Tuesday 27 December 2011

Vested interests

Dr. Theodore Dalrymple has written a typically incisive article about the Dutch government's decision to reduce the amount of taxpayers' money spent on anti-smoking groups. You might recall the squeals of discontent from various tobacco control employees in a recent letter to the Lancet. That the authors of that letter depend on draconian anti-smoking policies for their livelihoods has not gone unnoticed by Dalrymple.

It seems to be beyond the imagination of anti-smoking campaigners that someone might support the right to smoke on grounds of principle and not of narrow personal interest. The item, brief as it is, gives a flavor of the often bile-filled writing of anti-smoking campaigners:

It would be a matter of no little shame to a country that prides itself on a compassionate and inclusive ethos if its government were to abandon smokers to their fate. Every death that ensued would not just be the responsibility of the tobacco industry, which continues to promote its lethal product, but also of every politician in the Dutch Government who chose to look the other way and allow it to happen.

What of the responsibility of the smokers themselves?

Of this, not a word: they are putty in the hands of the tobacco companies and their government, scarcely human in fact. Apparently, Dutch smokers would stop if they knew about the effects of secondhand smoke, which are harmful additionally to first-hand smoke. A strange psychology indeed!

What if someone wrote a theoretical defense of the right to smoke, but put at the end that he had received money from the tobacco companies and indeed was employed by them? A cry of “vested interest!” would deafen.

Do go read the rest.


Anonymous said...

And yet I'm made to cringe at the writer's closing lines:

" I detest smoking and support the ban in public places, with the proviso that there should be places indoors, including restaurants and bars, where smokers can go and freely indulge their filthy habit."

Seems nowadays that declaring you detest smoking, support bans, and that smoking is filthy is the only way to establish your bona fides as sane and objective and therefore, to be taken seriously.

I'm getting damn sick of it.

nisakiman said...

Yes, I'd agree wholeheartedly with anon above.

Interesting to note that the comments on the article are overwhelmingly anti-ban.

Despite the unrelenting avalanche of propaganda emanating from the anti-smoking zealots. there seems to be a slowly growing resistance to the orthodoxy, rather like the direction AGW attitudes have taken. The antis don't seem to realise that the shriller and more hyperbolic their claims, the less people will take them seriously.

Jay said...

While I'm aware of a few pubs in the UK that have lock-ins and trot out the ashtrays, I truly wish pub owners would openly flout the ban. Unfortunately, the one owner who did ended up in jail, I think -- is that correct?

Anyway, what bothers me most in that article isn't the "filthy" habit bit at the end, but this (emphasis added):

" [...] though there are nearly 20,000 premature deaths caused annually by smoking in the Netherlands."

Let's be very clear on this: There is no such thing as a premature death. It is, simply, and sometimes tragically, the time of one's death, whether one lived for one hour or 100 years; whether one died of "natural causes" or was murdered* or died from a horrific accident. No one is guaranteed any specific amount of time here on this lovely planet. Death may happen unexpectedly, but because life cannot be guaranteed, death cannot be premature. I very much understand that few people will accept this and will argue that all people should live to some specific age, but what age should that be? And if we somehow define an acceptable age of death, then what? I shudder to think of the consequences.

*For the record, I am not saying that killing people is acceptable.