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Let virtue reign

The headline really says it all:

‘Safer Cigs’ Condemned

But I will copy and paste the first few paragraphs of the story anyway:

Anti-smoking campaigners are fuming at the development of a “safer” cigarette designed to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.

British American Tobacco (BAT) is planning to use a new filter system which removes more toxins but still allows nicotine to enter the lungs.

The new brand – which could be launched next year – would look and taste like normal cigarettes.

But John Britton, a professor of epidemiology at Nottingham University, told The Daily Mirror: “These new cigarettes could be more like jumping off the 15th floor instead of the 20th.

“Theoretically the risk is less – but you still die.”

Whereas, we happy persons who do not smoke may confidently expect to live for ever. Oh yes.

My thanks to Mark Holland for the link to this piece.

This argument reminds me of the one that also rages about contraceptives, ‘safe’ sex, and so on. On one side you have people saying that surely safe sex is better than just plain old sex. On the other, you have people blaming contraceptives, because these are by no means totally safe, and only serve to excuse and encourage the evil thing itself, sex intercourse, with all its attendant dangers.

Both arguments have some force. But if you think that with that comparison I am trying to put all obsessionally controlling puritans in the same box, labelled “Obsessively Controlling Puritans”, you are quite right.

Still, I suppose it is better to have people roaming the earth pursuing their moral equivalents of war than to have people actually fighting wars.

You could argue that we here at Samizdata do the same, but that we just pick on different sinners, such as obsessionally controlling puritans, and different sins, such as obsessionally controlling puritanism.

The difference is that we are correct! Oh yes! All violations of freedom of choice are dangerous, and it is no excuse to say that you have found a way to violate freedom rather less than before so that’s alright then! Oh no! Let virtue reign unsullied!!

Amen and have a nice day.

25 comments to Let virtue reign

  • rosignol

    On one side you have people saying that surely safe sex is better than just plain old sex.

    Ah, no. Safe sex is better than catching something there’s no cure for, which would greatly diminish your future prospects for having any sex, safe or not.

    Thus, people tend to have safe sex until they get into a stable relationship, at which point the woman goes on the pill and they have what would be considered ‘unsafe’ sex if they were doing it with random people.

  • Josh

    “These new cigarettes could be more like jumping off the 15th floor instead of the 20th.

    So if smokers start buying safer cigs, it might convince the the people making them to find ways to make them even safer.

    However, if smokers buy safer cigs, then there won’t be much more need to make them safer since they already coughed up (sry) the money.

    :(

  • I am a big fan of nicotine. Having given up smoking just over 4 years ago, I still occasionally put a nicotine patch on and love the feeling of my senses working over time.

    It’s the smoking part I think is bad for you. You can feel how ripped apart your lungs are, even after just one.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Brian, well said. I think there is a rather good thesis to be written as to why and where all this puritanism comes from, both in the West and other parts of the world. Why do so many people, for instance, feel this urge to take offence at the pleasures of others and want to ban everything?

    Some will say it is all about the decline of religion, but that doesn’t quite work for me because some religions are more relaxed in the approach to earthly pleasures than others. Or maybe puritanism is a feature of human evolution. Certain cultures develop a high respect for the virtue of self-restraint. Over time, this virtue has hardened into a blanket dislike of fun, full stop.

    Thoughts?

  • Colin

    Can one overdose on nicotine patches, Carol – 50 at-a-time, or whatever?

  • The puritans were great proponents of free trade at least. Shame about all that ‘god’ stuff they were into.

  • rosignol

    Can one overdose on nicotine patches, Carol – 50 at-a-time, or whatever?

    Yes, and it doesn’t take anywhere near 50 of the things, either.

    Every so often I hear about a smoker who was trying to quit and lit one up while they had a patch on- turns out that the result of OD’ing on nicotine is a coronary.

  • What next? Low fat spread is evil – well it still contains fat.

    How about a new traffic offence of “driving willfully below the posted speed limit in order to evade Government revenue raising cameras.”

    Jonathan asked:

    Why do so many people, for instance, feel this urge to take offence at the pleasures of others and want to ban everything?

    Coz they ain’t getting any themselves?

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Wolfie, indeed. But why don’t they cheer up and sort out their lives rather than impose their crappy worldview on the rest of us? That’s what I cannot figure out. Maybe being miserable is an easy cop out.

  • GCooper

    I’ve spent years trying to find an answer to the question Johnathan Pearce posed about the roots of neo-puritanism, which I consider to be one of the most pernicious forces at work in society.

    Sadly, I have failed. Other than concluding that it seems somewhow an essential component of the North European mindset (in other words, while Anglo-Saxon suffer from it, so do Scandiwegians), I simply cannot explain it.

    It is true, there are other cultures that are capable of similar behaviour, but I am convinced we are the worst and in some quite distinctive ways.

    I can, however, note its miserable influence on everything from the adoption of the Christian religion (which I consider more likely to be a result, than a cause – for all that it was welcoming on board a reinforcing symbiote), the development of early socialist/collectivist thought and all manner of governmental influence and infringements of personal freedom and responsibility.

    I don’t know why we do it, but I do wish we’d stop!

  • I dearly love bacon, eggs, pork chops, butter on my bread, and all manner of things that people insist on telling me will shorten my life. I have a simple answer for them:

    “Something is going to kill me. I want it to taste good.”

  • Whatever issues I have with Ayn Rand, she had it right when she divided the world into the producers and the moochers – those who mainly build and achieve vs. those who carp and criticise and do nothing particularly useful themselves but seek to control what everyone else does. I think the motive is power over others – the particular ‘moral’ argument used is just a means to an end. That is why we see endless manufactured health scares. Government is the ‘solution’. Now let’s see what problems we can find.

  • “These new cigarettes could be more like jumping off the 15th floor instead of the 20th”

    Actually, after you go above seven floors your chance of survival increases. That’s because you reach terminal velocity (maximum speed) but you have more time to adjust your position before hitting the ground.

    You would think that if the anti-smoking lobby were going to mock the tobacco companies’ scientific credibility that they would learn something about science first.

  • Coz they ain’t getting any themselves?

    Poor old Harold Macmillan didn’t get any after sometime in the 1930’s. His missus had a long term affair with another Conservative MP and cuckold Harold never got any ever again.

  • Pete

    I’ve tried these a couple of years ago. They were great.

    Assuming it’s the same ones – there’s a sort of heated element at the end which generates heat, so that when you breath in, heated air passes through the tobacco, extracting goodies from it but not actually burning it. The sensation is remarkably like smoking. When you breath out, the warmed air condenses, so it’s like breathing out on a cold day.

    It looks just like a cigarette, except that it doesn’t burn down – you are finished when the element goes out, leaving the tube intact.

    It’s really clever. I’d be intrigued to know what the overall health damage of it is compared to a pint of Stella or a Mars bar. Presumably the nicotine has a narrowing effect on your blood vessels, but I really don’t know enough so I shouldn’t speculate. In any case, removing the smoke must surely hugely reduce the negative health effects.

  • MarkE

    As a clean living lad who doesn’t smoke, I plan to start in a few years, having seen some research (long since lost I’m afraid) that suggested nicotine use offered some protection against Alzheimers. Purely a personal choice, but I’d rather die coughing my lungs out than live without knowing I was alive. All I need to do is choose the right moment; soon enough to have the required effect without effecting my general health while I still have it.

    If you developed a form of tobacco that lead to eternal youth and imunity from all forms of physical and/or mental infirmity, the health lobby would still try to ban it. Their lives must be so fullfilling.

  • Theoretically the risk is less – but you still die

    Either the risk is less or it is not, theory has nothing to do with it.

  • RAB

    It’s the instant hysterical knee jerk reaction of the anti smoking lobby that is facinating.
    I was listening to one of their ilk on radio 5 on the day the Govt were fudging up their anti smoking in public places Bill.
    To call this guy a fascist would be an insult to fascists. He was a total hysterical lunatic.
    People were arguing with him that pubs etc should be able to choose for themselves whether to be smoking or not. Absolutely not opines he. Think of the poor bar staff dying of secondary smoke (bogus science in my opinion) when they do not have the choice etc etc.
    Personally I have never met a barperson who doesn’t smoke. There must be some but common they are not!
    Someone on the panel said that pubs could have smoking and non smoking bars because modern ventilation systems would suck the smoke right out instantly.
    Oh no says he. The particles that do the damage are odourless and tasteless. The smell of tobacco will be removed but you will still be killed by the unremovables.
    Um? excuse me! I may not be a scientist, but something like an extaction system that extracts particles that smell surely extract particles that kill too.
    Then he brought the Landlords innocent children playing in the background arguement! The last refuge of a scoundrel, the “Children” ploy.
    The fact is that there are a whole raft of people who appear to have been born aged 47 with a very censorous attitude to being alive and, though relucantly appreciating that there may be life excitement bliss and joy out there— dont care for it very much, and always carry an umbrella (just in case).
    To recap. These people like to ban things. Doesn’t matter what. Drinking , smoking , fox hunting, MacDonald’s . I give them the verbal an mental kicking they deserve whenever I can.

  • Joshua

    As a clean living lad who doesn’t smoke, I plan to start in a few years, having seen some research (long since lost I’m afraid) that suggested nicotine use offered some protection against Alzheimers…All I need to do is choose the right moment; soon enough to have the required effect without effecting my general health while I still have it.

    I started smoking now and then about a year ago after having made it to 29 without so much as a puff. My motives weren’t so intelligent I’m afraid: I did it because I got annoyed with the people walking around with shirts on in support of the smoking ban.

    It’s great fun, I have to say (gives you something to do while you’re thinking — I’m a pacer) – and I can happily report that age seems to have something to do with the addictiveness factor. That is, I think you have to start young to get really hooked. When you’ve lived 29 years without cigarettes, you can easily imagine life without them. I find that I go in and out of phases with it. All summer I had a couple a night, then I quit to train for a 5k I had a $100 bet on (which I won, but the bastard hasn’t paid yet), and now starting again seems like too much trouble. No doubt I’ll pick it up again at some party or another in the near future.

    I don’t know anything about its relation to Alzheimer’s – but it’s a nice habit (but then, I’ve always liked the smell of the smoke…) which is not, I think, nearly as addictive as is often claimed – at least not for everyone. Enjoy!

  • I think what I object to about this entire concept is that it’s extremely deceptive. Everyone concentrates on lung cancer, but that’s not actually the big health threat from smoking.

    I’m sure I’m not remembering the number correctly, but what I recall is that only about 1 in 20 smokers develops lung cancer. Heart disease is more common, but also still a threat only to a minority of smokers.

    The big problem is emphysema, and essentially all long-time smokers will suffer from it to a greater or lesser extent. And no one ever seems to mention emphysema when they talk about smoking hazards.

  • Andrew Kinsman

    Interestingly (yawn) I was looking up a distant memory from the 1970s (when I smoked): New Smoking Material, or NSM. THis was a cellulose-based tobacco substitute manufactured, as I recall, at an ICI plant in Alderley Edge, Cheshire.

    Obviously the product was nicotine-free; it also produced less in the way of complex aromatic hydrocarbons. It was marketed in a blend (typically 70% tobacco to 30% NSM) both in new brands (e.g. Peer) and in existing brands (e.g. Players No 10). Pure NSM was a bland and unappealing product.

    There were definite harm reduction properties to the product. However the government of the day refused to make any tax concessions on the product, and as it was less satisfying than the pure tobacco product, it died the death.

    What brought this particularly to mind was that in my recent Googling of it I came across the “jumping out of a tall building” metaphor in relation to NSM, only in this case the floors quoted were the 39th and 36th.

  • hm

    I suppose it is better to have people roaming the earth pursuing their moral equivalents of war than to have people actually fighting wars.

    That’s a fine line.

    Bit like preferring to jump from the 15th, instead of the 20th floor — as the guy above alludes to.

  • Bernie

    Johnathan I think a good part of the reason why comes down to the kind of democracy we have where absolutely anything is fair game to the law makers and things like Radio 4’s “You and Yours”. We don’t seem to have any kind of campaigners on morality. That is always bypassed on such programs who go straight to “what should the government do about it?”

  • mike

    Jonathan’s question as to the roots of puritanism is fascinating, as GCooper says. Are we (north Atlantic societies) really the worst for this?

    East Asia strikes me as still having heavily conformist cultures with no lack of busy-bodies telling us what we should and should not do. Go to a swimming pool for example and other swimmers (never mind the lifeguards) will go out of their way to tell you that you cannot enter the pool without a rubber hat – even though many of them have shoulder-length hair that is not covered by such hats. My own trivial example.

    My guess is that neo-puritanism (or busy-bodyness) originates from a prior belief in some universal authority – and that it is simply the attempt to implement that authority. The Puritans – as the prime example, naturally – were so called because they believed in God’s supreme authority over each individual (as distinct from the mediation of the Pope); socialists and communists believe in the authority of the government, or if not the actual government then the State and if not the state then the cause – ‘social justice’, ‘equality’ etc. Likewise in East Asia there is no lack of religous (buddhist, taoist) TV sermons and of people who tell you what and how you should eat and drink – regardless of what your own aims are – based on some religous notion of ‘internal harmony’.

    But there’s more to be said about this I think. Libertarians, though giving reluctant acknowledgement to some degree of authority for the State, naturally place see authority as belonging to the sovereign individual. The sovereign individual is our religous belief if you like – and we are capabale of acting the puritan roundhead about this just as much as the socialists can about ‘equality’.

    So is puritanism not simply an all too common consequence of belief in some higher authority than oneself and one’s neighbours?

  • The justification does not matter. It is just an excuse.

    The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power…We know that no-one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means, it is an end….There will be no art, no literature, no science….If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face ? for ever

    O’Brien, 1984 (Orwell)