Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them…well, I have others
The title is a quotation from Groucho Marx.
Keeping this in mind, let’s look at the website of Japan Tobacco International (JTI), in particular the section headed ‘Our six core principles’. (The word ‘core’ is redundant.)
The hypocrisy from start to finish is breathtaking. The very idea of a tobacco company declaring it has any principles at all is a contradiction in terms. Tobacco kills more than 8 million people worldwide every year (WHO figure). Therefore, if JTI had any principles or decency (don’t laugh) they would do the one and only proper thing: STOP MAKING CIGARETTES.
But that, alas, is not going to happen any time soon while governments are only concerned to ‘control’ tobacco instead of working to abolish tobacco products.
Back to the tragedy of the more than 8 million deaths and JTI’s core principles. Let’s look at Core Principle 5, ‘Accommodation between smokers and non-smokers’.
Many people have concerns about exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. All smokers should show consideration for those around them, and should not smoke when children are present. JTI advocates tailored, practical and effective solutions that separate smokers and non-smokers while accommodating the legitimate interests of both.
So some people—they presumably mean non-smokers—do not have concerns about exposure to environmental (second-hand) tobacco smoke? And who might those be? Of course, all smokers should show consideration for those around them, but, the wording implies, only when children are present. What about when non-smoking adults are present who hate the stink and object to being forced to breath air polluted by poisons in second-hand tobacco smoke? They have good reason to object on health grounds alone because second-hand smoke indubitably increases their risk, even though it be to a small extent, of lung cancer and heart disease. This applies a fortiori when children are present, and not just because of the stink and danger of inhaling the smoke—children are particularly sensitive to the adverse health effects of smoke including getting asthma—but because it is a terrible example for a child to see an adult smoking. Then, in order to accommodate the legitimate interest of both smokers and non-smokers, JTI talks, not just of solutions, but of tailored, practical and effective solutions! And just just what tailored, practical and effective solutions do they have in mind?
What are the legitimate interests of smokers and non-smokers? We’ll consider the latter first although it’s so obvious it hardly needs saying. As a non-smoker I never want to have to breathe tobacco smoke-poisoned air. Smokers’ rights end where my nose begins. Even the sight of someone smoking is distasteful.
And what of smokers’ rights? The Forest organisation’s answer is contained in their acronym: ‘Freedom organisation for the right to enjoy smoking tobacco.’ But should they have the right to smoke tobacco if they don’t enjoy it? This question leads to an important aspect of smoking which I looked at in my blog, Are Smokers Getting A Raw Deal?.
Apart from that, what are the legitimate interests of smokers? Presumably, to be allowed to smoke whenever and wherever they feel like it, but of course they can’t do that these days in most civilized countries. Apart from in their own homes (assuming there are no children present and no one else there objects), smokers are restricted to smoking in designated smoking areas, or, to the annoyance and even distress of the non-smoking public, in the street. So to talk of an ‘accommodation between the legitimate interest of both [smokers and non-smokers]’ in the sense meant by JTI is making the assumption that non-smokers should have to submit to breathing second-hand cigarette smoke under certain circumstances. This is a completely different situation from that of the accommodation of the legitimate interests of, say, motorists and cyclists on public roads where a certain amount of give-and-take is necessary for the safety of all road users.
Or is this accommodation meant to include the situation where a non-smoker, on encountering a smoker standing outside an office building, as is the case in many cities in Europe, is obliged either to hold his or her breath or to make a detour to pass by out of smoke range? Or should a non-smoker try to accommodate the so-called legitimate interests of a smoker by saying to him or her, ‘Excuse me, does my non-smoking bother you?’
I say smokers have no legitimate interests that non-smokers must accommodate.
Furthermore, what smokers don’t seem to understand is that they are either in an altered mental state with nicotine just after having smoked a cigarette or they are suffering from nicotine withdrawal. Therefore, if smokers could only grasp these facts and get rid of the illusion that they enjoy smoking, they would perhaps understand what inhaling tobacco smoke is doing to their bodies and minds. Then, one might hope, they would consider their own legitimate interests and stop smoking.
Text © Gabriel Symonds (Revised September 2021)