Tuesday, 22 April 2014

The Invisible Smoker

Earlier on this year, I tweeted about a conversation I had been coerced into in the pub. My poor suffering husband is bored crapless of my endless witterings about this whole situation, but when out in the wider world, people are hugely interested. Try as I might to just enjoy sitting with my friends and have a pint, it is inevitable that at some point, someone will crack a joke about my Sonic Screwdriver then mention some nonsense about something they have heard on the radio or read in the news from a trusted source (Yes BBC, I am looking at you!). My heart has a little sink and the shoulders slump a bit when this happens and what I want to say is 'Do you REALLY want to get into this now? I mean, I will, but...really? Now?'

Do not get me wrong, I spend most of my waking hours thinking about all of this, but I have three kids, I do not get to the pub very often!! There is SO MUCH now - so very very much to try and explain to the uninitiated. Where do you start? How do you not sound like a tin hat wearing loon? Really, people need to know what the bottom line is. Why this matters.

Here is the bottom line.

This happened in January with a group of friends, all never smokers but for one current smoker, Greyburn. Greyburn is in his 60's. A funny, intelligent, recovered alcoholic. He is vibrant, bursting with character and a joy to be around (also has a penchant for red corduroy trousers). His remaining vice is smoking. After quite a lengthy debate about the current ecig situation, with no disagreement on the absurdity of it all, Greyburn pops outside for a ciggy with his non smoking wife. I follow to have a vape (the pub overlooks the sea and the waves were massive that night, so it was an excuse to go look). After a minute or so of wave watching, Greyburn leans over to me, almost conspiratorially, and says,

 'I think you might have converted me!'

'Really??' I stuttered and explained that I wasn't trying to. It is a golden rule for me - never try to convert.

'No' he says 'I really am interested'.

I offer to write down a few links and pertinent terms for him to talk to Google about, then wander back into the pub, a little shell shocked. A moment later, his wife catches up with me, grabs my arm, pulls me down to her level and whispers in my ear that in all the time she had known him, he had never once even mentioned the 'Q' word and she could not believe what she had overheard outside.

Two days later, I had a phone call from Greyburn. His kit had arrived and would one of us mind popping over to see him to help him figure it all out.

I saw him for the first time since, this Saturday, 3 months or so later. I had no intention of bringing up ecigs, whether it had worked for him or otherwise. I didn't need to, it was the first thing he mentioned. After his purchase, he finished off the baccy he had, and has not picked up any since. In fact, and here is the interesting bit, he loses his ecig for days at a time 'cos it looks like a pen and gets lost in my desk'. And guess what - it does not bother him a bit. Not a single bit.

This man had NO motivation to stop smoking. None at all. This man had never visited a cessation clinic. Never picked up a patch, popped a pill or puffed on a plastic period plug.

Greyburn is the Invisible Smoker.

Yes yes, you might well point out that there is no such thing anymore as thanks to hysterical and aggressive demonisation and denormalisation, smokers have never been MORE visible than they are now. Elements of our wonderous, well paid, highly influential Tobacco Control community, have successfully segregated an entire section of society. I feel sure this has been done before....

So why is Greyburn, and millions like him, invisible?

Let's jump ahead, past the implentation of the TPD, past public bans, flying right over the WHO and their precious FCTC and the shoehorning of ecigs into it. Let  us settle in a pub. Let us assume that the WHO and its minions out in the world have succeeded in all their aims. A group of friends, one of whom is a smoker. How different could this conversation be then? How cemented into the public psyche could it be that ecigs are as 'dangerous as tobacco'. How likely is it even, that someone will be using a 2nd or 3rd generation device? Will there still be advocates or will we have all been beaten into submission, great swathes of rules and laws smothering our ability to talk freely, use our mods. We could so easily be back outside, huddled with the smokers, being sneered at. Derided. Lied about. Propagandised against.


The conversation I had this year, may not be possible in this version of the future. 

Greyburn is Invisible because Tobacco Control will never be able to touch him. They will never talk to him. They will never understand him.There will be no contact, no cessation clinic for him. For them, he does not exist, he is collateral damage. No amount of banning, tax increases, being put in stocks and having rotten vegetables thrown at him in the town square, will make a damned bit of difference to Greyburn.

The conversation, over a pint, in a pub is what made the difference.

The insane, dribble flecked rantings of the out of touch, control freak zealotry of what looks more and more like a cultish religion in the aloof elements of Public Health did this. The castrating and devaluing those who do not subscribe to their teachings and dogma made him interested. Those whose gods should be seen only in the sterile cardboard boxes adorned with the names of their Makers printed clearly upon their sides. But we embrace false idols and for this we must be punished. The likeness of our habit comparable only to the devil itself - tobacco. We must be cast from society - branded and humiliated. The modern day heretic, punished with death to warn others of the danger we present to The Clean. The innocent. The children. The Believers. Our clouds of bubblegum scented vapour the tool to strike fear into the very hearts of those around us.

Greyburn looked upon you with the contempt you deserve. Your pathetic behaviour had no effect on him. You may think that 63% of smokers want to quit because they told you they did, but all that really tells you, is that 37% were brave enough to say they don't! And let me tell you this, there are many more in that 63% who do not want to either, but they are the abused of the society you created. Too scared to speak out, but they are not stopping either.

There are a growing number among you who realise this, that there will always be smokers who want help but there are a great many who do not. More importantly, NONE of them deserve what you have done and are continuing to do. There is great respect out there for those that understand that smokers need to be given their dignity back. The bullying must stop and society at large needs to understand that if they then choose to consume nicotine in a safer manner, there is nothing to be scared of. Nicotine is not Beelzebub come to drag The Children to an eternity of damnation, presided over by the evil barons of tobacco companies. Your restrictive vision is far closer to theirs than you care to admit. As are the distasteful practices for which they are so well known. The lines are being blurred and historians will look back at this point in time and wonder where theirs end and yours start.

There are around 9 millions smokers in the UK alone. How many are you prepared to spite for not subscribing to your mantras?

How many of them are invisible, just like Greyburn?