There was an episode of The Young Ones which involved Rick finding Neil awake in the middle of the night. Rick says "Don't you ever sleep?" and Neil replies "Sleep gives you cancer, man. Everyone knows that." I can't find that clip.
We all laughed at the time. Back then, lots of people smoked, almost all pubs allowed it, some cafes and restaurants did too, there was smoking and non-smoking accommodation on buses and trains and in hotels and if you had suggested that one day there would be people trying to ban smoking in a smoker's own home, nobody would have believed it at all.
Smoking increased the risk of cancer and a variety of specific lung diseases. We knew it and chose whether or not to risk it. It was an increased risk, not a certainty. Nobody was at all harmed by second hand smoke even though there were lots more smokers around and we could puff away in most places. Children did not topple over with asthma or middle ear infections or any of the other nonsensical attributions to this mystical second-hand smoke that has now achieved Jedi powers and can even pass through walls. In fact, if you had mentioned to a smoker that you were breathing his smoke, he'd charge you for using it. Some of us still might.
Most homes had coal or wood fires so smoke was just part of life.
Asthma and other autoimmune diesases are on the increase while smoking is in decline. If there is any correlation at all between the two, it's a negative one.
There were people who didn't like smoking back then. Of course there were. King James, he of the famous Bible translation four hundred years ago, didn't like smoking and that wasn't very long after Walter Raleigh brought the first load past customs with no trouble because he managed to convince them it was only for his use and for Queen Liz (the other one).
If you visited a non-smoker's home, the polite way to proceed was to ask if they minded you smoking and if they did, to refrain until you'd left. It didn't need legislation. People came to amicable arrangements on their own. Of course, that's not allowed any more. Neither is 'polite'. I don't even hear the word mentioned any more. It's probably as bad as being racist now.
In the days before the Ban Darkness descended upon all human thought, there were non-smoking cafes, restaurants and pubs. There were pubs with smoking and non-smoking rooms. Restaurants where you could smoke in the bar but not in the dining room. Perfectly reasonable arrangements. Smokers went to places that allowed them in, antismokers went to the other places. Easy.
A non-smoker could declare his home and property smoke-free and that was perfectly fair and reasonable. He could set up a business and declare no-smoking on the premises and that was also fair and reasonable. However, when he went to someone else's home, property or business and said 'This is yours, you pay for it, but you will declare it smoke-free because I wish it. And no, I do not intend to contribute to the costs at all, nor will I make use of your business, but you will run it my way anyway' then that was not fair and reasonable at all. Yet the smokophobic fundamentalists think it is.
In fact they believe that anyone objecting to their moral takeover is being unfair, unreasonable and selfish. This is because they are children. They stamp their feet to get their way and they respond to attempts at reason with a tantrum. They are not adults and will never be. They will die as wrinkled children, holding Nanny's hand and wailing that they don't want to go to sleep yet.
And then Nanny will raise the needle and say 'It's time...' and they will accept it because they voted for it.
It's not just the smokophobes. There are a lot of children out there now. Look at the way our politicians behave. Look even at the likes of Sugary Alan. A barrow-boy who made a fortune out of low-end electronics and a bit of innovation and flair. Sure, an objectionable git, but he reached his current position through hard work. I can respect that, even if he does look and act like Grumpy's understudy for a production of Snow White.
I bought one of his hi-fi amplifiers in 1976. Basic, no-frills, but solid and reliable. As, I thought, the man himself seemed to be at the time.
Then he met Labour. They hate all that he stands for and all that he achieved and yet they cajoled him into giving them pots of cash. He agreed to play a silly little game on the television and now he preens in ermine along with the rest of those who practise wearing red because where they're going, it's always in fashion.
What happened to him? How did he go from hard-working no-frills businessman to all-frills socialist? What did they do? They infantilised him. They broke him. They turned him from that success story of 'Work hard and you too can get out of the shitehole and into the limousines' into the archetypal Victorian mill owner. 'Work, you buggers, work, and make money for me. Fail and you're fired'.
Is he really like that? Who knows? Now, that is certainly how he appears. A Labour-despised caricature of the Evil Rich and yet they have persuaded him onto their side. Oh, he's convinced. He's another sheep in the rain who's been persuaded it's dry and warm in the abbatoir.
He's just an extreme example of the doublethink out there now. On one hand we have ASH claiming that heart attacks almost never happen now that smoking is banned while CASH insist we will all get heart attacks from eating salt. Last week, smoking caused all heart attacks. This week it's salt, next week obesity, the week after it'll be drink, then caffeine, then whatever's next on the ban list.
This bloody spineless government and their instant caving-in to anyone who turns up with a shedload of lies and made-up nonsense will eventually be revealed as the major cause of heart attacks, you know.
But not until we have an adult population again. That won't happen soon. The current lot are mere drones, locked in the two-year-old logic of 'I want it so it must be right'. They accept the dichotomy of falling heart attack rates from smoking and rising heart attack rates from salt at the same time.
They believe absolutely anything they are told. Try it yourself. Tell them the one I saw in the letters page of New Scientist. A railway engineer was asked why there are summer and winter train timetables. He said it was because of the electrification of the lines. When the wires get really cold they become superconductors so the trains can run faster in winter than in summer. That's why they need two timetables.
Try it. All you need is a straight face.
They believe that the one daily glass of wine they have taken all their adult lives will now give them cancer. They believe that salt, an essential nutrient, is poison. You know that often-quoted figure that says we are made of between 80%-90% water? It's not water. It's brine. Lack of salt will kill you much faster than a bit more than you need in your diet. Sure, overloading with a mass of salt will kill you just as surely as overloading with a mass of water. There are two things in your lower back called kidneys and part of their job is to make sure you have the right salt/water balance. Let them do their job.
Did you know that if you reach into the carcass of a freshly-killed pig, you can rip those kidneys out intact with your hand? There's not much holding them in. Several of my past students now know this, and they didn't all faint. The heart got most of them though. All I had for dissections was a butcher knife and a bad attitude. Also, potato produced a very neatly coiled colon while wheat produced a ragged gassy thing. Heating and cooling starch makes some of it 'retrograde' which I won't get into here, except to say that pre-cooked frozen chips are really good for you. They taste better with salt too.
The children can accept that alcohol consumption is falling and cancer of the throat is rising and that's due to increased alcohol consumption even though alcohol consumption is falling. Surprised? Why? They believe the rise in asthma is caused by smoking even though smoking rates are less than a third of what they were when hardly anyone had heard of asthma. They believe they get fat from eating fat even though in the days when we had bread and dripping, deep-fried everything in hot melted lard, and margarine in the house was there for cooking purposes only, obesity was rare. Fat consumption has plummeted and obesity is rising due to fat consumption. Believe. You have nothing to lose but your mind.
When smoking was in the 80%-plus range among the population, smoking was blamed for a few very specific lung diseases. Fair enough, it was at least logical.
Now that smoking is around 25% or less of the population, it's blamed for everything from meningitis to scabies. The result? More and more people refuse to believe in the original links to lung disease because all the new stuff is blatant lies, so they assume it's all been lies all along. Oh, what a result you have there, antismokers.
Alcohol consumption is declining, possibly because people are increasingly recognising that overdoing it isn't good for them. Never mind any long-term stuff, they are realising that it hurts in the morning and maybe they don't want to feel like that every day.
It was declining all on its own with no need for anyone to interfere but then up pop the Puritans with a scare story. Alcohol will give you cancer, man. Everyone knows that. Among increasing throat cancers and declining alcohol consumption, this is a really obvious lie. Excessive alcohol consumption will wreck your liver, there is no doubt of this. Ask George Best, he wrecked two livers. Yet they feel the need to make up links that are logically impossible and will only lead to people believing that cirrhosis isn't real either.
Where's the logic in this? Keeping adults child-like, persuading them to believe any old crap and then pushing the nonsense to the level where even a five-year-old would say 'Hang on a minute...' and then decide everything they are told is lies.
What does it achieve? It achieves only one thing. It weeds out a lot of the independent thinkers because they will be led into rejecting all risks. The blindly obedient will survive.
I know smoking involves risk in the same way that mountaineering or bungee jumping involves risk. Like those mountaineers or jumpers, I accept the risk in order to do something I enjoy. I moderate my intake because, as with everything, including water, excessive intake is a much higher risk than moderate intake.
As with whisky. I prefer to have less of the good stuff than loads of the cheap crap. If I'm working I won't drink much, if any, because it makes my fingers drunk and because I work with dangerous things that must really only be approached with a perfectly clear head. When I'm not working, crack open that bottle and fill the glass. It's guzzlin' time. Risks? Sure. I have to have periods of no-booze to let that liver grow back. One day I might get the timing wrong. That's the risk.
Getting old? I am. Pension day moves further away with every birthday. If I should ever catch up with Cameron's promised enhanced pension for those who manage to reach his similarly enhanced pension age, I will hear the younger ones bleating about how they are 'paying for me to be idle'. They will not recall the contributions I paid, they will ignore the taxes I paid into their education, and they will not accept that I'll still be paying tax. No, I will be a burden and must die. Bring the needle, Nanny, this one is a drain on the NHS.
One day I will die. Like a budgie I once owned, I will die at a time and place that will scare the living daylights out of as many as I can reach and I will leave this mortal world in permanent terror that I might return. Antichrist? Pah, he will seem like a reincarnation of Terry Wogan by the time I'm finished. My mother still has dreams about Fred the budgie and his Vincent Price overplayed death scene. I'm only sorry I missed it. The end of that feathered curmudgeon should have received applause. He was one blue vicious little git who scared dogs and only my later grey budgie, Ashtray, came even close.
I don't care what happens to my body when I die. I won't be in it. Burn it, bury it, dump it in a ditch, turn it into fertiliser or biofuel or Soylent Green. There won't be a single useable part left in here, believe me. I am not taking further insults after my death. I'll burn out every circuit in this vehicle before it gets scrapped. You don't want me to save your lives so I won't try.
I will not die in an old folks' home. I've seen them. People in their eighties standing outside to smoke. No gardens. Nothing to do. Put me in there and one or more of the staff will do time for my murder because I guarantee I will drive them to it. Who wants to take the rap?
I will not die in hospital. I am not going out like an obsolete car in a scrapyard. No fading away, no turning off the machines, no starving to death or dying of thirst. I will die where I choose, if not when.
There will be no suicide. No matter what. I just don't have the kind of mind that could even consider it. Kill myself? Never. Kill everyone else? Sure. Dementia, immobility, insanity, bring it on and I'll find a way to make someone else suffer because of it. Someone Righteous. I won't kill myself, Righteous. I want you to do it because afterwards, I'm dead but you get the prison sentence. Oh, and did I mention I'm on the poltergeist waiting list already? See you in the cell.
Death is not scary. Death is normal. Everyone does it sooner or later. All my ancestors managed it with no effort at all and so did yours. The choice is not between death and life. On that point there is no choice. The choice is to spend your life living or to spend it worrying about death.
If I continue to smoke and drink and eat the things I like eating, there is no doubt I will die sooner than if I didn't smoke or drink at all and lived on salads and tofu. Why is that anyone else's problem? Why does the government feel it's their business at all? Why do the anti-everything brigade feel it's any of their concern?
I have one life. I plan to enjoy it. So far, I have, mostly. That might well make it shorter than it could have been but my choice is a long and dull life or a shorter and much more fun one.
My choice. Say it again. My choice. Nobody else's. My life, not yours. My choice to risk an earlier death affects nobody else at all. You want to live the ultimate in health adverts? Go ahead, I have no objection at all. That is your choice. It's not mine. I don't want to drink my whisky like you do.
Oh, I could carry on paying tax and working into old age while the pension age moves away from me every year or I could sit in my garden, drinking and smoking, in the slow times and laugh like a drain when the sun comes out and activates the solar-powered fountain in my bird bath. Ever seen a sparrow shit itself? It's hilarious. All you need do is take the batteries out so it stops when the sun goes in, then sit quietly and wait. Fun doesn't have to be expensive.
Next door is Plastic Man. Cuts the grass Saturday, washes the car Sunday. Parks in exactly the same spot every time. Exactly. To the inch. Gets upset if anyone else parks outside his house. Off to work in the morning, home in the evening. Two kids. Also plastic. Wife hangs out washing whatever the weather. If it's sunny they sit in the garden whether there's any point or not, at specific and predictable times. Garden is one square of grass. No variation. Bank holidays they always go somewhere. I like those days.
You could program robots to live their lives and nobody would ever notice. Sure, maybe they like living their lives as directed. I could not, but maybe it suits them. Why though, do they feel Righteous in condemning my lifestyle? I work, I pay taxes, the only difference is that I don't have set working hours so my time zone shifts around. I also like a bit of variety in house and garden but it doesn't affect them. Why are they bothered?
It comes back to children. Children like predictability and they like sameness. Put a different child in the mix and they can't cope. They are wary of any who are different from the group. That's natural, for children. Adults should be able to reason and to cope with differences. Plastic Man is the Government's vision of the future. Married, two drone kids (hey, a beehive would reject these two as being too droney), follows the Life Plan to the letter, no smoking, no drinking, meals on time, work on time, home on time, in the garden at set times, lawn trimmed to perfection, car parked within inches of the target, washed and rust-free (I never owned a rust-free one. I was Hammerite's best customer for years). In bed by ten, television watched and assimilated, the News is True, war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength... is that a fun life or is that just living for the sake of it?
Fortunately the neighbour on the other side is an utter pisshead who is also self-employed and also has no interest in what the neighbours think. If, indeed, they do.
If you look at the newspaper comments you will find this next line hard to believe but... there are more sensible thinkers than we realise. The drones are noisy but the sensible are quiet. None of us want to draw attention to ourselves. Well, aside from gabbly ones like me and the other bloggers but we are a minority even among the sensible. Among the local Smoky-Drinkers I am the only one who blogs. Some have no Internet and no interest in getting it. One at least doesn't even have a landline in his house.
There are adults out there in the population but adults watch in silence. The childen shriek and wail and the adults shake their heads and say 'tut'. That's how it's always been. Unfortunately the politicians are children too, so they're not listening to the adults.
So, does sleep cause cancer? Not yet. Not until the 24/7 requirement for taxation kicks in.
hen we'll watch those Young Ones episodes and as with the Dilbert books, we won't be laughing any more.
But by then, laughing will be illegal anyway.