For a variety of reasons, I haven't added to this blog for a long time. It might be thought that I am less angry than I was, but that is far from the truth. In fact, I don't think I've ever been as angry as I am these days. I'm angry at the government, at the National Health Service, the European Union, the World Health Organisation, the United Nations - and, above all, the international body that was created by - and which now appears to own - all of the foregoing, known as the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. For anyone who doesn't know, this international cabal of interfering busybodies is the modern equivalent of the Spanish Inquisition; an unelected, unaccountable, moralistic, fundamentalist sect that secretly and irresistibly commands governments to rob, vilify, ostracize, segregate, persecute, shame, bully and otherwise make life miserable for one target group - those who choose to smoke.
Why should I be angry about that - for I am not a smoker? Well, I was a smoker, and while thus engaged I was impoverished by the taxes I had to pay to enjoy my habit; taxes that I was told were to compensate the NHS for the costs of my treatment for "smoking-related" diseases - none of which I have ever had. Well, perhaps not my diseases, but those that smoking "causes" in the wider population and cost £2.7 billion every year to treat, according to NHS claims. Costs which must be met by government (i.e. from tax receipts) out of the more than £13 billion per year levied on tobacco sales! How sad it is that our government "only" gets to keep around £10-and-a-half billion of smoker "donations" for its other pet projects! I was angered too by the state-sponsored persecution that enabled total strangers to approach me with a wagging finger upraised to tell me how I was not only killing myself but my and their children. I was angered by doctors and dentists and opticians telling me that every little problem I had was possibly caused by my habit - or, at the least, "well, it's not likely to help, is it?" I would sometimes respond that the colour of the sky was similarly unlikely to help too, but such irony is lost on those who "know best".
Eventually I realised that I could no longer afford to sustain my habit, for the same government that was enriching itself by £10.5 billion a year at the expense of smokers, now realised that it had to pay me back some of my own money in the form of State Pension from a fund that I had paid into for 50 years. However, it could not afford to pay back sufficient to make it possible for me to pay the six quid a day that it wanted from me as my penalty for smoking - even though they "knew" (for they had told me for years) that I would not live long enough to collect a pension because of my smoking! So it was that I found myself becoming enraged. And that was not helped by the imposition in 2007 of the ban on smoking in "public places" which was actually a ban on smoking in PRIVATE places such as theatres, pubs and my place of work, which at that time was a car park perched on top of a cliff overlooking the Atlantic ocean!
So I did something I had rarely contemplated before; I decided I would try and quit smoking. I bought myself an e-cigarette, which I was told I could use where and when I could not smoke. To my complete surprise, it worked immediately. I enjoyed vaping, and very few people minded the light vapour and the sweet smell of mint or cherries. The equipment evolved, and the choice of flavours expanded and I suddenly realised that I had seamlessly quit smoking and become a vaper. That happy transition was in October 2013, and I have not had a cigarette since. Even better, my breathing is easier, my food is tastier, and I have the satisfaction of saving, I understand, around £7 per day in tobacco tax!
Why then, should I still be angry? Perhaps it's because I still identify with smokers, and I see them being further victimised and marginalised by ever more vociferous demands for bans in parks and town squares, in car parks and public streets, and on beaches. On beaches, for heaven's sake, where a wisp of smoke is gone in an instant, diluted by a trillion molecules of air! And I become even more incensed when I see calls for vaping to be included in the same crazy ideology. I am incredulous that supposedly rational people can seriously call for bans in the open air on something that happens to look a little (a very little!) like smoking, that smells nothing like smoke, and has exhibited no harm to anyone, ever!
Recently we have seen pubs and clubs, that once welcomed smokers and non-smokers alike, closing at the rate of around 30 per week. Nobody has said that the smoking ban is the only reason for the decline of the industry but it doubtless played a large part. Publicans had no choice in the matter - the law decreed that smoking be prohibited indoors. But the law says nothing about vaping, for it is not smoking. Yet many pubs now prohibit vaping too. If challenged, publicans will say, "We cannot tell the difference between vapour and smoke", which is ridiculous, or, "Customers don't want to be assailed by sweet smells", which should prompt them to cease the sale of desserts and coffee, and drinks too, and perhaps refuse to serve people wearing after-shave, perfumes and deodorants. I cannot believe that all publicans have suddenly developed an aversion to seeing people enjoying themselves, so what is the incentive to ban people from doing something little different to sucking a sweet? I fully understand the right of proprietors to determine what is acceptable in their premises (which is more than governments do these days!) but banning something that they need not, when a large proportion of their former clientele has already been exiled, seems little short of commercial lunacy. What incentive, I wonder, makes a brewery chain declare war on its non-smoking customers because they choose to vape? No wonder that 2.9 million former smokers feel aggrieved; they did what was demanded of them, they stopped smoking, and turned to an alternative that is at least 95% less risky than smoking to themselves and probably 100% to others around them, yet they are still being marginalised. That is why I remain angry!