“I don't suppose Andrew Lansley has noticed, but the last by-election was won by a smoker – one George Galloway – who was perfectly happy lighting up in front of the cameras. That is something a Tory or Labour politician or Nick Clegg would never have the courage to do. Or, perhaps, be allowed to do.
The anti-tobacco professionals have gone far too far in a country that prides itself on freedoms. Denying cigarette companies the right to decorate their cigarette packets is a draconian measure of which Stalin’s censorship police would have been proud. It suggests that the Government thinks it can control our thoughts and our desires.
Well, it can’t. I admit there are many people who don’t like smoking, and things should be made convenient for them, but there are ten million people (myself included) in the UK who do. According to Lansley, they are all fools, slowly killing themselves (who isn’t?) and, according to him, others around them.
I don’t believe the second-hand smoke stuff. How can you know? It is all highly exaggerated. I speak as someone who has smoked for 58 years and I’m still here (and I’m fine, thank you). I’ve no doubt Mr Lansley’s friends in the pharmaceutical industry are pushing this to increase the supply of their ghastly antidepressants on us but I prefer the calming effects of tobacco.
As you might have noticed, the consumption of antidepressants is on a steep rise as smoking declines, and we have no idea of the long-term effects of that. Why is it that not all smokers die younger, as it says on the packets in that ugly typography? Could some people have weaker lungs? I don’t know. Neither does he.
I see his chum David Cameron was selling arms in the Middle East lately. It was the armament manufacturers who were called the ‘merchants of death’ in the last century. Now, according to Mr Lansley, it’s the tobacco trade, which has given enormous pleasure to millions. I say to the Health Secretary: we all die. It’s what you do in between birth and death that’s the concern of most people.
It is a very natural thing to seek out pleasure, and this will never end with human beings, hence the popularity of mood-changing substances. The Americans say no taxation without representation. Well, as a buyer of cigarettes, I pay £7 for a packet and about £5.50 of that goes in tax. You take the money, Mr Lansley, but do not think you can take our freedom to think. And be warned: it is a dangerous thing to try to diminish the right of expression.
You should remember also that you are not running a school, I am not a schoolboy and I prefer to prescribe for myself some medications. I smoke for my mental health as I’m much too hyper normally. I thought I lived in a ‘free’ country but see now I have little say in how it is run, or even what debates there are.
The philosopher Isaiah Berlin, a pipe-smoker, used to say Britain is not a wounded country because we have not been conquered for many centuries. What is happening now is that, thanks to people like Mr Lansley, we are wounding ourselves. There are now a lot of very angry people in this country, and I am one of them. Very, very fed up with arrogant politicians who treat us like children. We seem to be governed by very naive people who are not keeping abreast of technological developments.
Restricting advertising is not going to be as easy in the future. I can read reviews of pipe tobaccos on the internet, as can any savvy young person, and there will be enormous difficulties stopping that.
I am sick of the constant negativity in Britain, the utter meanness of spirit (possibly not good for the health) that seems to have taken over everywhere. Let us have a proper debate about this issue. No other European country has a smuggled tobacco problem, caused here by high taxes. So we get spreading lawlessness (which is possibly not good for the health) from some ridiculous Utopian goal that depresses present laughter.
I was told by an anti-smoking fanatic (and I know about them as my father was one, although my smoking elder brother has now lived longer than he did, as I will this year) that tobacco ‘killed’ one hundred million people in the 20th Century. I pointed out one hundred million people were killed in the 20th Century for political reasons and their deaths were very unpleasant indeed. You cannot use a word such as ‘killed’ with smokers.
Who is going to stand up for the England of freedom? Baldwin, Attlee, Churchill, Macmillan and Wilson were five Prime Ministers who smoked. They wouldn’t believe what has happened to this country.
The low-grade, low-intellect people now ruling us seem to have no vision at all.
Mr Lansley, Mr Cameron, Mr Miliband, Mr Clegg: Keep out of my life. I don’t want your dreary view of life infecting me. It’s not good for my health, or others around me.”
Written by David Hockney for the Daily Mail
Original artwork by David Hockney for the Daily Mail