Symbols of Freedom

A couple of years ago (or less), I reported here a most extraordinary thing – I stayed at an hotel in Mallorca which had an ashtray on the balcony table, an ashtray in the table inside the room and a small ashtray in the bathroom. To put that in perspective, at about the same time, I stayed in an hotel in Benidorm which had a ‘no smoking’ sign stuck to the mirror in the room. Needless to say, I ignored that admonishion, but I allowed myself to be made to feel guilty since I sat by the open patio door when I smoked a cig. Also, I hid my filter tips.

I said ‘a couple of years ago’. Time tends to telescope. Thus, it might well be that there were ashtrays in the room when I visited that hotel in 2015, or it may have been 2014.

Whatever… the simple fact is that someone in the hotel, or in the senior management of the Group, decided to remove those ashtrays.

I cannot emphasise enough how welcome the sight of those ashtrays in my hotel room was. It is almost mystical.

They were a symbol of freedom. They spoke. They said, “You are welcome!”

But we can see also the opposite. The absence of ashtrays says, “You are NOT welcome”. There is no need for a ‘no smoking’ sign in the room. The absence of ashtrays says it all.

That absence is like to absence of windows or towels. “You want to look out? Go downstairs!” “You want a shower? Drip dry!”

I wonder what would happen if I went to reception and complained about the lack of ashtrays in my room? They would undoubtedly protest that there is an ashtray on the table on the balcony. But there is a problem. It is not ‘politically correct’ to make such protests. You would be regarded as some sort of imbecile if you protested in those terms. But, weird though it might seem, you could possibly get away with asking for an extra ashtray. I have never tried it, so I do not know.

What I do is take an ashtray with me. Just an ordinary steel ashtray. As a result, if there ever appeared a situation where there were no ashtrays AT ALL in the room, then I would be independent of strictures.


That independence is ‘Freedom’. Without such independence, there is no freedom. Of what value is a holiday without Freedom?

Ashtrays are a symbol of Freedom. When the Zealots forced the removal of ashtrays in the UK (on the grounds that the presence of ashtrays ‘prove’ that ‘smoking is permitted’), a measure of ‘Freedom’ disappeared. An important measure of Freedom. There was never a law against having ashtrays, but having ashtrays was ‘proof’ of wrongdoing. It is most certainly akin to witch hunting. There is no doubt. Thus, it is reasonable to describe Tobacco Control as medieval. And, what is worse, is that politicians must know that.

Why do politicians subscribe to medieval practices? Frankly, I must admit that I regard the whole blather about the US Presidency as medieval. That can only be true if the population at large – the voters – are superstitious.

Symbols of Freedom are in short supply. But there are many symbols of Persecution.




6 Responses to “Symbols of Freedom”

  1. Roberto Says:

    Absence of ashtrays is indeed a symbol of smoking restrictions. This goes back to the early times of the anti-smoking movement, when smoking bans were not as restrictive as today, non-smokers were simply happy to have non-smoking sections and thus anti-tobacco zealots still had to make an effort to be more persuasive (today they simply bypass the public and lobby the powers that be).

    I remember reading in the early 1980’s an article on how bad a habit smoking was, probably written by one of these medics later turned tobacco controller. To cast smoking as horrible this medic compared it with spitting. He wrote that spitting in the past was (like smoking in the present) a very popular and widespread habit, so much so that every place had a small spitting basin in the floor for folks to spit. But then BINGO ! came modern medical science teaching people about simple hygiene and convincing everyone that spitting was (besides dirty and distasteful) very unhealthy. So, modern science convinced reasonable folks to stop spitting and as a consequence all spitting basins were removed. Nowadays (he wrote) only very rude, vulgar and insensitive people spit in public. A popular bad habit was eliminated. He then concluded that “the same will be happening with smoking” as modern science will convince everybody how unhealthy it is (besides dirty and distasteful) and reasonable folks will stop smoking in public, (of course) save for rude insensitive ones. As a consequence, he wrote, all ashtrays will disappear as smoking fades into oblivion, just as spitting basins disappeared as people stopped spitting.

    Obviously, the analogy between smoking and spitting is completely false, it is simply one of the many “sound bites” used by zealots to get a “punch line” that inspires fear and sounds “scientific”. However, it is not scientific at all. Saliva carries a lot of pathogens, specially if the person spitting is ill, and thus may quickly communicate disease if somebody is splashed by the spit. Smoking doesn’t transmit any disease, even if the smoker is ill, its health harms (when they occur) are potentially severe but only for the smoker and in the long term, harms are very mild for the non-smoker, save very sensitive persons. Touching ash while emptying an ashtray may be disgusting to a non-smoker, but will not make him/her ill. Touching saliva while emptying a spitting basin will.

    What this analogy reveals is not the effects of smoking, but the rotten inner mentality of zealot anti-smoking medics and controllers. The paternalism: we are the modern science super hero saving poor helpless folks from their nasty habits, and their egocentric (ab)use of science to express vulgar social personal prejudice: since it is not healthy and since it is “filthy, horrible and disgusting” for them, they decree it must be filthy, horrible and disgusting for everyone save rude insensitive folks. Removal of ashtrays is one of their many word-less ways to say all this, but (as you) say, we smokers bring our own ashtrays. In fact, we all have our own ashtray anecdotes.

    • junican Says:

      Has everyone stopped spitting? I haven’t. If I want to spit, I spit, but not on the floor indoors. But I have never spat on the floor indoors. In fact, your anecdote about spittoons (was that the word that you were looking for?) shows that even in those days, people did not just spit anywhere. You are right that spitting can spread germs, but that too was always tremendously exaggerated as a danger. What about kissing? French politicians love kissing each other on the cheeks. Gentlemen often kiss the back of the hands of ladies. Lovers kiss each other on the lips all the time. There used to be notices on buses saying ‘No Spitting’ many years ago, but there were never any saying ‘No Kissing’.
      We often see comments here and there which say ‘kissing a smoker is like kissing an ashtray’. I often wonder when and how often those commenters kissed ashtrays.

      • Roberto Says:

        I agree with you that there is a lot of exaggeration in claiming health hazards from spitting. However, I was not stating my opinion on this matter, I was only recounting what I read 30 years ago from a zealot who tried to foment social disapproval on smoking in public on the basis of social disapproval on spitting in public (in his words “ashtrays would disappear just as spitoons disappeared”, not in my words). And yes, kissing and shaking hands and many other social rituals are also potential sources of pathogens, yet most of us keep doing it in accordance with local costume: in many cultures a kiss in the cheek is normal when introduced, etc. However, all of us know a few health neurotics who are so worried about pathogens that refuse hand shakes and kisses. I would venture saying (without having proof) that a lot of anti-smoking zealots tend to be this type of neurotics.

      • junican Says:

        I understand that, Roberto. You were ‘quoting’. My response merely pointed out the simplistic thinking behind the exaggeration of spitting harm – which is what TC has been doing for years about SHS harm.

  2. nisakiman Says:

    Here in Greece, Junican, that symbol of freedom is everywhere. Even though the restaurant may sport the mandatory (as per EU regulations) ‘No Smoking’ sign on the door / window, when you go in you’ll find an ashtray on the table. Or if there is no ashtray, the mere act of putting your cigarette pack / tobacco on the table, will cause an ashtray to magically appear.

    When I bought the house in Patras (third largest city in Greece), I did wonder if perhaps I’d got used to a more relaxed attitude to smoking bans on the islands, and that I’d find a more strict compliance in the city. Not a bit of it. I haven’t yet been to a bar or restaurant in Patras which didn’t supply an ashtray on the table. And I’m talking about the winter months, too, when it’s too cold to sit comfortably outside.

    I moved to Greece long before the smoking bans in UK, but in the years since have come to realise how lucky I was to choose Greece as my home. It may be an economic basket case, and suffer under a Byzantine bureaucracy, but in every other respect it’s brilliant. Freedoms I take for granted here just aren’t available elsewhere.

    • junican Says:

      The Greeks have a lovely attitude. They ‘obey’ the letter of the WHO/EU demands for tobacco control if they want bailouts, but ignore the implementation. Lovely. Would that our lot did the same thing. But we have never had to endure the jackboot. Neither has Australia, New Zealand or the USA. Smokers in all those countries are now experiencing the jackboot, and we do not like it.

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