Friday, 4 November 2011

Season of hate

I generally have zero interest in what random people choose to type beneath the line of news stories on the internet, but a couple of articles this week made me think that the intellectual climate is darkening at a worrying rate.

Take this item from the Winnipeg Free Press about an unfortunate woman who nearly froze to death after being locked outside a hospital.

It was a bitter winter night, -30 C, in December 2000, when a 54-year-old hospital patient slipped outside Seven Oaks Hospital in her hospital gown, pulling her intravenous pole behind her.

She wanted a smoke.

An hour later, she was found comatose in a snowbank. The woman had suffered hypothermia and frostbite to her hands and feet. Four fingers on her right hand had to be amputated. She was left with limited mobility in her left hand.

The door had locked automatically behind the patient and she couldn't find a way back in. 

It's hard not to feel sorry for a lady who had a near-death experience and suffered multiple amputations.

Or so you might think. In fact, the mental image of a woman having a cigarette alone in arctic temperatures unleashed a river of bile in the comments section.

Shouldn't be smoking in the first place. Maybe a little cold made the lady realize that smoking is not healthy for you and neither is hanging out in the cold in a hospital gown.

This is a disgusting, filthy habit, and for people who are already in the hospital for a smoking-related illness wanting to go outside and smoke some more is just sickening. It's one thing not to be concerned for your own health - that's your perogative, but don't put the other patients & children with weakened immune systems in the way of second hand smoke. There are hundreds of other places to smoke, and a hospital or the hospital grounds definetely should not be one. Take a walk down the street, across from the hospital to inhale your death stick. If you can drag yourself out of bed, with your IV pole and grown, down the elevators outside, then you can take a few extra steps to move away from the building. Yes, even if it's -40. It won't kill you. Or maybe it will.

It's a dirty blue collar habit. And as for the stereotype - it need only be confirmed by the appearance of them in mass aroud the door of a building in the winter.

Absolutely zero sympathy for anyone who defies a doctor's caution to stop smoking and gets lung cancer. In fact, they should be refused any treatment whatsoever.


And how about this light-hearted little item in The Economist, in which a journalist notices that many airports around the world manage to accommodate smokers in some small way without inconveniencing other passengers.

Yes, smoking is bad for you. But if you are a smoker, a civilised cigarette makes all the difference between being an irritable passenger itching to burst out of the terminal doors and a calm, considerate sort who makes room for his fellow travellers.

... Smokers don’t ask much. Put a designated smoking zone in the shoddiest corner of the terminal and they will trek to it, thanking the authorities with every carcinogenic breath. It would make economic sense too: Heathrow worries about losing its place as Europe’s foremost hub for international air traffic now that plans for the airport’s expansion have been shelved. But why waste money on a third runway when you can build a little smoking room and watch travellers flood in?

This is very moderate and unassuming stuff. The risks of smoking are acknowledged and all that is being asked for is "the shoddiest corner". Will the readers of this article respond with similar  bonhomie and tolerance? They will not.

Smoking is a filthy habit that should be discouraged, not encouraged. "Kissing a smoker is like licking a full ashtray". I don't want to sit next to a passenger who has been chain smoking, whose head and arm hair and clothes stink of stale smoke, whose yellowed teeth exhale nicotine air in my ambiance as s/he coughs his lungs up. Not to mention the cost to clean up smoking lounge draperies, fabric chairs, carpet. Because smoking kills the olfactories, smokers have no idea how badly they smell and they cannot taste food. Get a life, save money, and quit!

Having someone who has recently been smoking sit next to you on a flight is almost as bad as having them smoking there. The stench of cigarette smoke hangs in that persons hair, clothing and (if you are close enough) breath for a very long time. Let's keep it as far away as possible. Those demeaning goldfish-bowl smoking rooms are one of the saddest sights I've ever seen at an airport. Do these people know just how ridiculous they look?

If I am going to sit next to someone on a nine hour flight I don't want them stinking of fag ash. I don't mind if people smoke in special smoking rooms as long as they are required to shower and change into fresh clothes immediately afterwards.

Why not facilities for other drug addicts whilst one is about it? Of course the rest of us do not wish to be in the plane with smelly smokers, let alone drug-addicted pilots, so we are looking at complete segregation here....

Remember how in the very recent past, tobaccophobes insisted that they were not against people smoking per se, they just didn't want people to do it around them. Now, it seems, their sensitive noses need protecting to such an extent that the mere presence of someone who smoked several hours ago is enough to stir their righteous indignation. In the first story, we see a woman who has done everything that is demanded of her by braving sub-zero temperatures so that not a wisp of smoke goes up the delicate nostrils of fellow Canadians and yet all that can be said of her is that it is a shame she survived.

Finding anonymous half-mad obsessives spouting drivel on the internet is the easiest task in the galaxy, of course. It is always possible that a handful of loons scour the search engines for any mention of their bête noire to make sure their peculiar voices are heard. And yet, there is something in the sheer hatefulness—and quantity—of these comments that suggests that the policy of 'denormalisation' is producing fruit.

This is the inevitable result of the state-sanctioned stigmatisation that the anti-smoking movement has been working towards for twenty years. The public health establishment might distance itself from such sentiments but when even the NHS produces adverts like the one below, they must take some responsibility for lighting the blue touch paper.

Governments have a responsibility to quell tensions and defuse conflict in society. In no other area of life does government deliberately create and inflame hostility. Like so many other failed tobacco control policies, the doctrine of denormalisation is counter-productive and damaging because it is the brain-child of a small group of emotional zealots, some of whom are operating at a sub-optimal level of mental health themselves. It's time for the government to put the tobacco control freaks behind them and chart a new course before things get really nasty.


Leg-iron said...

Let it get nasty. Smokers can be nasty too. If they want to believe they'll die just because I pass them in the street, I am happy to encourage that belief. Let them believe it all, it can be fun from our side, you know.

Have you tried telling them about the third hand smoke their cat brings in on its paws every morning? It must have stepped in cigarette ash, the antis say the streets are covered in it. Have you told them they must dip their shoes in disinfectant before entering their homes and soak all external clothes in bleach for at least twelve hours or they'll have more toxins than a smoker's house and their children will become addicts?

The stupidity of these people knows no bounds and it's wonderful. I can torment idiots with not a twinge of conscience because they aren't worth keeping anyway.

You know, I take the line of 'antismoker' when talking to them because they don't know I smoke. I now smoke rough homegrown and if you're frying bacon three streets away I'll find you, but the antis can't find me. I don't smell of tobacco because I use ancient magical tricks like 'washing'.

It really is fantastic. If you don't reek like a pipe-smoker who has worn the same tweed jacket for forty years, they can't spot you. The hype 'all smokers stink' makes it easy to play with them.

Online all you need is another name and a basic understanding of what they want to hear and you can scare them shitless.

They are never going to stop, they are never going to change and they are filled with nothing but spite and malice. They are also supremely gullible. I reccommend tormenting them. Might as well enjoy ourselves.

As to the ad, well, no nonsmoker would go near that woman? That's eighty percent of the competition wiped out at a stroke. I'm fine with that.

C.A.G.E. said...

I wouldn't worry too much about it Chris. These can't possibly be common ordinary citizens. I refuse to believe it, even in anti-smoke frenzy territory such as Canada!

Nah, this is who they are:

Iro Cyr

Belinda said...

If the smell is so obvious, why need any doctor ask 'Are you a smoker?'

Frank said...

I take some convincing that those comments are from the general public. I know some can be bitter and twisted but not generally.

Mr A said...

Indeed, I work at a University and work 1-to-1 with students which obviously necessitates sitting very close to them as we go over their work. I have lost track of the number of them who eventually see me in the (sole) smoking area outside and then say, "Oh, I didn't know you were a smoker!"

Conversely, I have some students who, having realised I'm a smoker then say, "Oh, I smoke too, and I'm usually gagging for one by the time I see you as I come straight from a lecture. Can we do some of our session in the smoking area?" And similarly, I too have had no idea that they smoked.

As far as "coughing their lungs up" is confirmed, someone should tell these idiots that nicotine has been banned as a performance enhancing drug by the IOC, a quarter of the current England team are confirmed as smokers (Rooney, Crouch, Cole), and there are possibly more. And after 22 years of smoking I have recently started running and I ran 4 miles on my first attempt, despite not having run in over two decades.

The anti-science and scaremongering in this field, despite the evidence of people's own eyes and everyday experience, is staggering.

Kin_Free said...

Empirical research?

I am in agreement with CAGE on this one. While we all know the odd gullible idiot who has fallen strongly for the TC psychological manipulation, I do not believe that the majority of ordinary people would write such bile. There is no doubt that this sort of psychological manipulation works on their conscious / sub-conscious though.

This has been obvious to me for a long time so I tested that theory on an article in the Guardian, june 1st - 4th this year. It is still there, read the comments for details :-

I was able to comment early, on 1st June, with the challenge then again on 3rd june disclosing my intentions, comments were close over 24 hours later. There were 143 comments; around 40 posters were supportive of tobacco control on this comments board, some posting more than one comment but only ONE responded to my challenge to deny any affiliations with ‘tobacco control’.

This is strongly suggestive that the overwhelming majority of commentators supporting the tobacco control agenda ARE employed in some way with the tobacco control movement but intent on deceiving the public that they are just an average man in the street.

Remember they view this as a war and they will resort to an tactic to win !

Mr A said...

"confirmed" - "concerned."

Magnetic said...

Another government-sponsored harmony-fest:

So, why stupid? It's simple. We all have a decision to make; to smoke or to not smoke. We're not saying smokers are stupid, and we're not here to insult them, but anyone who is honest knows the facts and takes accountability for their own decisions knows that smoking is a stupid choice.
The anti-tobacco movement was created for youth, by youth. Me. You. All of us. This is OUR movement.

Anonymous said...

West Hollywood, California is set to enact a law protecting smokers from the threat of eviction:

That website is also running a poll asking readers about apartment smoking:

Anonymous said...

"Not to mention the cost to clean up smoking lounge draperies, fabric chairs, carpet."

This person has not been in the smoking cage beyond passport control at Manchester airport.

What would be the likely outcome if advert proclaimed that, "If you eat curry, you stink?" I think it would merit a discussion on Nicky Campbell's phone-in. Whenever I see one of these adverts, I think of Audrey Hepburn. Try as I might, I can't find her repulsive.

Anonymous said...

Mr A, there are moves to get WADA to ban nicotine, but it is not yet banned. A paper recently appeared detailing the performance enhancing effects. Apparently, a high proportion of sportmen and athletes use smokeless tobacco. See

I too find it amusing that the proportion of smokers in the England football team is higher than that in the general population. Also, that at Old Trafford,out of 76,000 people, the only two smoking at a quarter to three on Saturdays are Rooney and Berbatov.

The Apiarist said...

I would rather a smoker sat next to me on a long flight than some of the great unwashed I've had to endure over the years. I still shudder at the thought of one trip to Hong Kong when I was apparently sitting next to someone who hadn't changed their socks for a few months.

"Kissing a smoker is like licking a full ashtray" How do they know? Some folk have strange hobbies.

Anonymous said...

It reminds me of an advertising campaign for deodorant decades ago, designed to foster insecurity in social settings.

"What your best friend won't tell you - B.O."

With everyone paralysed with terror lest they were unknowingly giving offence, I expect it resulted in a huge boost in sales.

Spoken in a confidential whisper if I remember correctly.


C.A.G.E. said...

I blogged about this despicable situation .

Seeing how much traffic you seem to be getting, I would also appreciate, if of course you mostly agree with the CAGE mission and philosophy, to add our address in your bloglist. Thanks.

Iro Cyr

Billy Ross said...

I don't know how often I've been told "Don't smoke in my car" by the same people who sit next to me stinking of petrol after they've stopped to refill the tank.

I've nothing against car-drivers per se, (I'm a smoker who prefers to cycle, but have been known to take the occasional taxi), but the double standard never ceases to amaze me. The smog that hangs thick over our major cities blocking out our much needed sunlight is not caused by smokers. The general smell of a traffic-infested city is not caused by smokers. The gray-black stains which cover the streets and buildings are not caused by smokers.

I really can't comment on the statistics, but I'm pretty sure the amount of car owners of the world outweighs the number of smokers, but here's a little test. Two sealed garages. I'll go in one and chain-smoke. In the other, let's have a condescending non-smoking motorist with his engine running...

Magnetic said...

"Kissing a smoker is like licking a full ashtray”

I don’t know of any smokers that are familiar with “licking a full ashtray”. But it seems that antismokers are highly familiar with this peculiar “licking” adventure, given their constant use of the experience as “a comparison”. I would ask any antismoker making that statement when they first started licking ashtrays, how often they do it, and whether they think there is anything astray - maybe even disturbed - about the practice.

Anonymous said...

" I would ask any antismoker making that statement when they first started licking ashtrays, how often they do it, and whether they think there is anything astray - maybe even disturbed - about the practice."

Thet just get all huffy when you do that. :)

Rather amusing, actually!

Gary K.

Rick S said...

A couple of observations, firstly on the "stink" business: the Daily Fail recently ran a tear-jerking "open letter" from a daughter to her smoking parents about how dreadfully they'd abused her. Apparently the "stink" of smoke on their clothes and their breath was all-pervasive and sickening to her, but what upset her most was when they told her that they'd given up and they actually hadn't - she felt betrayed. Erm, hang on a minute... duh...

The other observation is over the hospital business, and those ghastly correspondents. It was a repeated theme in the comments that any smoker in hospital must be there purely because they smoked, and therefore didn't deserve treatment anyway. Does this mean that it's only non-smokers that ever get genuinely ill to the point of requiring hospital treatment? And if so, why?

Leg-iron said...

Kin_Free - Remember they view this as a war and they will resort to an tactic to win !

Yes, it's a war, and smokers have to realise that. Playing fair and compromising will lose this war. We have to be merciless in using their own tactics against their troops.

Billy Ross - I don't know how often I've been told "Don't smoke in my car" by the same people who sit next to me stinking of petrol after they've stopped to refill the tank.

Years ago, when I had a tatty Astra, someone asked if it was okay to smoke in my car (an odd request given the permanently overflowing ashtray, but polite). I said 'of course, in fact I encourage it to cover the smell of the petrol leaks'.

Yeah, I know, it was cruel but soooo much fun.

Michael J. McFadden said...

Great blog entry and great comments -- except for one as per below. Chris, yep, you should definitely add CAGE in your blog list! Magnetic... LOL! "The Ashtray Lickers Club": Love it! I believe that image developed in the 1980s: I don't recall ever seeing it during the first years of tilting with the hippie-Antis in the 70s.

Now... the one comment I can nit-pick with:

Frank said...
I take some convincing that those comments are from the general public. I know some can be bitter and twisted but not generally.

Frank, either you haven't spent a lot of time on smoking discussion boards or you've somehow managed to defy the usual laws of chance in missing what's out there. If I wanted to take the time to do a compilation I could easily come up with a list of independent posters, posting things as nasty or even far nastier, that would be several hundred times as long as Chris's entry here.


Anonymous said...

"Kissing a smoker is like licking a full ashtray"
Reply no 1: Well then cut the small talk and give me a nosh, Debs :-)
no 2: You've got a knife to your throat and you're complaining about cigarette breath?

I adore my beloved but her breath sometimes reminds me of a vulture's jockstrap. Bad breath is bad breath.

Michael J. McFadden said...

Two things:

1) I don't think the word "full" is usually used here. Google doesn't see it much either.

2) The time progression in five year lumps on google for "like licking an ashtray" is interesting though I don't take it as gospel. First occurrence in 1979 chimes with my memory of it not existing earlier. Occurrences seem a lot lower than they should be in general, but there's a very steady progression from one half decade to the next.

Might be interesting to do a similar charting for the "like peeing in a pool" sound bite although you'd have to account for a lot of variations (pissing, or "in one end of a pool" etc etc)


Angry Exile said...

If the smell is so obvious, why need any doctor ask 'Are you a smoker?'

Gives me an idea for some Leg-iron-ian amusement that sympathetic non-smokers can join in with (well, why should he have all the fun?). If asked if I'm a smoker now I'm going to reply 'Oh, can you smell it on me?' Anyone who says that they can must have the most amazing sense of smell because my last one must have been two or three years ago. No doubt it'll be blamed on these smelly smokers I still hang around with. ;-)

Michael J. McFadden said...

From a poster in California's West Hollywood section this morning:


9:38am on Saturday, November 5, 2011
I am in Paris this week where most people smoke. ... I'm walking Down a narrow crowded Paris sidewalk today, and a 60ish year old broad is dangling her lit cigarette over the small sidewalk, impeeding pedestrian right of way. So I decide if she is going to physically assault me with her smoke, I'll physically assault her first, and a lot harder. So I just barrel into her arm. Naturally she doesn't dare drop that precious nicotine fix, cause she's an addict, but I'm sure my physical assault hurt her good. I just kept walking fast, I didn't bother looking back at the damage. It made me feel good.


ASDS (AntiSmokers' Dysfunction Syndrome) is a real thing... and dangerous.


Anonymous said...

Is it any wonder that the French and Americans don't get on? Hello, smoking is fairly normal in France. If you don't like it, spend your holidays in California, Singapore or, if you a little more adventurous, Bhutan.

Anonymous said...

via today's ASH news. ASH don't say whetherthend to this barbaric treatment of the mentally ill is good or bad.