A few decades ago, everyone knew what ‘a disease’ was. It was an illness which people ‘caught’ which could be spread. Flu was one. To get flu, you had to come in contact with someone who had flu, and you would ‘catch’ flu by inhaling into your lungs the ‘germs’ which those people, knowingly or not, were exhaling. The important word was ‘infection’. To become ‘diseased’, you had to become ‘infected’.
It took a while for the word ‘germs’ to be replaced by the words ‘bacterium’ and ‘virus’. It is only recently that people in general have become aware that a virus is a thousand times smaller than a bacterium. They are very different things.
The word ‘dis-ease’ means ‘not-at-ease’. It is an old word. It is much the same as ‘un-well’ or ‘un-comfortable’. One can imagine that ‘dis-ease’ was, for a long time, an adjective and not a noun. I wonder when the word became a noun, used to describe illnesses? Perhaps, long ago, the word was always used in the plural when it was used as a noun – “At the present time, lots of our citizens are suffering from ‘un-wellnesses’. The cause must be the stench coming from the river, because only those who live in the town are affected. Those people living outside the town, in the country, are not affected”.
Several decades ago, people like Doll and Godber put their heads together and decided that the word ‘disease’ was a nasty word which everyone feared, therefore it would be a great idea to apply it to any condition at all. Thus, someone who died as a result of a heart attack died because he was ‘diseased’. Someone who got lung cancer got a ‘disease’. Thus, it was easy to say that smoking caused ‘diseases’ as a result of the re-definition of the word ‘disease’.
What should be the case is not that smoking causes ‘diseases’, but rather that tobacco smoke, when inhaled, is a poison. So treated, it could be claimed that tobacco smoke acts something like arsenic – it can gradually accumulate in the body and cause more and more damage until it kills. The problem is that there is no real, physical evidence that such damage exists with tobacco smoke as compared with arsenic. But it would be handy to describe tobacco smoke as poison. I suppose that they decided for some reason to stick to the disease aspect for ‘public health’ reasons.
Which brings me to the point of this post.
In the same way that the meaning of the word ‘disease’ has been deliberately distorted, so has the word ‘violence’. It used to be that the word ‘violence’ described physical attacks, but we have all seen instances where giving a child a good telling-off has been described as violence, and should be a crime.
But we have also seen the de facto description of the creation of second hand tobacco smoke as a violent act. Smokers in a pub are said to physically attack a barman. That justifies the State physically attacking smokers by the imposition of fines. Further, it justifies even more violence against publicans, even to the extent of being imprisoned.
Thus, we have a new concept of violence. The recent Tobacco Products Directive is very violent since it attacks, both mentally and physically, smokers and vapers, and the population in general. It encourages violent acts by individuals who are smokophobes. These ‘violent acts’ need not necessarily be physical – they can be verbal, or humiliating, or sneering, or hand-waving. All of those acts and words are VIOLENT.
But, by extension, it is true that State acts which attack smokERS, even indirectly, are violent acts. It is impossible to attack smokING without attacking smokERS. So when that Senior Doctor in an Irish Hospital took a sledge hammer to the hospital smoking shelter and demolished it, he VIOLENTLY ATTACKED smokers by humiliating them.
Finally, the VIOLENCE against smokers is astonishing. It really is akin to the violence against Jews in Nazi Germany. [Note that I am not talking about ‘the final solution’ – that is another thing altogether. You could call it ‘a huge shift in magnitude’] It bears the same marks of violent humiliation, of violent accusations of ill-treatment of children, of violent accusations of suicide. “These disgusting, stinking, filthy smokers are committing suicide! They must be stopped by every means possible – taxes, fines, deprivation, exclusion, humiliation. They must be FORCED to mend their ways and live forever”.
Thus, very finally, there is a violent intent in the statement ‘smoking kills’. No. At best, the statement should be ‘smokers commit suicide’. The two things should not be confused. When you think about it, the phrase ‘smoking kills’ ( in Spanish “Fumar mata”, which the packet that I have in front of me says) is objectively nonsense. It is true that ‘smoke inhalation can cause death’, but not all smoke inhalation causes death. The ‘Violent Intent’ in the phrase ‘smoking kills’, as printed on cig packets, is to frighten the reader. Terrifying people is a violent act.
Weird, is it not, that ‘The Land of the Free’ is leading the way, once again after a century, into violent subjugation of the people. “Thou shalt not permit smoking in thy premises” becomes, “Thou shalt use violence to stop any person from smoking or else…..”
That is violence.