Wednesday, 21 September 2011


Anti-smoking authorities have a thirst for ever more shocking graphics to be printed on tobacco packaging in an effort to put people off. It may work to a point (provided that the government can persuade the public that its pictures are genuine). But surely at some point people become inured to so-called shocking images and the tactic ceases to have any impact.

The official reasoning is that tobacco is addictive. I was in Edinburgh listening to a talk about censorship, in which the question was raised of exposing children to pornographic images. The speaker talked about how pornography stimulates (especially in children) a desire for more of the same. Satiation doesn't come into it, the mind requires more and more of the stuff – especially young minds that are not fully developed.

This does not happen with tobacco. At least, I am not aware of consumption of tobacco increasing to maintain satiation, in the way that can happen with many other things: alcohol, gambling, cocaine. Consumption remains steady, and while deprivation is irritating, it can be lived with.

Quite unlike the thirst to curb tobacco consumption. From Velvet Glove, Iron Fist (the byline): "When politicians start legislating for private behaviour they find it very hard to quit."


Lysistrata said...

Nice point, well made.

However, what has happened to your blog background colour, Belinda? Have you gone in for the drab olive green packaging? :D

It just doesn't work well with the purple lettering and makes the heading unreadable.

Anonymous said...

"When politicians start legislating for private behaviour they find it very hard to quit."

But the question that has interested me is why did they start doing it in the first place? They were making a mint from tobacco taxes.

1952 - 12,000 deaths, Great London Smog.
Thought to be caused at least in part by the governments policy of sending all the clean coal for export, leaving the Londoners to burn the dirty, sulphurous coal.

Toxicologic and Epidemiologic Clues from the Characterization of the 1952 London Smog Fine Particulate Matter in Archival Autopsy Lung Tissues

Mr Frank Beswick (Uxbridge)

"As we all know, the expenditure of dollars on tobacco is one of our most serious problems."

Mr Frank Beswick ( uxbridge) in a debate on removing the Old Age Pensioners tobacco tokens, to reclaim £2.25m for the Treasury.
The concession was given in 1947 to insulate the pensioners from the effects of a massive tobacco tax rise.

Smoking? It's seriously good for the Treasury
"According to formerly classified government records released today by the National Archives, in 1956 Macmillan dismissed the health risks posed by smoking as "negligible, compared with the risk of crossing a street".

So why persist?

Fear of political embarrassment led to government cover up of link between air pollution and lung cancer

"..the Medical Research Council was planning to issue a statement saying although smoking was a significant cause of lung cancer, up to 30% of cases might be caused by air pollution.

But the Cabinet committee on cancer of the lung, fearful of another political embarrassment which could be caused by stressing the air pollution connection, asked the MRC to reconsider its statement.
On 31 May 1957 a modified version was published, which asserted that although it was likely that atmospheric pollution did play a role in lung cancer, it was 'a relatively minor one in comparison with cigarette smoking'."

Medicine and the Public: The 1962 Report of the Royal College of Physicians and the New Public Health

Virginia Berridge

"The idea of outlining specific courses of action was anathema to a society that associated “propaganda” with wartime central direction, and with earlier Nazi propaganda. Health education at this time placed its faith in the citizenship of its recipients. One can see the government departments edging toward this change in the discussion of smoking, prodded also by tensions in the organization and funding of health education.

The civil servant Enid Russell Smith, always an incisive analyst of events, commented in 1962 that government could draw in future on two things: parents' concern for their children, and the changes taking place in the medical profession.
Publicity would have the authority of the profession.

So far, she commented, the state had not sought to protect individuals from doing harm to their own health if they were not harming the health of others; alcohol was an exception to the rule, and also drugs of addiction, but for both it was the social consequences rather than individual health that was paramount.

The new line might be that the costs fell on the state, and so government should stop people from damaging their health—but, she commented presciently, once government took on this role, it would not stop at smoking"

But as I remember, those toxic industrial smogs still kept coming until the early 70's, despite the Clean Air Acts, but by then road traffic had increased tremendously.

Sorry for the huge post Belinda, delete at will.


Belinda said...

Rose: the blog deleted your post, not because of its length but because it contained links. I have restored it but not able to read it yet (it needs at least 15 mins to itself which it will get later today).

Lysistrata: the olive green didn't even strike me as topical! I like changing the colours sometimes. Now I can do it again!

Lysistrata said...

Belinda: that's better! Thanks.

Now, about that purple lettering on the green background.....

Anonymous said...


With my profligate use of links I always expect my posts to end up with the spam and have to be retrieved, it's that not only was it full of links, it was huge and off topic as well!