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4th December 2009

Can smokers be reasoned with?

On an earlier post, an anonymous commenter (a supporter of the smoking ban) said there's no point trying to talk to smokers about smoking.

It's true.

Just as I would never talk to mountain climbers about mountain climbing, bungee jumpers about bungee jumping, sprinters about sprinting or politicians about anything, there is no point in an anti-smoker talking to a smoker about smoking.

If you don't do it and don't want to, it is a matter of no interest to you at all. As with any other activity you aren't interested in, you can't get interested in any conversation with someone who is interested. That doesn't make the activity wrong. It doesn't make the disinterest of the non-participant wrong either. It's just something you don't like to do. It's not a problem.

But then I don't advocate the banning of mountain climbing, bungee jumping or sprinting. I don't advocate the banning of cycling even though I've been hit by pavement cyclists now and then. I don't want a ban on mobile phones or MP3 players even though they can make bus or train travel a time of constant irritating noise. Yes, I would rather they didn't do it around me but even so, they have a right to do those things.

Smokers are not even asking for that right. Smokers are asking for a place they can smoke indoors. We are not demanding the right to smoke anywhere we like. We are asking for the right to smoke somewhere. As it stands, a smoking club with the catchy name of 'Emphysema Emporium' which was staffed with smokers, whose membership requirements included only the proviso that the member be a smoker, and which was situated at the end of a dirt track between a chemical works, a sewage works and a nuclear power station, is not allowed to let its members smoke indoors. Can smokers be reasoned with? Faced with that, who can expect smokers to feel reasonable?

A place to smoke indoors is too much to ask. 'Smokers can choose not to smoke. Non-smokers can only choose not to leave the house' was another argument. Come on now. Is the air outside the house totally saturated with smoke? Is the complaint here that too many outdoor spaces have smokers in them? Why do you think that might be?

The cold weather is here again. This will restrict my visits to the pub. Yes, I have Electrofag but I like a real one now and then while I'm out and outside the pub, it can go well below zero here even before you factor in windchill. i'll get a bottle and stay home. it saves me money because £20 or so for a bottle of decent malt is less than i'd have spent in the pub - but it destroys my social life and destroys the pub. For many, that money saving, plus smoking indoors at home, will mean their pub visits will decline sharply. More will close.

The anonymous commenter works in a nightclub. I have no wish to be rude or unreasonable here, but I wonder what thoughts will go through the nightclub worker's mind when the closures reach his place of employment? Will he blame the smoking ban or not?

The short answer to the title question is no. Smokers cannot be reasoned with. Not now. Not because smokers are unreasonable people.

It's because reasoning with antismokers has not worked at all.

The antismokers don't even regard us as people.


UPDATE: Too many comments to answer them all individually so here's my stance in summary:

1. I am not trying to stop smoking, so I have not 'failed to stop smoking'. I don't want to. I like it. Electrofag was never about an attempt to quit. It is a legal way to experience at least part of smoking while indoors, a means of spending an evening in the pub without going outside in snow, rain or wind. Despite the fact that it produces no smoke, no particulates, nothing harmful at all and involves no combustion of anything, some places will not allow its use. They have been made so frightened by the threat of punitive fines if anyone is caught smoking on the premises, and their business profits eroded to the point where they are barely surviving, that they dare not risk it. I can't say I blame them but I will take my business to those places that do allow Electrofag indoors. It's not personal. It's simply customer preference.

The smoking ban involves a ban on burning tobacco or other smokable substances inside. Taken literally it also bans any pub from having a coal or log fire on the premises. It does not ban Electrofag because if it did, it would also have to ban all non-combustible nicotine sources including patches and gum.

2. Some smokers are intolerant. Some non-smokers are intolerant. That's because they are intolerant people and not because they smoke or don't smoke. Most smokers and most non-smokers are not intolerant. Most would be happy with a compromise, and even those who do not want smoking and non-smoking rooms within a pub have no sensible argument against wholly smoking and wholly non-smoking pubs.

The only argument in the thread is 'it would open up a loophole if you evil smokers had your own places and soon you'd creep back into the pubs we don't actually go to but want available just in case' , and 'village pubs would be taken over as smoker's clubs'.

First, the loophole argument means that since some clubs have lapdancers and strippers, all clubs and pubs have them by now. Oddly enough, I don't know of any here. That's because there is no loophole. Such places must have a specific licence, and a smoking club would need a smoking licence. No licence, no smoking. And no loophole.

As for the village pub smoker's coup, that can only happen if the majority of pub users are smokers and only if the owner of the pub (because it's not publically owned, it's a private business) decided that smoking premises would make more money than non-smoking premises. If most of the pub regulars are non-smokers then the pub would stay non-smoking for purely business reasons. No business owner will exclude the majority of his customers in preference to the minority. The smokers are not going to occupy the premises and declare it a smoking zone. It's the same technique as 'letting people vote for chief constables will mean the BNP will take over' and it's still rubbish.

3. There is no 'allergy to cigarette smoke'. It does not exist. There is only 'dislike of cigarette smoke' which is a matter of personal preference and not a medical condition. No medical file contains any illness attributed to 'cigarette smoke allergy' unless the attending doctor is an utter moron. Which, from experience, I cannot rule out.

4. The reason the antismokers want a total ban is not some first step to a future compromise, where some pubs allow smoking after all. The total ban had to be total because otherwise those pubs that allowed smoking would soon absorb all the business of those that didn't. As Weatherspoons discovered when they tried it. Smoking and drinking go together. If you don't care about your lungs, you don't care about your liver. If you are health-conscious and don't smoke and find it utterly repulsive, chances are you limit your alcohol intake to 'sensible' levels too. Pubs are businesses. Sensible levels are not profitable levels. Pubs cannot survive selling mineral water and spritzers to three customers a night. It is not a politically correct view but you'll find that few of my views are.

Pub profits do not come from those nursing a G&T while discussing share prices and comparing interior decorators. The profits come from beer drinkers who are in for the duration of every match of the season played out on the big screen. They come from the pool team and darts team home matches. They come from the like of Tumbleguts McFatass whose social life centres on the pub and has done for all his life. Tumbleguts does not want a wine bar or a night club. He does not want to discuss distant events or world crises. He wants to talk to people he knows about things that are happening in his town. And he wants to do it over a beer.

He and his friends are the base profit margin of the typical pub. He's the reason it's still there and his absence is the reason it's closing down.

Most of those people are smokers and all of them consider the Government's invented limits on booze units per day as a misprint. They must surely mean 'per hour'.

Cue the 'these are all drunken bums and we don't care if they are banned too' responses. They are not. They are not the 'yoof' you see howling and battering their way along the street on weekend nights. They are middle aged, long term drinkers who know their limits and who go home quietly if a little unsteadily. They like a drink, and they like a smoke with it. Everyone who drinks is a pisshead who can't handle it? I have had four double whiskies this evening so far (The Singleton, for those who are interested in such things. Currently down to £20 at Morrisson's). See how it has destroyed the legibility and coherence of my typing ability. If I drank the same number of units of red wine I'd be well on the way to sleep by now. Wine does that. Whisky doesn't. Everyone has different limits for different drinks and everyone likes different things.

Some people don't like smoking. Fair enough, I say. I have no problem with non-smoking pubs, clubs and restaurants. Have as many as you want, as many as the client demand will support.

Some people do like smoking. There is no equivalent 'fair enough' for us. Absolutely none.

Justify it.
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Climate heretics.

Ooo, those climate heretics. I'll scratch their eyes out.


'Climate denier' turns out to be insufficient insult to shut us up now that the cat is not only out of the bag but has grabbed the bag and shredded it. Stronger terms must be used to silence dissent.

Therefore we are now 'climate saboteurs' according to Ed Moribund, and that pinnacle of pecuniary perfection, the Brown Gorgon himself, has decried us in terms that sound as if he really believes we actually still care what he thinks:

"With only days to go before Copenhagen we mustn't be distracted by the behind-the-times, anti-science, flat-earth climate sceptics," Brown told the Guardian. "We know the science. We know what we must do. We must now act and close the 5bn-tonne gap. That will seal the deal."

If you question this aspect of science, you are no longer following established scientific procedures, you are of the flat earth persuasion, you are behind the times,.and most of all, by following established scientific procedure you are anti-science. What a clever little Prime Monster we have. He knows science almost as if it were a religious doctrine. He even has a new way to say 'getting on with the job'.

This is ridiculous. If the science is 'settled', why does it need to be defended as if it were some new religion based on the worship of a fifteen foot anchovy constructed from wheat and turkey gizzards? Why not just show us the science?

It is no different - at all - to the methods used by Righteous down the ages. The opponent's view cannot be considered. That view cannot be challenged using reality, therefore the opponent must be discredited. Cry 'heretic' and let slip the dogs of control.

None of this will work now. Not even the next stage, 'climate racist'. It's too late. People are sick of having their opinions simply dismissed and sick of being told not only that they are wrong, but they are evilly wrong, they are stupidly wrong, they are heretically wrong. Not because there is a real argument to prove them wrong but 'because we say so and we know best'.

Moribund and the Gorgon present no scientific argument at all. They don't even try. All they have are insults and accusations.

It's all they have left.
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