That’s a question that I’ve been asking myself a lot lately.
The knocks and abuse you get as a smoker is bad enough but when you get knocks and abuse from those that claim to “understand” how you feel, or empathise with your feeling of isolation, or even feel the same way, then it simply makes me want to throw in the towel, emigrate, and think “fuck you all. I’ve had enough”.
As a lifelong smoker born into an age or generation where smoking was perceived differently, I feel differently. I worried when the first anti-smoking ad came out in the 1970s that personally attacked women who smoked as “disgusting and smelly”. I was completely alarmed when I first read about “passive smoking” and saw how it would be used against us. But I was even more concerned that I never heard the other side. No one was sticking up for us because they did not fear that which wasn’t true.
In the 1980s, I recall telling off a fellow smoker for throwing a fag end down. He laughed and said it was biodegradeable so what was the problem. I replied that one day we would be banned from smoking everywhere and that sort of action would be used against us. He laughed even harder and well he might because although the media, particularly, liked the idea of passive smoking the anti-smoking industry could not get a free thinking generation of politicians to accept their junk “scientific” studies. I always blew a sigh of relief at that but still it niggled me that one day things would get a lot worse for those of us who started in childhood and had a different cultural view of smoking.
“Cultural view”? Yes. I can’t explain it but how does one define a “cultural feeling”? Perhaps evidence of that can be found in smoking fetishism. I never knew such sexual culture existed around smoking but it does. Is that not evidence that smoking is cultural to some people? And what about those Native Americans whose forefathers discovered tobacco and it’s use has descended through generations? Is that not cultural?
Anyway, I digress slightly.
When Nulabour got into Govt, I noticed the anti-smoking hype increase. That was when I first started to notice job ads for “non-smokers only”, houses to rent for “non-smokers only”, and second hand cars being bought from “non-smokers only.” I also got some comfort that most “non-smokers” I talked to at the time felt this was completely wrong because “smokers” could refrain from smoking in all of the above.
At the end of the 1990s, the first smoke ban ever was brought to my newspaper office with a young and trendy new editor. Was it because, as I always argued that it should be, because the place was so littered with mounds and reams of paperwork that it was an obvious fire hazzard? No. Because some of the new, young and trendy reporters he bought with him didn’t like the smell. The company used a handy excuse given in law from NuLab and pushed by the anti-smoking industry under Health and Safety at work laws on SHS.
The court I covered banned it a year later – despite the fact that the majority of people who used that court on a regular basis were smokers from the underclass. When I asked the head bod why, he simply said “because everyone else has and we brought ourselves into line with what they are doing.” OK. He agreed with me that it was wrong to discriminate against smokers from employment though. Shame our last Govt did not and our present Govt doesn’t care to ensure protection for people who are either “cultural smokers” or who simply choose not to quit because they enjoy smoking tobacco. To suggest that we couldn’t get through a day’s work without a fag is insulting.
The court now chases smokers away from the outside grounds which enables them to lay failing to surrender charges on those smokers who miss their names being called, and come upstairs late, because they were outside having a fag and the usher couldn’t find them.
From the end of the 90s to 2007, I waged a one-woman campaign not knowing of any particular organisation that spoke for us I wrote to my local paper often and I wrote to my local council. I never felt Merron my MP would listen. She has proved since that she would not have. I found Forest, before Simon Clark was director. Whoever was in charge then was pretty apathetic and didn’t see any reason for concern. What ever was happening would never lead to a total, blanket, public smoking ban in those places where we spend our leisure time. OK.
Those of us who maintain we ARE cultural smokers say we should be treated as a lifestyle minority and given some space of acceptance in the world. We will never quit no matter what is done to us. My fear now, based on 42 years of watching myself become perceived as a “smelly, selfish, poisonous, child abusing, suicidal, serial killer”, is that all that waits in line for me and my kind next is criminalisation because we refuse to quit and yet when I suggest it, someone over at Taking Liberties thinks I need to have a lie down. OK.
It seems to me that the current Govt under Nick Clegg has made it abundantly clear that we simply don’t matter. Meanwhile, because they haven’t yet criminalised us, the antis are using all of their power and money to heave pressure on the new administration “to do something” as if enough hasn’t been done to us already. Hence the further invention of a new threat THS.
If the readers of Taking Liberties can’t see what the future holds for smokers, and don’t fear it, then maybe that is because they are simply people who smoke and why should the smoking issue matter at all? Whatever “group” we hold ourselves in, we are all in it together.
First and foremost we should not be slagging each other off on these public blogs and forums but sharing and distributing the weapons in our armoury. Whether that be to argue that as a “minority group” – which we undoubtedly are because we are few – we deserve some tolerance and space, or whether it is attacking those political parties that are ignoring us and treating us, frankly, worse than lepers, we should be doing something together and in a united way. If we do not, then please tell me why should I, Simon Clark, Dick Puddlecote, F2C, TICAP and all their scientific advisers, bother with this fight at all?
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