Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Smoke and Mirrors


This column might cost me a few readers.

I remember the days when I could go to a restaurant or a coffee shop for lunch, and have a smoke after my meal. I remember being able to smoke on the job. I remember flying and asking reservations for a smoking seat. And in a restaurant where I planned to spend more time than usual, asking for the smoking section.

Then, in 1988 Northwest Airlines ran an ad on TV in which the voice over announced that there would be no more smoking on its flights.

Following that, the hammer began to drop, all over the country. Airline after airline abolished smoking sections. State after state began to ban smoking in offices, restaurants, coffee shops, theaters, and even in pool halls. And then outside of buildings where smokers congregated but were banned because passersby might drop dead or have a crashing headache from the second-hand smoke. Before you knew it, many restaurants and other “public places” began to close; I remember so many places in Williamsburg and Newport News where I could repair for lunch or a meal and a smoke. But they’ve all disappeared or knuckled under the no-smoking laws. Ashtrays on tables and counters vanished.

One of my favorite places was the bar of The Polo Club on Jamestown Road. I went by there after out-going governor Tim Kaine (Hillary’s running mate) signed a law banning all such smoking in Virginia in a spate of virtue-signaling. I saw patrons standing outside because they could no longer smoke in the bar. The last time I checked the place had been gutted to a bare floor; a sign on the window said that an exercise salon was going to take the restaurant’s place.

The smoking bans effectively, and in fact, seized private property to benefit one group and prohibited what it deemed to be “public health” practices. What for? For an influential group and lobby that wanted smoking banned so that it could go wherever it wanted, so that “sensitive” non-smokers could avail themselves of private property that already existed, instead of having to start their own non-smoking venues. 

It was a continuation of the Progressive campaign to force everyone to conform to the “public good” in terms of health concerns. It was the authoritarian desire to rob people of something they enjoyed. It is a manifestation of hatchet-wielding Carry Nation and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and their violent campaigns against bars and alcohol.

One reader’s comment on Reddit noted:

American tobacco companies put up to 599 extra ingredients into their cigarettes. So instead of burning just tobacco, paper and a burning agent (in the paper,) you are combusting a huge variety of chemicals, many of which are not approved for ingestion after combustion. Here are just the first several additives off of Wikipedia list of all 599: Acetanisole, Acetic acid, Acetoin, Acetophenone, 6-Acetoxydihydrotheaspirane, 2-Acetyl-3-Ethylpyrazine, 2-Acetyl, 5-Methylfuran, Acetylpyrazine, 2-Acetylpyridine, 3-Acetylpyridine, 2-Acetylthiazole, etc.

American Spirit cigarettes have 0 added ingredients. It's just tobacco, paper and a burning agent in the paper.

….I also notice when I see a cigarette in a movie, 9 times out of 10 it is an American Spirit. My guess is they have actors smoke that brand for the same reason: so it does not provoke a negative reaction in the film crew. Of course, I have no proof of this. It's just a guess.

Anti-smokers, who are, as a rule, against Columbus Day and claim that North American Indians were peace-loving people “victimized” by the European “invasion” of the continent, tend to overlook the fact that American Indians (the vaunted “indigenous peoples) introduced Europeans to smoking and tobacco. In England, King James, however, as rabid an anti-tobacco zealot as was Adolf Hitler, collected lots of revenue from the Virginia tobacco trade. Hitler also collected personal revenue from the trade in Germany, as well as from sales of Mein Kampf, and had cigarettes sold on the streets.

In fact, during the French and Indian War, Britain had a special arrangement with France, to export tobacco uninterrupted to France, which also benefited from the sales revenue. Tobacco from the colonies, especially from Virginia, had to “land” in Britain before going anywhere else. Mandatory shipment of all colonial produce to Britain was a fetter that tied the colonies to mercantilism, which was a contributing factor to the American Revolution.

The 17th century saw the organization of the tobacco trade and the implementation of new laws regulating the sale of tobacco. In 1614 Spain proclaimed Seville the tobacco capital of the world. All tobacco produced for sale in New Spain had to first go through Seville before moving on to the rest of Europe. France and England passed analogous laws. King James I of England was the first to tax tobacco while King Louis XIV was the first to make its distribution and sale a state run monopoly. Laws restricting the cultivation of tobacco to the Americas were passed during the second half of the 1600’s in an effort to insure a steady high quality supply. During this time period the Tionontati, an Indian tribe located in what is today south-eastern Canada, produced tobacco for sale in Europe and were known by the French as the tobacco people.


From Sparrowhawk, Book Three, p. 5 on the tobacco trade during the French and Indian War: (1754-1763):

Neither did the war affect Virginians much in the purse. The colony’s chief export, and the basis of its prosperity, was tobacco. While French and British navies and privateers preyed on each other’s sea commerce, British merchantmen were able to sail regularly, under a flag of truce, to French ports with cargoes of tobacco bought by the Farmers General of the Revenue, the French state tobacco monopoly, and the largest single buyer on the world market.  Both Crowns needed the revenue generated by that trade in order to prosecute the war.  The same concordia discors had been in effect during King George’s war, or the War of the Austrian Succession.

The rationale behind banning smoking in “public places” is that they are open to the public and anyone may enter them with the right to not encounter smoke or even second-hand smoke, as it may give them headaches or detract from the enjoyment of his meal. The subject of “public places” is dealt with in the second half of Sparrowhawk, Book Two, when members of the Society of the Pippin, a group of “freethinkers,” are arrested in a “public place” in London, and put on trial for uttering “blasphemous” words against the King during a private meeting. The judge trying them, Sir Bevil Grainger, delivers his finding (pp. 353-4):

“Gentlemen of the jury: I recommend that the accused, named Robert Meservey, Beverly Brashears, Peter Brompton, Daniel Sweeney, and Jacob Mendoza, members of a private club styled the Society of the Pippin, be on this day indicted for fractious and odious calumnies against His Majesty, George Rex the Third, our king and sovereign of his dominions, against our most perfect Church, and against the general and tranquil civil order of His Majesty’s dominions, calumnies uttered in a public place known as the Fruit Wench in this city  of  London, or the county of Middlesex, on any and all dates noted in their own recorded proceedings together with those noted in affidavits assembled by agents of the Crown.”

Grainger paused to catch his breath, then continued “—assailing and aspersing the veracity of Christianity and the Scriptures, the moral foundation of the nation, in such a quantity of statements, and in such evil terms, that to read them in this court would simply be to repeat the offense; and inadvertently, by the accused’s hands, or by the hand of an unknown party – it matters not which – making known these libels and blasphemies to the public by their utterance in a public place and by dissemination of them on posters put up in public places, consequently tending and intending to incite public dissatisfaction and a breach of the public peace.”

Little did I foresee, when I wrote Grainger’s deliberations at the turn of the century, that years later people could be sued, charged, and punished or censored for uttering “blasphemous” words on private venues against Islam. While censoring, or punishing people for “defaming” Islam is not the same as banning smoking on private property, the two actions share the same common root: a desire to control people’s actions by the state and to impose an arbitrary, unquestioning uniformity, by force or by crook. Americans have become inured to the bans, conditioned to them, so to speak, and think little of them now. Islam frowns on smoking and wages the same kind of propaganda war against it as the federal government wages.

ThoughtCo notes:

In more recent times, as the dangers of tobacco use have been proven beyond any doubt, Islamic scholars have become unanimous in pronouncing that tobacco use is clearly haram (forbidden) to believers. They now use the strongest possible terms to condemn this habit. Here is a clear example:

In view of the harm caused by tobacco, growing, trading in and smoking of tobacco are judged to be haram (forbidden). The Prophet, peace be upon him, is reported to have said, 'Do not harm yourselves or others.' Furthermore, tobacco is unwholesome, and God says in the Qur'an that the Prophet, peace be upon him, 'enjoins upon them that which is good and pure, and forbids them that which is unwholesome. (Permanent Committee of Academic Research and Fatwa, Saudi Arabia). (Ayah a-A ‘raf 715)

The reasons Islamic scholars give to argue against smoking do not differ in substance from those offered by the government or by secularists. “Proven beyond a doubt”? Islam is not famous for its medical advice; i.e., female genital mutilation and drinking camel urine. Smoking is a private pleasure, and a private pleasure is discouraged by Islam because it does not wholly please Allah; one lives for Allah’s happiness and pleasure, and for nothing else.

All the heroes of my novels smoke.

I was not too surprised to read the short warning in the credits at the end of my DVD of The Darkest Hour that the film was not an endorsement of smoking (Churchill smoked his cigar virtually through the whole movie). I was not surprised either when the cigarette was air brushed from Humphrey Bogart’s stamp.

On the other hand –  Peace be upon the State?

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