Joe Jackson (featured, above, on a Forest poster) has responded to my previous post about the journalist who asked me whether I should be doing something "more worthwhile" with my life. Joe writes:
Simon, you are indeed doing something very worthwhile, but I would like to offer a lone voice of qualified support or at least understanding, to the lady journalist in question.
I, like you and many others, am angry about many things the antismoking movement has accomplished: trampling on property rights, bullying and stigmatising people, causing social division, ruining businesses, etc etc. But the thing is, I would not feel nearly so strongly if I did not fundamentally believe that the risks of smoking are greatly exaggerated and the risks of SHS are non-existent. The trouble is, many, even most, people believe those things, and they can't entirely be blamed; they want to believe the 'experts' and the 'authorities' whose business it is to 'know'. And from their point of view, it is hard to understand why some of us are wasting energy making such a fuss about some supposed 'right' to poison ourselves and others with a toxic substance.
People DO care about civil liberties, etc, but not so much compared to dying of lung cancer. I'm not telling you anything you don't know, but I think sometimes it's good to remind ourselves of the real nature and magnitude of what we're up against. The problem is not that people don't grasp the various libertarian or business issues, it's that they feel fundamentally that Smoking=Death. Thus it can't really be defended even if 'our' side does have some valid points in theory.
That is why, although I will be the first to applaud if, for instance we get the UK ban amended to allow smoking rooms, I don't think we are ever going to start really turning the tide until something can be done to change this perception. How it's to be done, I only wish I knew. I remain baffled, for instance, that the myth of SHS is allowed to continue to flourish without meaningful protest from anyone with serious money or clout. Can't something be done about this latest piece of fiction about SHS from the WHO? Can't we, Forest, F2C, etc, pool our resources and send a petition to the government asking them to stop indulging such nonsense, since it is bringing science and medicine into disrepute? It might not change anything but at least it would demonstrate that people are waking up to the fraud. OK, I wish I had a better idea - does anyone else?
Download The Smoking Issue by Joe Jackson (2005).