybody loses!

Instead of making it obsolete, non-smokers should realise that the smoking area is their best friend. It provides the basis for spontaneous association and voluntary segregation. If you’re so revolted by smoke, so pathologically obsessed with maintaining pristine vitals, let smokers have their murky congregations in dimly lit, well-furnished smoking areas; let them have life-changing late-night conversations to forget about the morning after. Let the people smoke!

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