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Drugs and the battle for control

Spectator blogger Alex Massie has linked to my post about ASH's Cecilia Farren. He adds:

If only the tobacco industry were as fierce and effective as Ms Farren suggests! The sad truth is that the tobacco lobby has been led dreadfully. First by denying the obvious for so many years (tobacco can be bad for you) and then by falling into the trap of making it seem as though the pub-smoking battle was fought between smokers and abstainers not, as was the case, between individual businesses and an overbearing government. It was a question of property rights as much as anything else.

Full post HERE.

I have some sympathy with this view of the pub-smoking issue. Unfortunately passive smoking became the dominant issue and regardless of the truth tobacco control had the best and most succinct soundbite: 'Passive smoking kills'.

We tried to bring property rights into the debate but it was pushed to one side and the issue ultimately became one of health versus business. Publicans should of course have stood up for property rights but the pubcos and hospitality trade associations had very little to say on the subject. More fool them.

Anyway, in the light of former Labour minister Bob Ainsworth's call for the decriminalisation of drugs, you might be interested in another Massie post.

On Tuesday he wrote:

The Drug Warriors appreciate the importance of everyday, uncontroversial use of drugs. That's why anti-smoking zealots and harpies want to "denormalise" tobacco use. It's time, therefore, to include tobacco in the Drug War discussion. My guess is that in 10 to 15 years time there will be, if current trends persist, a serious discussion about tobacco prohibition. The battle for minds and lungs is already joined and The Outlaw, Michael Heath's great cartoon strip in this magazine, was prophecy as much as it was satire. Alas.

In the end, the mind-set is the same: it's a battle for control. In this respect and this instance, the present British government is no more liberal than its authoritarian predecessors. Sometimes it uses a big stick, other times it just wants to "nudge" you in the correct direction but always it favours coercion over freedom and your ability to make your own informed choices. That's true whether you're talking about alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, ecstasy or any other stimulant.


Reader Comments (22)

Hi Simon,

Unfortunately, when this kicked off "health" was the trump card and still is today and lobby groups get away with murder when something comes under the health banner. Add to this both the previous government and this one think "public health" is a real thing and that it's their responsibility and you have a no-win scenario for anyone fighting from the "unhealthy" camp, be that tobacco, alcohol or purveyors of unhealthy foods.
I don't think this will change until two things happen; the healthy industry falls into disrepute, which IMO is only a matter of time (at the moment pharma companies are protrayed as noble institutions fighting for your health rather than greddy corporations no different from any others) and when the price for government mandated good public health becomes too high, which it will do in a miriad of ways;
Intrusive legislation that people find unacceptable
People having to buy bootlegs goods as the high stret prices have been taxed out the market
Questions over NHS primary care failings yet billions being spent on smoking cessions/alcohol awareness/obesity clinics
Although banning tobacco would be a good start. Banning something doesn't make it go away and if the police struggle with the war on drugs then it's going to fail miserably with a war on tobacco - but I don't think it'd go that way. Any party that banned tobacco would be consigning its self to the opposition benches for several elections to come.
It will eventually rubber band, but the loner this goes on for the more painful the eventual backlash will be.

December 16, 2010 at 9:57 | Unregistered CommenterRTS

I think to give tobacco prohibition as an illegal product 10 - 15 years is overstating. It will happen in the life of the next parliament if we get the LibLabCon back.

They don't realise how unpopular they are making themselves with this issue. They are blind so more fool them. They will lose out as a result.

December 16, 2010 at 11:41 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

"when this kicked off "health" was the trump card.................."

RTS is bang on target there - and rather justifies all those references to the Third Reich (don't groan, now) in which the Health of the Nation (and its warriors) was considered the Highest Good. It is precisely at this point that the Unthinking Many, having agreed with the proposition, tend to put their brains back in their box. But it is also precisely at this point that the Thinking Few tend to ask: "Yes - but at what cost ?"

As I heard a woman reasonably point out last week on 'Farming Today' - in the context of cattle welfare - the notion of 'Welfare' includes not only that of 'Health', but also that of HAPPINESS: not much point in the cows' having perfect muscle tone in the 28 zillion-to-the-hectare agri-unit, if they're also rather miserable with it.

Perhaps - Human Animals being at least as vital as Cattle to The Big Society - David Cameron should be reminded (esp in view of his quest to Guage the Happiness of the Nation) that Happiness is not only a VITAL ingredient of Welfare, but also of Health itself. Since when were depression, social isolation, and a carefully-nurtured feeling of alienation and unworthiness 'good' or 'healthy' ?

I WOULD also mention Freedom - but that is clearly too esoteric a concept to grasp for those who seek to 'structure' society as though it were some sort of Meccano kit.

To amend the Ban would - at a stroke - make MILLIONS happier, whilst having a negiligible impact upon their health. In fact, on balance it would probably make Society healthier, too. The mortification of Deborah Arnott is, perhaps, a price most of us would not mind paying.

Go figure, Mr Cameron.................................

(And on the subject of 'Happiness', I DON'T mean putting - as some Loony Scientists now suggest - Lithium into the water supply, thank you very much).

December 16, 2010 at 13:18 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

Martin said "RTS is bang on target there - and rather justifies all those references to the Third Reich (don't groan, now) in which the Health of the Nation (and its warriors) was considered the Highest Good".

Yes, we all know Simon doesn't like references to the Nazis, but what are you supposed to do when it is true?

Last night I watched an old episode of Colditz that I had recorded. In it there is a particularly nasty SS Officer, who was trying to get out of the camp before the Allies got there (end of war) He was confronted by two German guards, and in order to take the onus of himself, he decided to reprimand them.

Can you guess what he reprimanded them with? I reckon you have probably got it by now....He shouted at them, asking "Have you been smoking? I can smell it on your breath".

Yes, I know this is only a TV series, but as we all know it was based very closely on the truth, and as we also know, Hitler and his elite hated smoking. The ordinary Germans didn't mind it, some smoked, some didn't, but isn't it strange that the most evil, were, or should that be "are" those who wish to suppress the freedom of others, the anti-smokers?

December 16, 2010 at 13:47 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

Questions and answers.
Q.How many drug users are there in the UK ?
A.Don't know.
Q.What quantity of drugs arrives on UK shores every year ?
A.Don't know.
Q.What are the full social effects of drugs on UK society bearing in mind a possibility of a majority of drug users may otherwise be law abiding ?
A.Don't know.
Q.What is the full total income recieved from the sale of illegal drugs in the UK ?
A.Don't know.

I'm sure we could all think of more questions if required.

Anyone who thinks they can answer all these questions correctly is either misinformed or lying.

That's the problem with prohibition ,it hides the facts.

December 16, 2010 at 14:11 | Unregistered CommenterCW

I agree with Massies point that even if the "war on drugs" worked it would still be wrong. What people do with their own bodies is their business
and the state has absolutely no business kicking down the doors of peoples houses to stop them. It's just plain wrong.

December 16, 2010 at 15:23 | Unregistered CommenterFredrik Eich

Not a single pub can be allowed to permit smoking, even though it would be packed to the rafters and fully staffed by smokers? Not even a single bloody one?

The wilful and wanton destruction of so many small businesses which once provided a warm refuge for everyday people to socialize, who happened to smoke in the hardest economic times most have seen in their lifetimes, nothing to be concerned about. The economy had little to do with the swan dive of the traditional pub. Only a fool would even consider buying any of that load.

What an amazing job of brainwashing. The anti-smoking zealot must be admired for their willingness to sacrifice all for the most insidious of lies. You can't easily fake that level of religious devotion to pure sociopathy. And it is the smoker who is the anti-social? Absolute nonsense.

Edward Bernays must be applauding loudly from his grave. He knew he was onto something with that whole public relations concept -- what with helping out the common man by eliminating his agony of choice. But the power of public relations over rationality in this age long past the age of reason, is utterly devastating.

We have never been a freer people. This chain is mine.

What about you, Belgium?

December 16, 2010 at 17:13 | Unregistered CommenterDr. Brian Oblivion

RTS nails it at the start.

There is no such thing as "public health." There is only individual health. I have no desire to serve a thing or to be somehow have lesser rights than a fictional construct.

I have long supported the decriminalisation of drugs due to the obvious failure of prohibition in general and the war on drugs in particular, but I don't expect to see that happen in my lifetime. The world should have begun moving in that direction decades ago.

Next time around it would be more helpful if people were made aware of propaganda techniques and how to recognize them. That the public is so easily nudged by misinformation without resistance is very dangerous, given recent history.

December 16, 2010 at 17:40 | Unregistered CommenterDr. Brian Oblivion

Yes - we should be concentrating on decriminalising law abiding drug users rather than criminalising law abiding tobacco consumers.

December 16, 2010 at 17:57 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

It is always about control.

I was saying thirty years ago that once smokers had been reduced to the social status of lepers the control freaks would start on alcohol. Already we are seeing that steady drip drip of disinformation, misnformation and the constant justification of "it's for your own good." And as the balance tilts in their favour on alcohol they are starting on meat.

What will be next I wonder? Chips? Sugar? Coffee - oh yeah, over in the godd ol' US of A (California, where else) there are people already campaigning against coffee.

December 16, 2010 at 19:29 | Unregistered CommenterIan R Thorpe

Pat -

Neatly put. Very.....................

Dr Brian -

" if people were made aware of propaganda techniques and how to recognize them.."

The ONLY place you can guarantee that 'people' will learn anything (if then) is SCHOOL. Begin to teach children Official History versus Real History, some basic Psychology (inc Mass Psychology and its manipulation), and the structure and method of Social and Geopolitical Control, and you will have made a good start in creating a truly Free Society. When THAT happens, we can REALLY make some 'progress'.............................all of us.

The Smoking Ban, '9/11', and the Global Warming Myth could turn out to be the biggest mistakes They ever made.

December 16, 2010 at 20:03 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

Agreed Martin. I'm painfully aware that a general recognition of propaganda is a tad idealistic to say the least. I'm not at all confident that schooling encourages critical thinking (a side issue). But I agree with your elaboration.

Control is clearly what's being sought here, 'friendly' euphemisms about nudging aside. People tend to be more receptive to giving everything away when fear and economic instability are close at hand. I hope those conditions don't somehow arise. Hmmm. How much darker before the dawn?

December 16, 2010 at 21:18 | Unregistered CommenterDr. Brian Oblivion

So what is taught in PHSE? Teachernet gives us the lowdown.

Citizenship at Key Stages 1 and 2;
Drugs, Alcohol and Tobacco;
Emotional Health and Wellbeing;
Nutrition and Physical Activity;
Personal Finance;
Sex and Relationship Education.

The above is a sample curriculum from Teachernet. It is described as PHSE (Personal Health and Social Education) but comes under the general heading of 'citizenship'. That is now being taught in PRIMARY schools! The 'Healthists' (including tobacco control) are already in there. The brainwashing and propaganda is already in full swing. Of course, it would be self-defeating to teach children about brainwashing and propaganda. Such thoughts would not be in the best interests of politicians. They do not want children to know about their methods.

December 16, 2010 at 21:59 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Dr Brian -

"I'm not at all confident that schooling encourages critical thinking (a side issue)."

In fact, since the days of John Dewey (famed educationist - and a thoroughgoing bastard in my estimation), state schooling has contrived to make children anything BUT 'critical'. For him and his followers (to this day), the primary aim of 'education' was the robotisation ('socialisation') of children, and the inculcation of a specific set of 'values' that would make the population at large ready to embrace the concept of Gobal Governance. So opposed to critical thinking was he, in fact, that he referred to the practice of teaching (as an academic priority) children in the first three years of their schooling the art of writing and reading as a 'PERVERSION'.

That was back in the 1890s. We can see the fruits of such a philosophy all around us today (despite all those 'record numbers' of A Graders we hear of every Autumn). There are many strands to this Gordian Knot of collectivist indoctrination - and it'll take someone with the vision and courage of an Alexander to slice through it, if future generations are to be freed from the mental serfdom into which they have been sold, and allowed to discover and develop their gifts as Individuals in Society, rather than function merely as Drones in a Hive.

December 17, 2010 at 0:01 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

Junican -

Your interesting list confirms my view that the State now sees ITSELF as the Model Parent. Accordingly, children's loyalties will have to be re-arranged. If only it weren't for all those irritatingly concerned biological parents - the ones who stupidly assume that 'their' children are primarily THEIR concern. Let us hope that Heredity can still trump Bureaucracy. For now....................

December 17, 2010 at 10:34 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

I blame the Blair Babes for jumping on the EU 'public health' band wagon.
When the immigration flood gates opened all over Europe there were plenty of people to do the 'menial' jobs and in the midst of all this upheavel the Psychological Industry was born.
Now better known as the Quangos for the purpose of brainwashing the working bees into believing that Health and Safety is there for our own good.
And what a cash cow that has turned out to be, creating jobs for the boys, in schools, governments even high flying positions in the EU parliament and millions of white coller jobs all over europe.

December 17, 2010 at 10:39 | Unregistered Commenterann

And while atrocities continue in Palestine, and an inhumane war that can't be won in Afghanistan and Iraq, and children are being blown to bits by British and US bombs, and Britain sanctions torture - the EU is spending our cash and far too much time holding debates about whether models should be fatter. I simply despair at how far wrong our priorities are :(

December 17, 2010 at 15:03 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Pat -

If the peoples around the World don't wake up now - they never will. Nonetheless, I DO detect a slight glimmer of hope. Humanity at the Crossroads ? Could well be...............

December 17, 2010 at 15:46 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

Merry Christmas Pat! I'll smoke to that.

December 17, 2010 at 15:50 | Unregistered CommenterDr. Brian Oblivion

Same to you Dr Brian and everyone else on here plus the tolerant people of this once great free nation and the MPs who are trying to help us. I guess their heads must hurt from banging against the wall constantly.

Let's hope next year brings some common sense and a little bit of relief from the health fascists' oppression

December 17, 2010 at 18:17 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Martin V, Dr O and Junican (and anyone else who's interested!)

You may already have seen this (I’ve only just discovered it, so apologies for being late off the mark if you’ve all watched it ages ago!), but it’s a fascinatingly refreshing view of the way our current education system is, compared to how the speaker thinks the it should be. Absolutely fascinating and wonderful to watch. There is, of course, much doubt as to whether those who currently control the education system (who think, of course, that because they run it, it’s perfect) would have the courage to take on board the notion that there might be another way of doing things, but it is nevertheless encouraging to know that there are at least some senior figures in the world of education who are brave and honest enough to accept that in order to succeed, the whole principles behind the running of our education system need to change.

I’m not very good at posting links, so you might have to copy and paste this,

Or, if that doesn’t work, type in a search on the YouTube site for “changing education paradigms” and you’ll find it under the RSAnimate series.


December 17, 2010 at 20:26 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

Very interesting. Thanks for pointing that out, Misty.

There certainly are signs of a crossroads, and plenty of authoritarian nudges in the wrong direction, propaganda seems pervasive. Are we headed towards a darker age, one which the public seems directed torwards, or is an awakening and realignment on the horizon. I remain skeptical, but hopeful.

December 18, 2010 at 2:43 | Unregistered CommenterDr. Brian Oblivion

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