The theme of this year’s tour is 'creeping prohibition'.
Like very many of you I am heartily sick of the vilification of smokers, based as it is on exaggerations, falsifications and outright lies, for our own good, of course. So the purpose of the trip is to show, by putting all of the anti-smokers actions together, that prohibition is the goal, as Senator John Crown has already stated.
My first few days took me to Cork, Waterford, Kilkenny, Tipperary and Offaly for radio and newspaper interviews.
Any kind of prohibition is an anomaly in a free democracy. Prohibition is more associated with fascism or communism and is a tool of oppression. Equally, denormalisation as a political policy is nothing short of incitement to hatred. While the attack on tobacco consumption is almost ten years old now, and failing in all of its ever changing aims, the tobacco control industry is turning its eye to other lifestyle issues. What is truly worrying, if you have not been following this, is that the exact same tactics, as used for justifying the nasty attack on the ordinary smoker, are now being turned against the alcohol drinker and the obese. Who is next for condemnation, I wonder?
At my age I can honestly say that society, and what passes for 'normal' today, is almost unrecognisable. The private debt of the banks was socialized, dipping into your pocket to save the wealthy ones responsible for this reckless and criminal behavior. Twenty years ago they would have been tarred and feathered. The sole purpose of the gardai seems to be to apply fines for everything. Our politicians now openly lie and show no remorse or shame when caught out. Our health minister has appeared in Stubbs Gazette while several serving or former TDs are under investigation for feathering their own nests from the public purse. We are threatened daily with paying this new levy or that new tax, and like turkeys voting for Christmas we comply, even though we know the whole charade is unjust.
Well, I started ten years ago, publicly opposing restrictions on our freedom to smoke and, whether you like it or not, I am not giving up that fight. But don't think for one moment that I feel it is the most important challenge we face. It is, though, the thin end of the wedge of what, as a people, a society and a nation, we are being subjected to.
On WLRFM on Thursday I said truthfully to Billy McCarthy that I was a more free man at 21 years of age than my son is now at the same age, and he knew what I was talking about. When you support restrictions on my freedom you are actually encouraging the lawmakers to put manners on you also at some other time. That is how we end up with the likes of Phil Hogan threatening us to “pay up or else”. He’s doing it because he believes he can get away with it.
And have you noticed it’s all about money? Justice, fairness, respect, decency, tolerance and civil rights take a back seat now to the wealth of a tiny minority. That is precisely what the smoking ban is about. Some misguided folks think it has to do with health but when you look at how the HSE is run you must know that your health is your own problem.
When you understand that the tobacco market in Ireland is worth two thousand million euros a year, you can clearly see why odd things are happening. I have said before that the attack on smokers is merely a precedent for controlling the citizen. The template is simple enough too. Divide and conquer is the chosen strategy and propaganda is released showing that one section of society is harming the other or costing them money. As the two sides trade insults with each other, draconian legislation slips through. You have already been encouraged to badger and look down upon the smoker by use of these tactics. Soon it will be the turn of anyone who enjoys a drink and certainly the overweight are in line to painted as a burden on society.
This week, on Tipp FM and again on Midlands 103, I made these points and the response was encouragement from some quarters and insults from others. One text said that they couldn’t care less if I kill myself as long as I didn’t harm them. The policy of divide and conquer has worked well with that person. Another lady complained bitterly that whenever she entered or left a pub nowadays she was assaulted by the “smell of tobacco”. I had to point out that those smokers she encountered were not there because they wanted to be. They had been bullied outside the door. But I also added the choice of preferred odours is quite subjective and as such, the lady in question might look to become more tolerant, rather than being so judgemental of her fellow citizens. That same woman may find herself the object of scorn soon enough for going to a pub in the first place, as the policy of denormalising drinkers develops.
The natural outcome of the war on obesity would be to make it illegal to be overweight. Given that money is at the root of all of this you could also expect fines based on how many pounds overweight you have become. As a blueprint for this, don’t forget that the fine for lighting up a cigarette in a pub is €3,000. Some media outlets are already positioning themselves for the attack on obese people. Today blogger Frank Davis has written a good piece on this very topic.
Last Wednesday I did a long interview on creeping prohibition with a journalist from the Irish Examiner. The man wrote up the piece, including my observations on the attacks on other lifestyles, but the editor decided no to publish it and instead, this weekend, that paper’s editorial screams, Tobacco saga must inform obesity war. Inside a report is headlined, 10% tax on junk food to tackle obesity and elsewhere another article informs us that, Foods marketed as ‘healthier’ could lead to weight gain: study.
The point of my tour and my continuing opposition to smoking restrictions is that if the legislators believe they can get away with it they will go ahead and do it. The tobacco, food and drinks companies may try to make their own case to government, but the real power lies with the people.
Forest may be making the case for the rights of the smoker but we need the customers of the drinks industry to lobby for their own rights also and fight price increases by way of taxation. The obese need to make their voices heard as well before their persecution gets under way. If you like your food, enjoy a tipple to socialise and like to smoke tobacco as well, you are going to have to fight for the right to continue to do so.
The time is now, before your likes and preferences are heavily restricted, priced beyond your means or simply made illegal. That is what 'creeping prohibition' has in mind for you. If you think I am exaggerating or that it could never happen, just remember that you are paying for the debts of the banks now every day, without ever once sharing in the profits. You did nothing wrong and yet you are to blame and you are there to be judged and penalised for the life you choose to lead. The final irony is that you are also paying the rich and powerful for doing this to you.
Next week, I am covering the West from Kerry to Donegal.