Addiction, free choice and commerce
Written summer 2002
Chapter One: Introduction
Chapter Two: Forbidden Fruit: their social value
Chapter Three: Forbidden Fruit: addiction and choice
Chapter Four: Forbidden Fruit and business: whose fault?
Chapter Five: Some modest speculations on legalising cannabis
References and some quotations
Chapter One: Introduction
"I'll die young, but it's like kissing God." Lenny Bruce
When is bad, good? When it's a habit.
Well, not quite.
Still, this is a paper about the attractiveness and the social
usefulness of certain bad habits, and especially smoking, but including
drinking and some drug-use. We look quite closely at the case of
smoking, and discuss some radical proposals for the legalization
of cannabis. We do not much discuss the appetite for pornography,
horror, or risk-taking in general: some of this I have looked at
before (North, 2000], and some of it I look forward to developing.
Humans have a "dark" side to them. They should aim to
be good and have long productive lives, but cannot avoid having
a darker side, a more devil may care and even devil take the hindmost
side. Adults can't be made to renounce this darker side. A mature
society has to accommodate it somehow. A mature and emotionally-rich
society would quite readily see its strengthening features. Ours
is in danger of running scared from them.
This paper focuses on smoking because it is the most condemned,
apparently most damaging and certainly most available of our peccadilloes.
It is a wonderful rock on which to build our case, and around which
to navigate our thoughts. Besides, it is the area in which freedoms
are being lost fastest, and facts are being the most fudged, and
therefore needs as robust a defence as possible. Moreover, it is
such peculiarly enigmatic a subject, as we shall see.
Similarly, it focuses of cannabis because the state of public policy
on this drug is a dramatic state of flux. Thinking about cannabis
can quite usefully be helped by thinking about smoking, partly because
of similarities between the two, but also - more important - because
This paper supposes that people have to be treated as volunteering
for trouble when they indulge in our Forbidden Fruit. It is especially
interested in this idea since these habits are, by most definitions,
addictive, a notion which comes wrapped up with notions of the involuntary.
We look at the way that the "medicalisation" of these
"problems" panders to a victim-orientated, "lamentation"
culture, which is boring and difficult to live in.
The paper supposes the obvious: that these bad habits are inevitable,
a part of human life. But it goes further: it argues that important
elements of these bad habits and behaviour are a good part of human
life. Inevitable they may be, but not to be seen as an evil fate.
Indeed, they are to be seen as choices, not to be blamed on someone
else, let alone society. They are not a matter for blame: rather,
they are a matter for a particular kind of celebration.
Forbidden Fruit and choice
The paper argues that one has personal responsibility for one's
bad behaviour. It puts these ideas into the context of a crying
need to reform modern tendencies which may best be described as
a new immaturity in today's adults. In this it advances a case put
by a European Science and Environment Forum paper of mine: Risk:
The Human choice [North, 2000]. This argument has it that modern
people are prone to a sort of childishness, and this trait is making
society, government and business unnecessarily difficult to conduct.
It is also making people unhappy, not least because the political
classes are trying too hard to accommodate the new, febrile, sense
of enfeeblement and victimhood too many of us are cultivating. So
this paper is about the way that "dark" behaviour is something
which adults must be allowed and whose personal and social consequences
are only manageable if society demands and supports adult behaviour.
Forbidden Fruit and rationality
We are in large degree rational when we opt for bad habits. We
are rational, free, strong agents who should be allowed all the
latitude possible as we act in this way. When society opposes us,
and the way in which it opposes us, too often supposes and celebrates
the dimly irrational, the self-defeatingly timorous. Besides, when
the state gets involved, it descends into nannyism, and nonsense,
neither of which are the proper outcome of our taxes.
Forbidden Fruit and self-damage
This paper doesn't look at all bad behaviour. Its focus is some
pleasures which backfire in a particular way. It is about behaviours
which share the characteristic that they impose self-inflicted harm.
It is interested especially in pleasures whose main difficulty is
that it is hard for some people to indulge in them moderately, or
where addiction seems too overwhelming, and too overwhelmingly likely
to be harmful, for them to be sanctioned. This distinction is a
useful one: people have a profound right to damage themselves and
a much weaker one - if any - to damage others. So smoking is like
most "soft" drug use, and different to drinking or hard
drug use, not least because the latter quite often lead to social,
rather than merely individual, damage.
Damaging society - or affronting prejudices
Many of our issues are bedeviled by the difficulty that they are
usually castigated on the grounds that they are addictive or socially
damaging. But some of them are also stigmatised by people who believe
that it is wrong to "alter" one's perceptions for pleasure.
That's to say: "mind-benders" and "mind-alteration"
are thought bad and dangerous in themselves, with or without a component
of addiction. This is, it might be thought, a peculiar view, granted
that it is often expressed (say) by a man with an alcoholic drink
in his hand, whose wife (say) might well be on Vallium. It is easier
to share this "square" view when one remembers that the
drug culture is rightly associated with a long cultural tradition
of dissidence and anti-authoritarianism. There is also a thread
which unites the mind-altering qualities of drugs with their addictive
power. This is to say: both are demotivating. The conventional world
of getting and spending is rightly suspicious of the "tune-in,
We are discussing activities, criminal or not, which deserve to
be thought of as "consensual": in which the main parties
agree and consent. [McWilliams, 1993]. So we ignore some of the
worst behaviours: those hedonistic behaviours, for instance, whose
main concern is the damage they do to other people. So active pederasty
is not within our remit, though paedophilia, if restricted to fantasies,
need not be excluded.
And there is another reason paedophilia is not included: we are
interested in commercially-available Forbidden Fruit. There are
all sorts of behaviour, say an addiction to romantic behaviour,
and romantic behaviour taken so far that it tends to the predatorial,
which are interesting, and might be thought addictive. But beyond
their not being consensual, and their being illegal, they are not
commercial, and therefore we leave them aside on several counts.
But some of our habits are presently and probably absurdly regarded
as criminal (cannabis-taking and cannabis-selling, for instance).
We will lightly touch on some behaviours, the use of some "harder"
drugs, for instance, which perhaps ought not to be criminalised.
Right at the heart of our concern is alcohol which is strongly linked
with criminality: it makes some people violent.
I suppose one ought to issue a health warning. This small paper
joins a long literature which might be thought dangerous, since
it celebrates habits which constitute bad behaviour, and addiction
in particular. We will be meeting some of those books in footnotes
and quotations. [Davenport-Hines, 1993; Klein, 1993; Nicklès,
1994; Stern, 2000] It is in the nature of addictions that they are
glamorous, and getting to the roots of their attractiveness may
make people who had thought themselves inured against these charms
(or previously had not been exposed to them) fall prey to them.
I don't think, either, that advertising makes people likely to
take up bad habits (at least not of the kind we are discussing here)
and I very much doubt that polemic will either. (This is in part
the subject of Chapter Four.)
Neither do I mind the thought that I may be "softening up"
society and public opinion for a new permissiveness which may lead
to greater damage to citizens. It is false, and typical of the fallacies
the paper wants to combat. Actually, I think the messages in this
book are rather salutary, even disciplinary, and possibly reactionary.
That is partly the point of the paper. The more we learn to see
that blame for most of our actions attaches fairly and squarely
to us, personally, then the less likely it is that we will feel
free to indulge ourselves and then off-set and off-load the blame
on to someone else.
So my celebration of bad behaviour has a socially-responsible subtext
as traditionally understood: remember the wages of sin. The more
society considers your "problem", and considers it yours,
the more it may feel free to be quite robust in dealing with you.
Societies, like individuals, are most reactionary about what they
Forbidden Fruit and the "Blame Culture"
I shall be making the case that when one drinks, smokes or takes
drugs, it is best to be like the better (and rather common) sort
of gambler or adulterer or businessman: it is best to blame oneself
for the troubles that follow risk-taking. Certainly, it is usually
wrong to blame anyone else, let alone a firm, for one's appetites,
and not even for products and services which pander to them to a
The Purveyors of "bad" things are virtuous.
The cigarette manufacturer, the brewer, the coca farmer (any more
than the horse breeder or betting shop and the manufacturers, say,
of alluring garments or makeup) are not the agents of one's troubles.
Neither will be licenced purveyors of cannabis whom I imagine being
on every high street quite soon.
The paper argues that firms selling nicotine, like firms selling
alcohol or soft pornography, are in an essentially respectable business.
"Ethical" investment would favour them, were such investment
not a creature of the Victim Culture. Licensed suppliers of cannabis
will, likewise, be respected and respectable.
Forbidden Fruit: Their social value
The liminal young adult
It is not remotely surprising that to varying degrees young people
will experiment with sensory extremes. Whether in sport, travel
or "substance abuse", people, and especially young people,
will seek to expand their mental horizons. They will try out personalities,
explore new sensations, put themselves into greater or lesser challenges
in all sorts of ways. Drink will be a part of this process for a
substantial majority of young people. Drugs will be a part of it
for a substantial minority.
Many of us, and it might be argued, many of the most useful members
of society, have to come to quiet, adult respectability by a bumpy
road. Others may well understand the merits of civilised society,
but they cannot quite smell them, cannot sense their charms, as
they know they should. Such people feel a need to experience a wider
and less ordered world before "settling down", or alongside
being settled down. Such people are prone to a spell of "hooliganism"
of various kinds, and it took the intelligence of Baden-Powell,
hero of Mafeking and founder of the Boy Scouts movement to tell
late Victorian England of their value. [Pearson, 1990]
One sometimes hears the experimental frame of mind of young people
described as "liminal", and sometimes also the word is
used to describe the pubs and clubs, even whole districts, where
people go for these liminal experiences. It is a good word, describing
as it does the idea of a state of mind or a place where matters
are not fixed, but are transitional and provisional.
Human beings do not progress from childhood to adulthood along,
as it were, a straight path. They have many choices to make as they
develop a way of living, thinking and feeling. It seems to be inevitable
of all human societies that they require young people (and, in primitive
societies, especially young men) to go through a period of testing
and trial. The obvious scenario is that of the young person who
studies hard at school, expends huge energy on being diligent during
exams, and then celebrates with drinks and drugs at, say, Glastonbury.
It is the first time he has really worked hard; he faces grown-up
decisions; he cuts loose. It is too simple to see this behaviour
just as the reaction to a period of concentration, though it is
also that. Surely it is just as much the requirement to discover
new selves, and to face new challenges. Drink and drugs especially
are a quick way of seeing one's self in a completely new way. They
are nice, they are a deserved relief from the world of work. But
that isn't the point of their real value: they are a journey. Now
this is true in another way: drink and drugs offer a constant temptation
to go too far, and they always pose the risk of addiction. So a
further merit they pose is to allow people to test themselves against
a force of nature which is conveniently close to hand: their own
bodies and minds. You coolly get to know what you are like when
you are "off your head" and as you learn how to handle
the situations you get into when you are "off your head".
A student who did not explore such things would be at danger of
being ignorant of himself as well as being boring. A man who did
not grow out of such behaviour would be at serious risk of being
a bore, or dead. Yet some of the most interesting and creative people
(and some of the most tedious) take that risk in varying degree.
The liminal adult
The young need to explore the many possibilities their temperaments
and intellects hold out for them. But the adult is not a static
being and will continue that journey. Besides even the relatively
settled adult needs to know that there are times and places when
he or she need not behave sensibly, in character, or reasonably.
If the young person will have a period of more less continuous
liminality, then even the most adult can be seen as needing more
or less occasional periods of something like liminality.
To be lofty about it, the word has been used of monks and monasteries
to describe the way that a contemplative is someone who puts at
a discount the solid reality of the terrestrial way of life and
seeks instead to place himself in condition which will make him
more open to the potential within himself, and more open to the
divine. It is necessary to "let go" if one wants to become
a good monk: getting today's living must matter less than gaining
entrance to heaven. The curious paradox is this: to be truly spiritual
one must curt fecklessness.
Something like this is true of the risks one must take to produce
anything of value. It is true, too, of expanding one's horizons
by indulging in bad behaviour. [Fisher, 1989; Hobbs, 2000]] And
it is true of finding sanctuary from the mundane and humdrum.
We know, most of us, more or less where our experiments with personality
will end up. We will more or less conform: we will be conventionally
sober, ordinarily disciplined. We will work at responsible jobs,
be careful drivers, decent citizens, tolerably loyal spouses, moderately
diligent parents, and so on.
But we will be different at the weekends, or in the evenings, or
on holiday, or at festive seasons, or in snatched moments throughout
the most routine day, or even in private interior moments in what
look like scenes of busy involvement in the functional.
People will slip away, into affairs, fantasies, prayer, a drink,
or several. Pornography will feature in varying degree in the private
solace of many people, and save many of them from adultery. Prostitution
will save many people from other dangers.
It is not necessary to see these adventures as producing anything
creative. It is, for instance, many years since one seriously heard
anyone proclaim the "mind-expanding", still less the mind-enhancing,
qualities of drink or drugs. What is being created by the use of
these substances is a person, the abuser himself or herself. Nor
is it a drunk or a drugged person which is created: it is someone
who has enjoyed (and sometimes suffered) the drink and drugs experience,
or has discovered something about himself along the way. For most
people, excessive drinking, or drug-taking, are interludes, deliberately
spaced out, deliberately short, intense periods of self-exploration.
Smoking and the liminal
Smoking presents an additional, different case. It delivers nicotine,
which affects the brain: it is psychoactive. It is a curious habit
though: the effect on the mind is surely closer to that of coffee
than that of alcohol. Certainly, smoking does not seem to impair
mental ability and may enhance it. Its effects on the brain and
nerves do not bear a linear relationship to dose in anything like
the way that the effects of alcohol or drugs do. However, it is
plain that smoking is for many people a very hard habit to kick
(as we will discuss in Chapter Three). And yet smoking, perhaps
even more than drink and certainly more than drugs, is perceived
by many young people as being immensely charismatic. It is a byword
of sophistication and cool, the very things which young people most
crave and most feel they lack. For many people, smoking is a key
appurtenance of adulthood. An excursion into smoking is for many
people a powerful piece of self-exploration. Indeed, it is so powerful
that people will indulge it in spite of the effects being at first
even more unpleasant than those associated with the first few brushes
Modern people: wild at heart
There is a persistent "modern" image of what a good society
and a good individual might be like. This ideal is as old as civilisation,
but its development, its constant energising force, remains sharp.
It is above all a notion of a reasonable and polite set of people
living reasonably and politely together. It is the stuff of the
historical Utopias (say of Thomas More or William Morris), in which
discussion, craftsmanship, sharing are the happy and unquestioned
Elements of these Utopias are also a big part of the Enlightenment
aspiration: that sensible and thoughtful people, well-informed and
aware of the value of reason, would live together in a new order,
freed of ignorance and superstition. These are also the sorts of
thinking that underlay the idealism of the socialist pioneers, again
with roots in the medieval and Christian worlds, but developing
powerfully in the nineteenth century. This thinking added to the
Enlightenment ideal the idea that people preferred co-operation
to competition and sharing to greed.
The oddest thing about Utopias, including socialist ones, and even
Enlightenment ones, however, is not how unattainable such a state
of affairs might be, but how little likely they are to be chosen
by real people. They are boring. Perhaps more importantly, the vision
of rational (boring) society does not really deserve its apparent
and clichéd primacy of place in the Western mind. From the
start, it was understood that such a state of affairs might not
be any more desirable than it was attainable. The Enlightenment's
truer legacy is not a passionless society but an emotionally rich
As societies threw off a guilt-laden orientation toward the divine
and began the project of a bold humanism, the roles of authority
and superstition necessarily declined and the roles of individualism
and rationalism increased. That is to say, the measure of man became
man, not the divine; and the measure of what society was for became
the freely-expressed desires of real people, not the imagined ideals
of their priests. This makes the free activities, and above all
the choices, that people make, as near sacred as anything can be
in the modern world. Indeed, Christianity survived in rationalist
societies because it is an enlightened faith - and a truly modern
one. It has always emphasised the value of the individual and his
or her choices. It is not, in its essence, rule-based in a proscriptive
The vague and sporadic (almost dissident) humanism of the late
Medieval period in Europe gave way to the much more organised and
even "establishment" thoughts of the Enlightenment, which
placed reasonableness and negotiation at the heart of the human
enterprise. We will see why such ideas are such an engine for moderate
But it was the most delicious paradox of the Enlightenment that
it unleashed, and licences, the forces of emotion and unreason.
[Dunthorne, 1994; Porter, 1990] That is because it tends to legitimise
whatever it is that people are proved to want. It goes rather further.
The Enlightenment enshrines emotion at the heart of its project.
What people want is clearly an emotional business, so conferring
freedom on people puts their emotions centre stage anyway. But there
is something a little more to the role of emotion in the Enlightenment.
The Enlightenment world was above all based on a sense that it was
the natural world which was the proper main subject of people's
thinking and the source of their inspiration. It was also the source
of any new knowledge a person might gain, granted that the Enlightenment
above all enshrined the new quest for an understanding of the workings
of the real - the physical - world. Enlightenment dualism is often
dismissed for its emphasis on the mind as against the wild, primitive,
or natural. This is a profound misreading of the Enlightenment state
of affairs, which actually realised that it was the terrestrial
and the corporeal - not the divine - which should be the focus of
intelligent people. Thus the Enlightenment mind leads us directly
to intense interest in everything which is unintellectual. Indeed,
the Enlightenment contains within its thinking the undoing of the
very Utopias to which its idealism seems to point. By accentuating
the value of the individual and his choice, the Enlightenment made
it hard even to attempt the serious improvement of person or society
by agents such as the state or church. An Enlightenment person is
necessarily in that sense a liberal, and even a libertarian. He
understands, with J S Mill, that no-one has the right to insist
on changes to another person's behaviour unless the offending person
is a child, insane, or breaking the law.
The Enlightenment finds it hard to condemn what people are seriously
and continuously inclined to do, because what people want is at
the very heart of its thinking. That, and the new understanding
that it is the natural world which teaches us everything, accounts
for the "Age of Reason" having spawned its seeming antithesis,
the Romantic movement. The Enlightenment also spawned an understanding
of the value of ugliness, revulsion and disgust as elements which
could lift prettiness into real art and seriousness. This was the
essence of the "sublime".[Klein, 1993; Vaughan, 1994]
It thrives now in a post-modern relish of the nihilistic. [Dollimore,
Just as the Enlightenment proclaimed the humanist virtues of reason,
and the value of the human person, so the self-determining people
of the day exercised their freedom, not least in cultivating their
"sensibilities" as well as their reasoning faculties.
In no time, ecstasies of feeling were all the rage, whether they
be over Oriental stories, natural landscapes, the Noble Savage,
or tortured excessive love affairs.
Thus, the Enlightenment ushered in a new freedom to think, but
this led to a new freedom to feel too. Indeed, the primitive within
each of us, and within the wider world, became of intense interest.
It became of intense interest to people to consider what was the
natural state of man onto which "civilisation" had been
grafted. What was the untutored state of man, which arduous efforts
had now refined almost into invisibility?
It was almost as though what had been seen as a tension between
good and evil - between God and the Devil - was better seen as a
battle between civilisation and the wild. Excepting this: The Enlightenment
mind was richly ambiguous about where virtue lay. Was man and his
civilisation good? Or was Nature the real repository of virtue?
This tension is as old as the hills: it was knowledge which destroyed
Eden in the "creation story" which underlay Western civilisation.
The Enlightenment saw the wild world as both sinister and idyllic.
It was admired both for its power to thrill and soothe. Primitive
man was as inclined to be admired for his moderation (his moderation
which appeared to arise without punitive disciple, what's more)
as he was dreaded for his cannibalism.
The history of "the reasonable" allows us to see that
civilised people have always recognised that the "unreasonable"
was highly interesting and perhaps important. The recognition is
a very old one: civilisation has always organised or tolerated periods
when the uncivilised must be given its head. An obvious example
is the tradition of carnival, with its celebration of the Lords
of Misrule, and with the polite rules of society overthrown for
a period. Societies presumably tolerated these periods of disorder
either because they were unstoppable anyway, or because of an understanding
that order was of course valuable, but it was only tolerable if
one had a holiday from it. Civilisation is natural to humans, but
it is an artificial construct, too. We need the anticipation of
disorder if we are to tolerate order. Holidays make work agreeable
or at least tolerable. Weekend parties make the workaday humdrum
tolerable. Variety is the spice of life.
Isn't there something more though? We need the reminder of the
perils of disorder if we are to remain truly interested in the norm
of good order. It is true that some people, through timidity, cowardice,
good sense, lack of imagination or whatever else, are born or can
easily be schooled to become truly and quietly civilised - good
citizens - without experiencing the wild side.
All the same, the most polite and rational society is kept so by
many means, including the ritualisation of disorder. In our modern
history, the more we condemned violence and legislated against it,
the more we valued in its socialised versions, such as hunting and
sport. Roger Scruton makes this the centrepiece of his argument
"it is through contest that morality is learned".
He argues that civilisation needs for all sorts of reasons to remind
itself, and to relive, the atavastic, primal, earlier ways of the
hunter-gatherer. He makes modern hunting into an act of courageous
penitence and piety to the lost, earlier, older links with the natural.
So it is with our Forbidden Fruit, except that whilst offering challenges,
they also offer solace. Some of them (alcohol particularly, but
also, and differently, cannabis) make us primitive, and usefully
and pleasurably, if riskily, so. We will look at this a little more
closely when we discuss Susan Greenfield's work (below).
There is something else going on. The modern human, as a child
of the Enlightenment and of humanism, is inclined to believe that
he must invent himself. In previous times, identity was, like belonging,
in some sense compulsory. One was born into a family, tribe, religion,
class, nation and these happy or unhappy accidents were more or
less sufficient to form one's identity unless one took the immense
risk of breaking free, which few did. Now, none of these identities
is compulsory, and none is as firm and concrete as was once the
case. None of them can do the old job of defining us, even if we
would like them to. This is one of the important senses in which
we live in a "Post Modern" age, which is as much a child
of The Enlightenment as was the Romantic ideal.
The humanist and Enlightenment ideals licensed and required men
and women to invent themselves. Now we see that the loosening of
the "compulsory belonging" which once defined us has led
us to an even greater need to see what stuff we are made of.
Interestingly, there is now a reading of the human brain and nervous
system which nicely substantiates the cultural or social explanation
of the way the human mind works in this regard. Susan Greenfield,
in her book, The Private Life of the Brain [Greenfield, 2000], describes
the brain as an organism which comprises "modern", civilised,
rational zones and modes which interact with older, more primitive,
selfish zones and modes. (The use of words like "zones"
and "modes" is the best I can do to convey the modern
sense that the brain does not have, as it were, designated switches
or areas for different functions and feelings: rather, it seems
to have networks and means of operation which produce them.)
The "sensible" and adult zones and modes enshrine our
learned, adult behaviour. But there is an underlying brain at work
as well, and it is instinctive and primordial. Susan Greenfield
is not relaxed about drugs, indeed she is unusual in being very
forthright in worrying about almost all of them, even those "soft"
drugs like cannabis and Ecstasy which others more or less condone.
This seems to be because she believes that the "underlying"
brain and its workings are less attractive and useful than the refined
"modern" brain. Or rather: she believes the disciplinary
effects of the civilised zones and modes are very valuable. Besides,
she stresses the damage that she believes almost any drug can do
to the brain. All the same, her book can be taken to convey another
message, which she probably would not approve of: that human beings
are a complex of the ancient and modern, and that their desires
are not necessarily to be denied or ignored merely because they
are atavistic. The atavistic is authentic.
How rational should society aim to be?
It is in a way comforting to see that "civilised" people
are in ready touch with a state which is altogether less organised.
Few of us believe the old, the savage and the primitive are ideal
states for us. We are glad that humanity has come a long from the
simpler, cruder emotional states which were once our lot. And yet,
when we seek to hunt, or chase, or acquire, or excel in athletics,
or business, or make love, we are in touch some qualities in our
being - older qualities - which cannot be denied and which are immense
source of pleasure and excitement to us. And when we indulge in
mind-altering substances, we are, according to Susan Greenfield,
"unplugging" our civilised minds and getting back to those
wilder shores of experience. We can understand that such moments
are dangerous as well as exhilarating. We can remind ourselves that
they need to be limited, disciplined and regarded with some circumspection.
But we can also see more clearly than before why we sense a deep
urge to make such sensory journeys. They are journeys into our past.
We can now put some of these ideas together and see how well they
marry up with modern ideas about the human mentality. Modern people
need and want to discover their own personalities. They are aware
of a need to loosen the bonds of the mundane if they are to do that.
They want to push into extremes of experience. They want to test
themselves against extremes of sensation. They are prone to the
old understanding that the humdrum has its mirror image in a world
of excess, and that excess actually quite closely informs the humdrum.
They know that society has well-organised and sanctioned means,
habits and places for such explorations. And so they know that it
is normal as well as pleasurable to drink and dance at a club or
Glastonbury or a rave. They know that almost everyone around them
will tolerate quite extreme behaviour if it is occasional, and more
or less limited to the right sort of time and place.
For many people, their own well-developed sub-culture invites them
into a further adventure, with illegal drugs, and here they enter
into a world in which it is understood that there is a gradient
of illegality and danger, which they can traverse - much as they
might traverse a difficult rock climb on a hillside. How far they
go will be their business, but their own strong sub-culture will
at leas not condemn the illegality what they do (except perhaps
when they slide into criminal means of paying for drugs).
Forbidden Fruit: addiction and choice
Addiction is a deliciously slippery and difficult notion. [Elster
and Skog, 1999; Gardner and David, 1999] George Ainslie points out
that the dictionary tells us that the word's origins lie in ideas
of "judicial enslavement" - when someone was condemned
to serve another. It carries with it ideas of enslavement. [Elster
and Skog, 1999].
This confirms our simple prejudices about it, and they are good
starting points. Clearly, we assume it can never be good to be an
addict. Addiction is about pleasures taken to extremes. Perhaps
better put: it is pleasure which takes one to extremes. An addict
cannot give up habits even though they have ceased to be a pleasure.
Addiction implies that a person seeks a particular sort of pleasure.
It implies that one does so again and again, and more or less involuntarily.
It implies a habit whose satisfaction takes a higher and higher
"dose", and that relinquishing the habit is more or less
as difficult as the dose has become high. A further characteristic
of addiction is that it requires that the immediate future loom
larger in one's calculations than the remoter future, and this to
the degree that it appears irrational to non-addicts. In other worse,
a non-addicted reasonable person will usually feel that the addict
in an ideal world would merely have given ordinary weight to the
more distant consequences of his actions; then he would have been
sufficiently repelled from his course of action and his commitment
to near-term pleasures. A non-addicted person may go further and
make a moral point: an addict "should" have made a greater
effort not to become addicted, or a greater effort to rid himself
of the addiction once it took hold.
None of these definitions would do by itself, and none can be taken
at face value, in itself.
The addictive pleasure can of course be highly nuanced: some people
say they do not actually like smoking, but simply can't give it
up anyway. It is routine for smokers to hate themselves for their
One can be an addict irrespective of the amount or frequency of
one's "habit". Most bizarrely, one can be addicted to
substances without having had a gram of them in one's system for
years: most people who reckon themselves severely addicted to nicotine,
alcohol or drugs would say that they are addicts even when years
have passed from the last contact with the substance. In the case
of the addict's discounting of the future: the intriguing dilemma
is whether some people just are constituted particularly to think
more of near things than of far ones. Of these people, may it be
said that though they may be capable of being highly reasonable
in many things, they are not capable of being reasonable in that?
The range of addictions is very wide, and so wide is the word's
use that it risks becoming meaningless. It is surely plausibly said
that one can be addicted to almost any bad behaviour, but it ought
to be quite bad and quite gripping before the word is deserved.
A paedophile is reasonably said to be addicted to the eroticism
of the idea or fact of sexual relations with young people. Many
men, especially the young, are, it might plausibly be said, addicted
to pornography. People notoriously become addicted to risky sports
and to gambling, or even to entrepreneurship. An actor might reasonably
be said to be addicted to applause, and a politician to the sound
of his own voice.
Is it reasonable, though, to say that couch potatoes are addicted
to television, and nerds to the Internet and video games? Do we
really believe some people become addicted to starving, and others
to bingeing, and some to both alternately? Perhaps.
Others are said to be addicted to the highs produced by exercise.
[Evening Standard, 2000]
Even more frivolously we use the word "chocoholic" to
describe the infatuation of many people to chocolate.
These usages are valuable in letting us know some elements an addiction
must have to be worth the name: it needs to involve a habit which
even a strong-minded person cannot resist. Slobbing out with too
many chocolates because they are "more-ish" does not count:
withdrawal is too easy, the symptoms too undramatic, and so on.
For all that there are very different forms of addiction, to be
worth the name they need to be powerful in a particular way. Modern
research shows that the brain receives pleasurable sensations from
some substances. This modern research shows also that research animals
can be made pretty much to replicate the human experience: their
neurological responses to these substances bear out the picture
we have in human addicts. Pleasurable in themselves, these sensations
can be intensified in various ways, and usually by increasing the
dose. What is more, research now indicates that there is a kind
of chemical pinzer movement which nicely explains, not merely why
people indulge in the habits, and intensify them, but also why they
find it painful to desist. [Gardner and David, 1999] It is easiest
to think of carrots and sticks. Addicts are obviously interested
in the carrot of pleasure. They find themselves subject to a stick,
too: diminishing returns with many (actually, not all) stimulants.
The crucial element of addiction is the difficulty the addict experiences
in giving up the sensations. This is normally twofold: on withdrawal,
the body experiences pretty much the reverse (in degree and type)
of the pleasure most addictive experiences bring. But there is something
else too: research now indicates that the brain seems to hold a
continuous memory of the pleasure of addiction. One may be able
to remember the bad times with addiction, but given the right triggers
(proximity of a cigarette, the return of the experiences which preceded
pleasurable drinking, etc) the brain seems to lose the carefully
contrived inhibitions which the addict had built up to keep him
safe. So it is partly the unpleasantness of withdrawing that keeps
the practicing addict at the last. But it is a subtler "after-effect"
of addiction which keeps him vulnerable, perhaps forever, even though
he had hoped to have "kicked the habit".
Elements of this model seem to make sense with, say paedophilia,
or serial killers or stalkers. One can readily imagine a person
finding huge pleasure or excitement in the eroticism, the risk and
the power of these sorts of behaviour, and finding nothing else
in life half as interesting. But it may also be that the pleasure,
but not the moral inhibition or even the self-loathing (where that
is present), is remembered when he is back in the way of temptation.
For obvious reasons, the issue with addictive substances is even
clearer. Such matters are easier to research, in animals and humans.
They are not, of course, all the same, and no one of them has the
same effect on all people.
Alcohol, dugs and alcohol interest us here because they are nicely
similar in involving substances rather than behaviour. They all
involve spending money, and they all involve debates about the legitimacy
of the commercial operations involved.
The hazards of some Forbidden Fruit
Drinking comes laden with imagery to do with hell-raising, partying,
and a frank depravity and dissolution. One is on the road to hell-raising
when one drinks. One is Hemingway-esque. Especially for men, to
drink is to increase the chance that one might become or be mistaken
for such a hero figure - simultaneously or variously, raffish, dangerous,
out of control, primal, inspired. One drinks to be one of the boys.
Drink is something which few people would seriously suggest should
not be attempted by anyone. But it is completely disruptive of normal
life if carried on to excess, which it is certain a substantial
minority of drinkers will do. It has a big effect on behaviour and
on performance. It is supposed in small quantities to have a positive
So the peculiar feature of drinking is that it is completely integrated
with civilised life though it leads most people at least some of
the time into self-destructive behaviour and some people quickly
into severe addiction and some others to criminal violence. For
almost all the members of some races (the Inuit, for instance) it
is extremely dangerous.
Yet for all its hazards, alcohol has never lost its respectability,
at least in Western civilisation. Discussion revolves around the
sole issue of how much, and how young, people should drink.
Drugs are quite different, and different to each other. Few people
seriously suppose that cannabis is seriously addictive: it is almost
certainly much less so than smoking nicotine, or drinking. It may
be more damaging to the brain, though, even if it is not thought
particularly dangerous to general health (though that probably depends
on whether it is smoked, and how). Cannabis, like alcohol, but quite
unlike tobacco, has a dose related effect. Taken to extremes, it
often induces a dangerous and boring placidity, and perhaps paranoia,
but it is not associated with bravura, or violence as is drink.
Also unlike alcohol, at low levels it does not impair and may enhance
some skills involving co-ordination and judgment, such as driving.
Drugs are very different from each other in their addictiveness
and in other ways too. Cannabis, for instance, is not as addictive
as smoking. It does not seem to tap into specific weaknesses in
specific people, as drinking does. It is not, in ordinary use, as
mind-altering as drinking. The same sort of percentage of its users
indulge only moderately as obtains with alcohol use. Indeed, the
worst that can be said about it is that its use is associated with
abuse of much more dangerous drugs. But it is really no more the
precursor of heroin abuse, say, than is eating carrots, smoking
or drinking alcohol. Its ordinary use is rather less likely to lead
to serious drug abuse of any kind than the ordinary use of alcohol
leads alcoholism. Its ordinary use leads to good rather than bad
Amongst the worst of the problems of cannabis are those associated,
not with the drug itself, but with the "delivery"system.
Smoking cannabis often involves smoking tobacco, and smoking the
dug itself. So often, when the risks of cannabis are discussed,
we really discussing the risks of smoking. The solution to those
risks is to find a different delivery system.
One is a little saddened on hearing that someone one is fond of
- a son or daughter especially - has taken up smoking, but one is
not surprised or shocked. Few of us would feel the need, or believe
it would be effective, to moralise to the young adult taking up
smoking. On the other hand, and at the same time, any parent would
work hard to discourage smoking in his or her child. We know, after
all, that most lifelong and even many long-term moderate and, even
more so, heavy smokers incur a heavy health penalty for their habit.
True, the effects are dose-related, but we know too that long-term
smoking has to start somewhere.
The paradox is this: nicotine is only in a very mild way psycho-active.
It does not make people dangerous, either by bending their minds
too much, or by making them dependent to such a degree that they
will commit crime to ensure supplies.
The attractiveness of smoking
The most interesting feature of the image of smoking, its ability
to woo and charm us, is that it is the epitome of the reflective,
the intellectual. Its users are allowed access to reverie. If drinking
trails a reputation for hell-raising and excess, smoking has an
altogether more spiritual baggage.
One takes up smoking to be more like people one has seen on screen
or in pictures or read about. As Angus Crane writes of one Hollywood
star famous for smoking:
"The most renowned Bette Davis film, All About Eve, is teeming
with Davi' cigarette artistry. Davis' handling of each cigarette
mirrors the mood of the film. In the opening sequence, Davis is
seen at theatrical awards dinner lighting a cigarette and exhaling
a stream of smoke as she pushes away a waiter's hand who attempts
to water her cocktail.Her management of the cigarette is stagy,
theatrical, actressey - a perfect summation of Davis' character,
Margo Channing. When Davis is informed that the star struck Eve
Harrington wishes to meet her, she displays her disdain for "autograph
fiends" by spewing a billowing cloud of smoke upon her guests
as if it were an insecticide designed to destroy all pests. After
a light night phone call with her boyfriend, Davis begins to suspect
Eve of evil motives. She returns the phone to its receiver and sit
half way up in the bed, lights her cigarette and withdraws the cigarette
less than an inch away from her lips and allows the smoke to slowly
exit at an uncertain, hesitating pace, reflecting her growing anxiety
Might not images such as these be a good part of the reason why
this mildly addictive habit, this rather mild habit, is so hard
to beat? It is because one likes its cultural significance, its
role in one's mental landscape so much.
As she describes how devoted she is to smoking, how she will stick
with it even with a hangover or 'flu, Daily Telegraph writer Sally
"Why, I wonder, can that determination not be put to better
use, such as giving up? I have smoked for years. Far, far longer
than I wish to put a figure to. I do it because I love it, but also
because, in some deep, inarticulate way, it symbolises me. In my
mind, I am smoking. I cannot separate it from my being, so giving
up seems like an amputation of some part of my psyche." [Brampton,
Quite. Even so, should we really allow the word "addiction"
to apply to it, if by addiction one means something with a strongly
chemical, as opposed to a more amorphous psychological, component?
Smoking may deserve description as addictive on the grounds that
at the very least we know how hard most people find it to give up
smoking. Official information in the US insists that this is so,
and so does a writer on the neurobiology of addiction, who quotes
some heroin addicts as asserting that smoking is the harder habit
to kick. [Elster and Skog, 1999]. Maybe, though, the difficulty
is that the pleasures of smoking are mild and great, and the risks
not appalling enough to bolster resistance. In other words, smokers
like smoking and assess the risks as acceptable. The battle they
are fighting is with their personal assessment of risk, not some
Many people smoke only a few cigarettes a week. Some, even amongst
these occasional smokers, claim, however, that they seriously want
such cigarettes as they smoke. Some people smoke very many cigarettes,
and many of these would claim they don't really want some of them
at all. The person who smokes many cigarettes doesn't get a noticeably
greater sensation from his smoking than someone who smokes less.
It is not clear whether one smokes to be calmed or to be given a
Perhaps it is that the "hit" of a cigarette is for some
reason pleasurable but mild, whilst, for some reason or other, the
memory of the pleasure is powerful. It may also be the very mildness
of the smoking experience and the rather distant prospect of damage
which make it peculiarly hard for smokers and ex-smokers to balance
the present benefit and future cost. Certainly, they routinely fail
to strike the balance that the non-addict thinks is "normal"
or reasonable. Most people would say that it is unwise to start
smoking because it is very hard to give up.
All the same, the difficulty with classing smoking as an addictive
habit is that it is relatively easy to give up, even if it seems
much harder to give up for good. Considering how little it alters
our state of mind (unlike alcohol which alters one's mental state
a good deal), and how few withdrawal symptoms giving it up entails
(surely more like giving up coffee than giving up heavy drinking),
do we have other, non-physiological reasons why is it that so many
ex-smokers stay that rather short periods of time?
The answer perhaps lies in the way smoking seems to come preceded
by such evocative, exciting promises. It is the ethos, not the chemistry,
of cigarettes which makes them powerful. Or perhaps it would be
more accurate to say: smoking's affect on the pleasure centres in
the brain appears to be even more powerful on parts of the organ
where the effect persists, rather than merely on parts which give
immediate pleasure. There is a good deal of writing about smoking
now, and almost all of it speaks of a mysterious, seductive aura
which hangs over this habit. It is seductive because we have ideas
about sophisticated people who did it before one. [Times, 2000b;
Klein, 1993] We admire it, say, because we know how good Humphrey
Bogart looked whilst doing it on and off screen. It is hard to tell
whether we admire it because of the glamour conferred by Humphrey
Bogart himself (that would imply that, for instance, red handkerchiefs,
would be attractive because Bogart wore them). Or is that we recognise
that the sort of people we see who are like Bogart (risk-takers,
generous, impulsive, brave, sexy) are prone, like Bogart, to be
smokers? It seems likely to be the latter, since Bogart was a man
admired as a screen persona, so we can perhaps safely suppose that
it is the people he played, not merely or at all the person he was,
whom we emulate when we smoke.
It is, by the way, no good to say that now we know that smoking
is risky, so we should dislike it. We liked it because of its association
with risk-takers and risk-taking. It has to be figured as amazingly
risky to frighten us off, granted that we who like it as risk-takers
and would not admire smoking if it were tame.
The further interest then comes when one realises that several
generations of people have reached for their first cigarette whilst
knowing that its health effects are likely to be severe unless one
smokes lightly and not for too long a period. Now these are people
who have not experienced the pleasant effects of smoking, and indeed
will have to experience some unpleasant effects before discovering
the pleasant ones.
The allure of smoking, though, is so strong that they take it up.
Smoking is equally the preserve of the stupid and the clever. Again,
it is the assumption that one will be in the lucky majority who
can give up before severe damage is done that presumably lets so
many people make so dangerous a decision. Anyone who takes up smoking
knows that many people who smoke quite heavily, quite long-term
do not suffer anything severe from its effects. They also reckon
that they will not amongst the long-term users even if they are
for a while amongst the heavy-users. Interestingly, very few of
the very many who try smoking do so with a heavy habit at first.
In other words, they persist in being very light smokers for a very
long time. The messages against smoking accumulate in the longish
periods when they do not smoke, and yet they keep reaching for a
cigarette. In other words, many, many people have many, many "first"
cigarettes. Many also have many, many "last" cigarettes.
They reach for most of those whilst it could hardly be said that
they were addicted, as though continuously and repetitively under
the influence of the presence of the substance involved. In this
sense it is important to see that cigarette smoking is not really
a chemical addiction at all: it is an addiction like theatre- going,
or looking at erotic pictures, of buying gorgeous clothes. It may
be irresistible, and it may produce wonderful sensations, but it
is those sensations and images one is addicted to, not a chemical
which has one its is grip.
Young people take to smoking because most of the most interesting
people they know smoke, and most of the most interesting people
they admire or emulate, smoke. [Gladwell, 2000] They smoke in the
hope that they may be taken for the smoking type and they smoke
in the hope that being the smoking type will rub off on them. It
was ever thus.
The cigarettes CEOs on the rack
One of the most striking moments of the anti-smoking battle in
the US came when seven chief executive officers of America's largest
tobacco companies faced a Congressional committee.
Peter Pringle describes it thus:
"If a single image symbolizes the [....] tobacco wars, it is
surely the chief executive officers of America's seven largest tobacco
companies standing side by side, with their right hands raised,
swearing to tell the truth about smoking to a committee of the US
On the morning of April 14, 1994, having turned down many invitations
over the years to appear before Congress, the seven CEOs lined up
before Henry Waxman's Health and Environment Subcommittee and were
asked to state their opinion for the record. 'Yes or no, do you
believe nicotine is addictive?''
William Campbell of Philip Morris was first. 'I believe nicotine
is not addictive,' he stated, loud and clear.
Then came James Johnston of R. J. Reynolds. 'Mr. Congressman, cigarettes
and nicotine clearly do not meet the classic definition of addiction.
There is no intoxication.' [Pringle, 1998]
Do we believe that Mr Campbell was correct in his statement? The
answer surely is that most people do not. Indeed, his remark has
become a classic of the corporate duplicity which most people now
seem to accept as commonplace. But surely it would be far fairer
to say that it all depends on how you're using the word "addictive".
A "yes or no" answer invites and even insists on a nonsense
reply. Sensible people would have little difficulty in believing
Mr Johnston's more nuanced answer, and sympathise with his refusal
to answer unequivocally.
The medicalisation of addiction
As I have tried to show in my Risk: The human choice [North, 2000],
there is now an Anxiety Industry which seeks to see as many individuals
as possible as victims, and especially victims of industry. This
industry will, if it succeeds, "pathologise" society (as
Dr Antony Daniels so trenchantly points out) because it proceeds
by "pathologising" as many individuals as often as possible.
In other words: it describes people as sick and made sick by a sick
society. Part of its case is that so many people are sick that society
is sick, as it were by accumulation. We are all, in the view of
the Anxiety Industry, either ill or "in recovery". Naturally,
it happily sees the world as full of people who have lost the capacity
to be masters of their fate, they are addicted. Naturally, too,
in this view they have been rendered so by money-grubbing capitalists.
Addictiveness has similarities with illness, but differences, too.
Addiction as sickness
Most people who toy with our Forbidden Fruit get more or less what
they wanted, though some go on to suffer extremely. But to what
extent should we think of all the users of Forbidden Fruit as hopeless
victims and to what extent as volunteers? Does making them into
patients help resolve the question?
According to an essay in Substance Abuse and Dependence [SAD],
a modern standard text on the subject [Ghodse and Maxwell 1990],
in the 18th century:
"The prevailing philosophy was that of rationalism, which stated
that men always acted freely in accordance with principles of rational
self-interest and that if anyone broke accepted rules of proper
conduct they did so knowing that punishment could follow. The drunkard
had therefore chosen to be drunk.
A great change of outlook occurred at the end of the eighteenth
century, when the scientific method was applied not only to the
material world but also to the explanation of human drives and actions.
Human behaviour was seen as determined by forces outside the individual's
control and yet susceptible to scientific explanation, with the
result that habitual drunkenness was explained by the disease of
addiction. Dr Benjamin Rush of Philadelphia (1745-1813) and his
Britain Dr Thomas Trotter (1760-1832), an Edinburgh physician, each
wrote highly influential tracts in which addiction to alcohol was
described as 'a disease of the will'. Rush considered that once
a 'craving' for strong spirits had developed, the addict could not
resist the impulse to drink. Drunkenness was not seen as a vice
or personal weakness, since the sufferer had lost control over his
drinking..... It was believed that the essence of alcohol addiction
lay not in the vulnerability of individuals, but in the addicting
nature of alcohol itself and so a complete legislative ban became
their goal. There was no opposition to provision for treatment,
and help for 'inebriates', as they came to be called, formed a major
part of temperance activity (see Heather and Robertson, 1985)."
Interestingly, United States went down the Prohibition road, with
disastrous effects, the main one being the criminalistion of drink
and the empowerment of criminals. SAD's historical survey picks
up the post-prohibition story:
"The following decades saw the rediscovery of the disease concept
and the subsequent reinvolvement of medicine in the care of substance
misusers. Much of this was influenced by Dr E. Jellinek, who, in
the late 1940s, established the [centre] for Alcohol Studies. Jellinek
defined alcoholism as 'any use of alcoholic beverages that caused
any damage to the individual or society or both'. He emphasised
the criteria of 'loss of control' (gamma alcoholism) and inability
to abstain (delta alcoholism), and described the phases of alcohol
addiction as those of a chronic and progressive disease.... The
disease concept was also adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous...... In
retrospect it appears that the disease model did not arise solely
from pure scientific considerations but also out of the concern
that the alcoholic and drug user deserved better treatment. The
function of this approach was to legitimise addicts and the actions
of those who helped them." The book goes on to note an interesting
The Alcoholics Anonymous approach asserts that individuals have
a strong responsibility and ability to themselves in dealing with
their "disease". Notice the switch. In the Rush/Trotter
model, alcohol causes disease through addiction; in the AA model,
it is the drunk who has a disease, "alcoholism". Note
too, the Jellincek model, which seems to suppose a disease, alcoholism,
to be at work even at very low levels of problem ("any damage....").
This is the worst of both worlds: we have a medical condition which
covers any use of alcohol which does any degree of damage. Our SAD
authors write that these new approaches "did not rise solely
from surely scientific considerations.....". Surely we can
go further than that? Clearly alcohol is not a disease agent in
the way that a virus is, at least not in any general way. Most drinkers
flirt pretty successfully with its addictiveness. Clearly, equally,
there are some people who for whatever reason cannot successfully
flirt with alcohol. We can sympathise with them without the need
to assume they are somehow possessed by a special disease which
makes them specially vulnerable to alcohol. They may be weak in
a wider way, or have specific weaknesses without yet needing to
be thought to have a special or specific disease. Anyway, if the
AA treatment works, it may not matter that they have the wrong words
for the problem they are solving. And the AA treatment works, when
it does, by disabusing "alcoholic" drinkers of the idea
that they can be occasional, social or moderate drinkers. It works
by helping alcoholics to keep away from the temptation to dally
again on the primrose path. So, oddly, the scientific or "medical"
model- whatever its accuracy - can lead some people to what the
SAD authors call the "moral" model. This paper broadly
supports the "moral" model, of course. The AA approach
borrows some language from the "medical" model, but uses
it to bolster the ability - the resolve - of the "alcoholic"
to fight his or her own battle. "Medicalisation" invites
the onlooker to treat the drunk with sympathy and might seem to
invite the drunk to wait for treatment: but it can be taken more
usefully to remind the drunk that he is under sentence of illness
unless he cultivates the resolve to fight back.
The Forbidden Fruit are not disease agents, but delights with dangers
attached. Our handling of them presents reasonable people with moral
choices and challenges.
We need to be very strict about our uses of medicalisation. Firstly,
the word "disease" is a useful scientific term which will
have to be replaced if it is hijacked by abuse. Secondly, we need
to preserve the idea for conditions we think truly claim victims,
and do so because of forces which are real physical or psychological
processes. This matters mostly because those whom we describe as
diseased or in the grip of a disease deserve our sympathy, and that
can be as dangerous a commodity as an infectious agent. Sympathy
can be dangerous to those to whom it is extended, and by extension
it can then become dangerous to the rest of society.
People who are addicted or prone to addiction need our help, and
that help will include the development of a culture and language
which helps them to keep on top of their problem, or away from its
These issues can be seen at work in many attempts to "medicalise"
problems. It applies in matters ranging from workplace "stress"
to post traumatic stress, and from ME to smoking.
Addiction and reason
The unexpected point about risky behaviour is that it is entirely
rational. Man is pleasure-seeking animal, and amongst the pleasures
he seeks are intoxication, relaxation, and excitement. Like entrepreneurship,
sport and creative activity, the Forbidden Fruit we are discussing
all offer some of these, variously but definitely. We can unpick
some of this very quickly. Cautious people will argue that all our
Forbidden Fruit not only deliver pleasure, but they do so in alarmingly
risky ways. But our more adventurous spirits will reply that the
excitement of that risk-taking can for many of us be a prime part
of the pleasure. So it is no good saying that someone about to take
a drink risks picking a fight, or walking into traffic: these are
part of the excitement. Equally, it is no good saying that someone
taking a drink, a cigarette, or a joint is risking moving down a
road which will lead to hopeless addiction or ill health or both:
these again are part of the point.
Besides, someone taking up a Forbidden Fruit may make one of three
assumptions. One is that he will be able to use the Fruit at some
level of consumption which is pleasurable but short of the kind
of dose which is seriously addictive; and second that he will have
the strength of mind to overcome whatever addictedness unfolds,
even if it is serious. And the third is that whatever suffering
is involved in the addiction, so be it. The first is presumably
by far the commonest assumption, and is the commonest experience.
The second is plainly delusionary for many people with many Forbidden
Fruit. Many smokers, however, do manage to renounce their pleasure.
The third approach may be desperate, but may have a certain surprising
validity and value: it simply says that the pleasures to be had
from addictive behaviour are worth the awful suffering - or the
likelihood of awful suffering - they entail.
It is true that if people were more rational, they would be better
at seeing the reality of future pain, and less good at discounting
it. There is indeed a fascinating discussion to be had about the
way rational people discount the future. George Ainslie [in Elster
and Skog, 1999] discusses one interesting feature of the human psyche:
the idea of "disassociation". This is the idea that people
do not have a fixed identity, which is the sum of the things they
want. Rather, they are Mr Bloggs, the "dieter", and they
are the same man, in a different mode: Mr Bloggs, the "chocolate
eater". They operate as different agents according to differently-bundled
needs and wants. One needs some such idea to capture the way that
a party-goer on the way to an evening's fun will tell his wife to
throw away the car-keys if there is any sign that he has drunk too
much, but will be angry with her if she does, once he is in that
condition. Thus, it is sometimes effective to make the sober person
blackmail the drunk person (the self same person in different situations):
a clinic may elicit a letter of self-condemnation from a drunk seeking
reform, and the instruction to mail the letter to the drunk's employer
in the event of relapse [Elster and Skog, 1999]
There is clearly a moral issue here: the language of disassociation
allows people to discuss "disassociative disorders", a
track which would allow the "medicalisation" of self-delusion,
and the legitimisation of people's weakness of will. Still, any
of us will recognise the phenomenon to be a real one, and to be
crucially at work when we are wrestling with temptation.
It may even be true that it is worth reminding people of the dire
future consequences of some of their actions: to try to make them
see that the person who will suffer in the future is the same person
who is so tempted to over-indulge in Forbidden Fruit today. But
this thought must be nuanced by the understanding that telling people
about the future harms which may befall them may in many cases merely
add to the allure of flirting with those dangers. This is, by the
way, why it is often said to be dangerous to use advertisements
featuring drug-induced squalor if one wants to deter young people:
danger and depravity is what they seek - for the thrill of them.
Besides, one may not live to see the future and to know the pain
which is stored up for one. Maybe one is right to suppose that the
future holds a certain amount of pain, and that can be faced when
the time comes: why blight the present on the prospect of avoiding
that unpleasantness, or hoping that one choose this or that unpleasantness
over some other when life is too little predictable for such accounting?
Smoking and risk
One important feature of the rationality of flirting with the risks
of Forbidden Fruit arises from the numbers involved. About half
of smokers die of a "smoking related" illness, though
only one in six of them die of the lung cancer which is so closely
associated with the habit. So what do we make of that? There is
first of all the problem that many smokers die of illnesses that
many others have: they may get them worse, more often, or earlier:
but these are matters of degree. Besides, everyone dies of something,
so why not smoking? In the end, old age kills even the very virtuous
and cautious at whatever age "nature" and chance determine
for each of them; every other cause of death only has the power
to shorten that life. But none of us knows what the natural age
of death would have been, in the absence of the things we do which
may foreshorten that period. It is not irrational to grasp at certain
pleasure now, since we do not know whether we are about to die tomorrow,
or in our ninth decade; or well or badly at either time.
This matters. Individuals can know well enough that the "average"
person lives (say) 85 years. Smokers on average reduce that by (say)
five years. One is free to play these numbers in any direction one
chooses. Smokers are within their rights to wonder how bad it is
to die at 80 instead of 85. Or that one might have died at 40 anyway,
so smoking oneself to death at that age is no big deal.
One of the reasons why we are not wholly irrational when we discount
the future is that it is shrouded in mystery. To that extent, fecklessness
is not irrational (though it is almost always infuriating to the
Then there is the fact that half of smokers seem to get away scot-free.
More important is the fact that what kills people is a good deal
of smoking over a good deal of time. The question for someone about
to smoke is what they think the odds are, what the risk is, of their
becoming a committed smoker? It is true that many people who take
up smoking become serious smokers, but many do not, and it is not
necessarily irrational to suppose oneself capable of being the person
who smokes lightly, or only for a while.
Smoking's harm is dose-related. Giving up smoking in middle age
can restore one's health prospects remarkably. [Times, 2000a]
Peto and Doll's classic studies based on the smoking-related morbidity
and mortality a cohort of British doctors, all of whom (naturally)
were non-smokers, life-long smokers, or ex-smokers, was begun in
the 1950's, and shows
"for the 40 year period of the study as a whole, the overall
mortality was twice as great in continuing cigarette smokers as
in lifelong non-smokers throughout middle and early old age."
The study looked at some of the detailed outcomes experienced by
lifelong smokers as against non-smokers
"The most notable differences are in the proportions who die
between 35 and 69 years of age, which vary from 20% in non-smokers
to 41% in cigarette smokers as a whole and to 50% in those who smoke
25 or more cigarettes a day. The absolute differences between the
survival probabilities of smokers and of non-smokers become less
in extreme old age, simply because almost nobody survives beyond
100. Even after middle age, however, the differences between smokers
and non-smokers in their annual mortality rates are quite large:
of those alive at 70, the probability of surviving to 85 is 41%
in non-smokers against 21% in cigarette smokers. The loss of expectation
of life shown by these figures is substantial."
Indeed, then, lifelong smoking costs people years of life:
"For cigarette smokers, the age by which half have died is
eight years less than for non-smokers, while for heavy cigarette
smokers it is 10 years less than for non-smokers."
But there was a very important surprise in the material. If you
stop smoking, your health outcome is radically different from that
of a long-term smoker.
"Those who stopped before 35 years of age (at a mean of 29
years) had a pattern of survival that did not differ significantly
from that of non-smokers." For those who stopped later the
survival was intermediate between that of non-smokers and that of
continuing smokers; but even those who stopped at 65-74 years of
age (mean 71 years) had age specific mortality rates beyond age
75 years appreciably lower than those who continued."
This is research from the same people who alerted us to the hazards
of smoking in the first place, in the 1950's. They are anti-smoking.
And yet their work shows that the 6000 Americans who take up smoking
every day, [Grossman and Chaloupka, 1997] and join the 30-odd per
cent of Westerners who smoke are not thereby condemning themselves
to death. No cigarette does one's health good; all add to one's
risk of cancer and other diseases. But short-term smoking seems
to have no discernible effect. This is good news for the adult who
is rightly worried but not surprised that the young people they
are interested in have a fag behind the bike shed.
The social domain
These accounts, historical, cultural and neuro-physiological, do
not quite get us where we want. They explain something of why even
reasonable people have their desire to experiment with mid-altering
drink and drugs. But they do not quite explain why such experiments
cannot in general be condemned even though they lead to such great
hard for some people.
One answer to this question is utilitarian. If nicotine, alcohol
and drugs produce a mind-alteration which pleases individuals, then
- at least notionally - society can add up their pleasure and offset
it against the harm done.
These pleasures are not simply equated. It is an important principle
that the harm people do themselves and voluntarily is wholly different
from the harm they do others, who have no chance to volunteer themselves
away from the harm. So my voluntarily-sought risks cannot be taken
to be equivalent to the risk involuntarily incurred by you as a
result of them. I must not lightly impose even a light involuntary
risk on another.
Still, liberal societies are inclined to argue that the right of
people to damage themselves is a very important right, and only
to be condemned if there is excessive "collateral" damage
to others. Liberals and libertarians place a good deal of emphasis
on the dangers to society of adopting any other approach. This is
because we value freedom very highly, knowing how strongly we dread
the tedium and even the dangers of a society that does not value
the adventure of freedom.
These sorts of arguments apply to all our Forbidden Fruit. In every
case, our bad habits are very bad for some people. But that is not
to say that they need be bad for the majority of their users, or
that any particular individual is irrational when he asserts that
he can be strong enough to enjoy the pleasures of the habits without
succumbing as a weaker person might.
Of course, one of the problems with some Forbidden Fruit is not
merely the fact that they are pleasurable, or even that they are
extremely pleasurable. They are psychoactive. That is to say, they
boost the sense of the present, both in time and space. The person
who is about to take a drink or a joint is more rational than the
person already indulging in them: that is their point. This point
may not be true, or is less powerfully true, of smoking or pornography,
however. But drink and many drugs do make the here and now very
plesasurable, and they thus chemically discount the perception of
the future and the distant. This party, this partner, this minute,
present company, present laughter come to dominate. Tomorrow's business,
the loyal spouse left at home, future ill-health: these are all
even less likely to be luminous to the inebriate than the sober.
Society and mindbenders
Society takes mind-altering and addictive substances very seriously,
but thinks as little as possible about them. And there is little
consensus about them. All are controlled by legislation of one sort
or another, but all are also admired to a greater or lesser degree.
Some, like drink, are routinely celebrated in the culture: good
fortune, and good wishes, are toasted still. Others, like smoking,
are ostensibly despised but actually rather admired: Humphrey Bogart
died because of smoking, but his smoking remains an indelible part
of his image, even now. Cannabis users are more or less tolerated,
though mainstream society is inclined to regard the habit as Bohemian,
and perhaps to be more censorious than that implies. Ecstasy has
come quickly to be regarded as dangerous, but somehow not disgusting:
its use is too widespread for even the stigma of bohemianism to
be applied to it. Only hard drugs inspire serious stigma. [Rowntree,
1997] There is now a solid and respectable tranche of opinion which
suggests that that on grounds of public policy, let alone libertarianism,
a repressive drugs policy is misconceived. [Runciman, 2000]
Smoking, drinking and "soft drugs" are all easily available
to all those who seriously want and can afford them, whatever their
age, and those who want them feel no stigma - and indeed a good
deal of glamour - attaches to their use. With hard drugs, the story
is different because there is a far greater, though not solid, consensus
that they are to be resisted. All the same, there is a substantial
subculture - and their users are in it - which feels no stigma attaches
to their use.
But why does society get involved at all?
There are three main reasons. One is wholly spurious: it has to
do with a busybody sense of some behaviours being a matter of tabu,
whatever their real cost to the "abuser" or the wider
social implications. Thus drugs of any kind are a matter of peculiar
dread except amongst the more or less dissident or the bohemian.
Alcohol is of course excluded from this, and smoking was until very
Tabus on drugs have shifted a great deal over the years and their
main justification might once have been that they were so strong
as to prevent many harms because there were virtually no drugs in
circulation. But now that the tabus are much weaker and patchy.,
and the harms are clearly happening, this line of argument is fatally
Then there is the supposed value in society saving individuals
from their own weakness and the damage they may do themselves. Granted
that it is self-inflicted, society pokes into this damage at its
peril. It often provokes peculiar attitudes. Whatever one may feel
about the harder drugs, our attitudes to nicotine, alcohol and cannabis
are not commensurate with the damage they do to their users. Cannabis,
were its use to be general, would probably do no harm and might
do good, yet it is formally illegal. Alcohol suffers very few restrictions,
and they are lessening as time passes, though it does indeed have
substantial effects when abused. Smoking faces nearly universal
official opprobrium and increasing social ostracism, though for
many people it is a temporary, and an occasional, pastime.
Of course, there is a good deal of pain associated with the Forbidden
Fruit. Drink contributes to crime by making some of its abusers
violent, irrespective of whether they are "serious" abusers
or not. Drugs contributes to crime by creating a huge need for income
whilst robbing people of the legitimate means of getting it.
Compared to these, smoking cigarettes is indeed in a different
category. I have heard the philosopher Roger Scruton argue, indeed,
that smoking cigarettes is in sharp distinction to drug use because
it primarily harms the smoker, and drugs are rightly proscribed
because they primarily harm the rest of society. The argument is
true, though it does not apply to "soft" drugs, and not
equally to all the others either.
That said, we have to try to hunt down the social cost of these
addictions. If that cost can be proved, then there may be a case
for limiting or prohibiting the substance in question. And there
may be a case for reclaiming the costs involved from somewhere along
the chain of supply and demand.
We are looking for a calculation in which one takes the "good"
one can posit from the pleasurable value of such things, and set
it against the "bad" of the misery associated with them.
The social good is the net benefit which comes out of these sums.
This thinking is made much more complicated, though, by the problem
that addictive pleasures are almost all wholly beneficial for most
of their users for some or even most of the time. Only after a certain
amount of usage does it become clear who becomes a long term loser.
The extent to which their loss is purely personal and self-inflicted,
it need not even weigh very heavily with us. Before society acts
against a particular substance because of its harm to abusers, it
needs a very strong case that the harm done to or by the minority
who cannot handle it, or are unlucky, is disproportionate to the
happiness of the majority who can.
The case is yet more bedeviled by the extremes of difference in
different cases. Most people mildly enjoy continuously mild use
of alcohol, and enjoy their occasional excursions into temporary
excess. They are in some sense addicted: they become uncomfortable
when denied their "dose". Such users know, and society
at large knows, that a percentage of drinkers will fall prey to
hideous excess and cause huge damage to themselves and others in
the process. Our question now is: does utilitarian thinking quite
capture this problem? Certainly, one could imagine a situation in
which the pleasure gained by the many was overwhelmed by the misery
of the few, especially if the former were very small and the latter
very large. But actually, the situation is harder and tougher than
that. The sum is not done with such precision, or such implied generosity.
The many for the time being insist that their pleasure is worth
more than the misery of the minority. We insist, in short, on saying
that it is sad that some people cannot handle drink, but it is sad
in the way that spina bifida or lack of intelligence or lack of
will power is sad. It is a fact of life and the rest of us need
not feel guilty about not sharing that misfortune. It is not my
drinking mildly that makes your drinking excessive.
Obviously, with drinking and smoking, societies have so far decided
the damage does not warrant prohibition. We still insist, controversially,
that cannabis use, and more recently Ecstasy use, is too serious
for them to be sanctioned. All other hallucinogenic and euphorigenic
drugs are viewed as more serious still. But these prohibitions,
especially those applying to cannabis, depend far more on prejudice
and fear than on evidence.
Smoking harms the longterm smoker and need harm no-one else. True,
living or working close up to a smoker increases a non-smoker's
risk somewhat. But it is important to remember that the evidence
suggests that environmental (sometimes called secondary) smoke is
not the horror often supposed and it is not trivial to suggest that
decent ventilation can greatly diminish that risk.
Otherwise, the social cost of smoking is slight. Few people - even
committed, heavy smokers - would commit a crime to indulge their
habit. Neither does it impair mental or physical function even when
taken to extremes.
It kills people. But that is another way of saying that it robs
people of years of old age, which are when adults begin to cost
society more than they bring in. And smokers pay a lot of tax. Each
packet of cigarettes smoked is a net cash benefit to society.
Even an anti-industry account of smoking was bound to note the
work of the economist Viscusi: "According to one set of Viscusi's
calculations, the total cost to society per pack of cigarettes sold,
including medical care, sick leave, group life insurance, fires,
second-hand smoke, and lost taxes on earnings of those who died
early, was $1.37 . The total benefit to society, including excise
taxes and savings on nursing homes and pensions, was $1.93."
Peter Pringle denigrates this research as macabre, and perhaps
it is. But since smoking is supposed to be anti-social, and since
smokers are castigated on these grounds, it is necessary to do the
sums. It is pleasing to see that any smoker, however temporary or
lucky, is taking care of the damage he does society, with a good
bit left over.
Forbidden Fruit: some thoughts on their general benefit
One important good that may come from indulging people's bad behaviour
is that to do so avoids the socially-damaging consequences of trying
to force them to desist. This is, as it were, the prohibition argument:
society is seldom well advised to try to stop dynamic people doing
what they want, since their activity, if pursued legally, is probably
far less damaging than it would be if pursued illegally.
Besides, some of society's most interesting of its members, will
use Forbidden Fruit and see these habits as important to them. There
are practical and moral reasons not to condemn these people, and
certainly not to try to forbid their consumption of Forbidden Fruit.
In this sense, a relaxed attitude to Forbidden Fruit may turn out
to be like a relaxed attitude to profit, or an encouraging attitude
to scientific research: namely societies that are realistic about
them will attract or retain the talented.
A summary of the addiction section
Interestingly of all these cases, only drink and hard drugs are
presumed to deserve the word addiction in its strongest, fullest
and most useful sense. And of them, only drink is assumed to turn
people into addicts because of something constitutional, or biologically-determined,
in the drinker. In other words: all smokers are thought to be in
the grip of something difficult to throw off, and to be more or
less equally so. An effort of will is presumed to be involved in
giving up, but not a ferocious or rarely available effort of will
(staying off is another matter). Drink, though, is understood to
take some people over and make them cripples: for those people,
it is not presumed that some simple effort of will would be sufficient
to get them free. Cannabis is not assumed to make anyone an addict
in this serious sense. Hard drugs, though, are presumed capable
of making nearly anyone a fully-fledged addict, whatever his biological
tendencies or his will-power.
These sketches of the social attitudes to the addictiveness of
various substances grow out of hundreds of years of experience with
most of them. Only tobacco has thrown up real surprises: namely
the understanding since the 1950s that the addictive substance,
nicotine, was delivered by a carcinogen, tobacco smoke. Shocked
by this news, many people with the smoking habit finally were able
to bolster their sense of future disbenefit to the point where they
gave up. Many others did not. But it is noticeable that the addictiveness
of nicotine was always understood to exist, but not to matter as
much as the addictiveness of heroin or alcohol did. It is not the
addictiveness of nicotine which matters in its own right, granted
that it is not overwhelming and its consequences not seriously mind-
or behaviour-altering. Nicotine's addictiveness mattered because
it came attached to cancerous smoke.
Chapter Four: Forbidden Fruit and business: whose fault?
The wider case
There is a general presumption that businesses are to blame for
the harm their products do. We would actually be wiser to presume
that they very seldom are. In spite of a good deal of campaign rhetoric
to the contrary, oil companies do not cause global warming, though
the emissions of the fossil fuel they sell may do. Should genetically
modified crops cause a huge ecological disaster, Monsanto would
not be to blame, even if the crop involved had been developed, promoted
and sold by Monsanto. Why should this be so?
The sufficient reason is, or ought to be, that these products are
socially-sanctioned. But that is itself strongly disputed. This
problem divides into two, equally contested, questions as to what
social sanction might be, and whether firms ever achieve it.
Social sanction is, firstly, an understanding, sometimes tacit
and sometimes explicit, that firms who operate legally are also
operating responsibly. That is to say: that in a highly regulated
society, what is allowed is condoned. Further: what a firm is allowed
to do becomes respectable in itself.
We need, secondly, a stronger understanding in the world at large
that in modern societies, most activities by firms are not only
licensed, but are licensed with an understanding that they pose
risks which society needs or wants to accept. For this position
to gain hold, one needs to persuade people that no product is without
risk, and that society has to take the unfolding of those risks
more or less on the chin.
This understanding is already pretty well enshrined in law. In
Western societies, a person's actions are taken to be blameless
if they are law-abiding and tolerably careful. A person must be
shown to have acted negligently before he can be punished for the
harm his actions cause. To be virtuous, he must have acted responsibly
by the standards of the day. This ought to be our third principle:
justice not being retro-active means that modern standards should
not be applied to historic cases.
These principles are all under attack. There is a large campaign
now to persuade society that the burden of proof and guilt in many
cases ought to be shifted. The Precautionary Principle, in some
of its most popular forms, suggests that firms ought to demonstrate
the safety of their products before they can be released. There
is a further campaign to impose strict liability on firms: that
is to say, one is culpable for damage imposed on others however
little one knew or could predict of the actual outcome or however
well one behaved. Both of these principles fly in the face of good
sense and natural justice. They simultaneously impose a standard
of proof and a concept of blame which would make all suppliers into
potential villains, however respectable and virtuous they actually
In other words, these new impulses, if successful, would outlaw,
criminalise or stigmatise the activities of almost everyone involved
in providing almost all the goods and services we now take for granted.
This would happen in two ways. First, all new developments would
be assumed to be highly suspect if not actually criminal until proved
otherwise. And second, any small slip or large disaster in an existing
process would immediately be seen as the likely result of criminality:
not to have been capable of ridding one's product or process of
risk would constitute the new criminality. But no-one is capable
of rendering his activity safe in these terms.
Forbidden Fruit and social sanction
In the case of our bad habits, the new culture makes clear villains
of all suppliers. This is simply because all our products come associated
with real harms. It is fair to argue that they all "cause"
real damage. A percentage of all their users could claim to have
had lives ruined by them. The Precautionary Principle and strict
liability would between them make it impossible to sell any of them.
But contradictorily, our Forbidden Fruit, by being such extreme
cases, help us see how foolish the new Blame Culture and Anxiety
Industries are. Very few people want to ban gambling, pornography,
or drinking and smoking. Almost all of us are interested in finding
the proper legislative balance, in which they can be available but
in somewhat controlled circumstances. We are ambivalent about accepting
the argument that the user of these products acted involuntarily
or without foreknowledge of the harm they might do themselves. The
anti-capitalism rioter in the street may claim not to need GMOs
or oil, but he often likes to drink and smoke. He may claim that
there is something wrong in the capitalist hegemony by which we
supposes these products are delivered, but he would hardly stigmatise
or criminalise whatever communard, peasant, or individual supplier
were to replace the corporate nicotine and alcohol suppliers.
Firms and Forbidden Fruit
So far from castigating capitalistic involvement in our Forbidden
Fruit, we should be delighted that many of them are provided by
firms which operate in a supply chain which is by and large secure
and reliable. At least two huge benefits flow from this: firms pay
their taxes and they ensure product quality.
Take the dangers which could flow from badly-formulated cigarettes.
A persistent argument against the cigarette companies is that they
adulterate their nicotine-delivering tobacco. (Pringle, 1998) This
is true, in that there is more than tobacco and plain paper in a
cigarette. But the firms have been obliged for years to declare
what is in their products, and do. It is the state's business to
decide what to do with that information, and it does. The additives
are said to enhance the addictive power of smoking, and this has
been taken as being a sign of the additives' being unrespectable.
Even if the accusation was true, it doesn't bear inspection. If
the additives worked to make nicotine more powerfully effective,
they would merely be enhancing tobacco's power to deliver a "hit".
The "hit", and its potency, is an important desideratum
for smokers. Surely, if a tobacco firm had found a way of making
nicotine more powerful, and smokers chose that brand because they
liked its effect, the additive has - other things being equal -
done what its consumers demanded? Actually, in any case, at least
one source in the tobacco business denies that is the point of additives,
whose purposes is to improve taste and maintain freshness. If the
additive is not dangerous on other grounds (say, by being unacceptably
carcinogenic), then its purveyors are satisfying their customers.
The same sorts of arguments apply to formulation of alcohol, and
ought to apply to as many drugs as possible. There is even a case
that legalising, say, cannabis, would bring it into the orbit of
both sensible taxation (which would suppress demand somewhat) and
Where do these sorts of arguments lead us? They combine, surely,
to help us to believe that there are ethical and practical reasons
why we should emphasise the personal responsibility of users and
the social respectability of suppliers of Forbidden Fruits.
The victim culture and business
There are four main bad consequences of the "victim culture"
as it applies to business. The first is that people consider that
"ethical" investment policies require one to "disinvest"
in tobacco; the second that the "victims" of these products
seek to sue their purveyors as the "villains" of the piece;
the third is that firms are villainised for promoting their products;
and the fourth that firms are "fined" - taxed, actually
- because of their product.
It is clearly ethical to invest in a tobacco, drinks or pornography
company. It is as ethical to invest in such a company as it is to
consume their product, and perhaps more so. After all, to consume
these products is at least sometimes to be demonstrating moral weakness
rather than strength. That may be attractive, but it is hardly ethically-compelling.
But to invest in them is to be staking one's future on enterprises
which pay taxes, employ people, satisfy a legitimate demand and
are socially-sanctioned. In so far as being an active member of
capitalist society, and a contributing member, is regarded as good,
then to invest in these firms is as good an act as any other investment.
The claims of "victims"
The smoker and his or her cancer is of course the most obvious
case here. The witch-hunt against the tobacco companies is driven
by some of the "victims", their lawyers, by health campaigners
(both official and unofficial), and by some US states which see
a source of income for the health services in this crusade. [Pringle,
The legal crusade is fatally undermined in moral terms by the fact
that almost every plaintiff in it knew, before taking up smoking,
that this was an unhealthy and addictive habit. Even those who took
up smoking before the seriousness of the cancer risk was known were
partaking in a socially-sanctioned activity whose unintended consequences
were equally unknown to every one else in society.
Certainly by mid-last-century, people were smoking in a culture
which condemned the habit as "stunting your growth", "filthy",
and generally outlawed for young people. A standard dictionary of
slang dates expressions such as "coffin dodger" (for smokers)
from the 1900s, and suggests that both drinks and smokes were known
as "coffin nails" in the 19th century. It dates "cancer
sticks" from the 1950s. (Cassell, 1998) They should have given
up their habit as its seriousness became even better documented.
Certainly, anyone taking up smoking after the 1950s knew or ought
to have known that this was a habit with very grave consequences
It is often claimed that the cigarettes companies did not tell
the public all they knew about the hazards posed by their product.
But it really does not matter that this should be so, if it was.
After all, the messages about health effects were being trumpeted
by eminently respectable health information sources, both official
and academic. It made little difference what the companies were
saying or not saying about their product: everyone was in receipt
of warning messages from far sounder sources. There was a well-established
understanding that the state had serious obligations in this area,
not least because it gained so much reveniue from smokers. In the
degree to which the state was concerned, it should have been as
active as it felt it needed to be, perhaps especially knowing as
it did that the tobacco companies were hardly likely to be proactive
in putting themselves out of business. If the state found the public
was too lazy or stupid to understand the risks involved, it believed
it had a duty to inform them, and did.
It may well be that the tobacco companies were less than forthright
in general, and some or many were downright manipulative and deceptive
at times. This behaviour may not be attractive and may at times
have been illegal. The firms may have done no favours to the image
of corporations in general. The serious point which gets overlooked
is that, finally, the upshot makes no difference to the argument
which says that smokers heard far more important messages against
smoking than any they heard in favour of it from the purveyors of
nicotine. Where firms behaved illegally, say by unwarranted deceptiveness,
they should have been punished. But even their being found wanting
would not make a very good case that the public smoked because they
did not have good evidence that smoking was dangerous.
Advertising: how weak is the punter?
What should firms which sell Forbidden Fruits be allowed to say
about themselves and their products? The key argument here is about
the power of advertising to make people start or continue to enjoy
their bad habits and to discount their awareness of the future downsides
with which they may be afflicted. There is a powerful intuitive
argument that it is not advertising which makes people want to indulge
in dangerous and bad habits, but the fact they are liminal and dissident.
Advertising might persuade people that a habit was respectable,
but not that it was interestingly disapproved-of. This is because
advertising usually happens in an obviously mainstream environment,
such as television, street hoardings and the print media. The powerlessness
of advertising to entice people into, say, smoking, seems to be
borne out by research into the differences in smoking patterns between
countries which have banned tobacco advertising, and those where
The tobacco industry claims that advertising at best makes different
brands attractive to different people. This argument might seem
to fall foul of the logic that advertising cannot make much appeal
of any sort, even within brands, granted that their attractiveness,
like that of smoking in general, is dissident. Mainstream ads should
not be able to add to the attractiveness of any part of the smoking
habit. And yet, there may be something in it.
People start smoking because of the habit's glamorous dissidence.
This is, as it were, the "Bogart factor" in which hazard
and sex-appeal and glamour are all mixed.
But once one smokes, one might indeed prefer this or that brand
for its cheapness, or its image of sophistication, or ruggedness.
The point here is that such advertising would not make much impact
on the big matter of whether to smoke, but make a difference in
the trivial matter of which brand to choose. As a youngster, I loved
smoking anything. But I had great interest in choosing between the
West End cool of an English Du Maurier against the drip-dry cool
of a State Express 555 and the rugged private eye connotations of
We need some such argument to explain both the actual evidence
we have about how little smoking rates seem affected by advertising,
but the apparent efficacy of advertising as evidenced by the preparedness
of rational firms to buy it.
We can hedge our bets here, and many societies have done so. In
case Forbidden Fruit advertising does make a difference to young
people's starting-up habits, some of this advertising is controlled.
Obviously, this raises the further issue that if we infantilise
adolescents - if we seek to shelter them from adult choices - we
rob them of the chance to grow, and we infantilise society. There
is a decent argument for resisting calls for restraint in all sorts
of advertising (of toys, for instance). There is even a case for
making sure that advertising a brand in public (where we do not
whether those who experience the advertising are young or old) should
only make an appeal to people who know the delights and perils of
the habit in general. Thus, cigarette advertising on UK hoardings
have not for years shown the delights of smoking.
Once, however, we have decided that advertising to young people
or in public are special cases, what do we decide about Forbidden
Fruit advertising to adults? The main issue here is whether we think
the state can make a strong enough case to justify interference
with the essentially private contract between the purchaser of a
piece of media and those advertising in it. If one felt oneself
too weak to withstand the blandishment of such advertising, one
need only make the much less demanding choice not to buy the media
in question. If the pressure of such choices were serious enough,
the media would soon resist the advertising anyway. Even this is
an overstatement of the seriousness of advertising.
Which person who has given up smoking or drinking, say, seriously
believes that the problem with staying "clean" is the
presence of advertising? It is the presence of smokers and drinkers,
the reminder on film and in books of great smoking and drinking
moments, and the exhilaration or despair of real life, which pose
the far greater threats.
Meanwhile, advertisers of Forbidden Fruit are constrained to be
as witty, elegant, and evocative as they can without transgressing
very strict rules. The result is a flow of material which is entertaining
in its own right. Most of us would need to see a very strong case
against it before we were persuaded that we should be deprived of
Blame, fines and taxes
It might be thought that even if the victim-plaintiffs were wrong
to blame the companies for their habits, surely at least the US
States should be allowed to recoup their health costs from the companies.
But surely this is even more deeply flawed. Local governments must
be assumed to be even more rational and responsible than their individual
citizens can be assumed to be. The whole American state at federal
level, and through its disbursements to them, all the States which
make up the Union, are thoroughly wedded to the tobacco industry.
They constitute the official part of the social sanction of the
tobacco industry. They have been thoroughly complicit in, by regulating
it, and by raking in tax money through its sales.
There is, it is true, an important sum to be done here. A discussion
of the social monetary cost of smoking would have to entail a stringent
accounting of its social benefit. Lung cancer costs money, but it
saves money too. There is indeed a cost in medical attention, and
there might be a cost in lost years of earning power. But then,
too, there is the life-shortening effect of smoking: savings in
pensions, welfare and in the health care costs of people who never
grow old. This would be fascinating sum to do, but it would not,
finally, be one which would result in a bill that could be presented
to anyone, let alone cigarette companies. [Economist, 2000; Viscusi
1992; Pringle, 1998] Equally, if the sum showed that cigarettes
saved society money, it could hardly be right for the tobacco companies
to present their bills to the US state and
States for a refund of their taxes.
The damage done to the state system or to society by smoking is
damage done by smokers, not by the purveyors of tobacco. And it
is smokers, not firms, which borne the taxation of smoking. (Conversely,
it society which has benefited from the revenue-saving and revenue-earning
effects of smoking.) The firms should neither be punished nor reimbursed,
and neither condemned nor congratulated for the good their product
There is a further reason why it is not right to "fine"
tobacco companies for the harm their product has done. The fines
which the US legal system has imposed on the companies will be paid
out of present and future cigarette sales of these companies. In
this sense, the fines are little more than taxes. It might be argued
that a rise in smoking taxes is good for society: it raises revenues
for "good" purposes and inhibits smokers by rising the
price hurdle they face. But surely it ought to be morally repulsive
for the state to deepen its complicity with an industry and activity
which it publicly despises? And it would only be right and accurate
to call such fines by the name they deserve: taxation.
There is something wrong with courts and the judiciary becoming
in effect tax-raising bodies. [Economist, 2000] It offends, for
a start, the idea of the separation of powers, and in particular
the idea of "no taxation without representation". But
there is something culturally odious about it too. If the state
came to the view that it was right to inhibit an activity which
was nonetheless socially-sanctioned, or even recoup the expenses
it imposed on society, then it can indeed democratically raise taxes
on the customers and suppliers in that industry. But it should not
do so at arm's length by allowing the judiciary to stigmatise the
The new taxes which have been imposed on American smokers have
been presented as fines on the tobacco companies, and that sends
quite the wrong cultural signals.
Chapter Five: Some modest speculations on legalising cannabis
[This piece has been published in British Economic
Survey, Autumn, 2002]
"Only one thing is certain: if pot is legalised, it won't be
for our benefit but for the authorities'", Germaine Greer,
1968 [GUARDIAN, 2001]
Cannabis is not safe, but it is popular and profitable. Like other
"Forbidden Fruit" such as cigarettes, drink, gambling
and pornography, its use is best attended by a certain caution and
respect. Some erstwhile heavy cannabis users and their families
complain of messed-up lives. [TELEGRAPH, 2001; GUARDIAN, 2002a]
But from many authoritative sources, one can now read summaries
of the medical, criminological and sociological evidence which suggests
that the use of cannabis is not merely ubiquitous, it is mostly
rather sensible. [LORDS, 1998]. Thoughtful commentators on political
realities and on scientific issues have suggested that there is
scant case for demonising this drug. [JENKINS, 2001; BLAKEMORE,
They sometimes cite the failure that has usually attended the prohibition
of popular intoxicants. [COURTWRIGHT, 2001] Under pressure from
many official and semi-official groups and committees, the government
has clearly been trying to find its way between informed, largely
relaxed opinion and the long-standing (and perhaps fragile) belief
that legalisation would be a bohemian step too far [RUNCIMAN, 1999;
In the summer of 2002, the Home Secretary announced that in most
circumstances, he intended that possession of cannabis would not
be pursued by police. Supply, however, would be. [GUARDIAN, 2002b]
Let's suppose that sometime quite soon it is decided that it should
be legal to consume cannabis. Let us further suppose that it becomes
clear that it would be logical to legalise the supply of cannabis.
The first part of this paper looks at the commercial implications
of that choice. It certainly constitutes a decent market to target:
in the UK, 3m people spend about £1.3bn on the drug annually
[S TIMES, 2002].
If cannabis was legalised, their number would be presumably be
swelled by the many people - especially the affluent older consumer
- currently scared off by the fear of criminalisation. It might
be slightly dented by the loss of those consumers alienated by the
drug's becoming mainstream and commercialised.
Commercial issues: production, consumption and retail distribution.
We could hardly agree to a situation in which criminal production
was able to supply a legalised retail stream. Luckily, cannabis
can be grown easily in intensive horticultural environments. Its
supply might well be from secure, indoor facilities in the UK (there
are already some, both legal and not). [S TIMES, 2002] That's to
say, its production could be licensed and if necessary restricted
to UK suppliers.
Because the drug is presently illegal, the question of at what age
its use might be appropriate has hardly arisen. If it were formally
legal, then the age at which it can be consumed would have to be
fixed. I imagine that we would probably set the age limit as being
rather higher than smoking, and therefore the 18 years limit of
alcohol seems fairly logical.
Present very limited experiments (in South London and the Netherlands)
have resulted in "drugs tourism". One of the merits of
thorough-going legalisation would be that sales activity would no
longer be subject to a "honey-pot" effect. [S TIMES, 2002;
But how do we manage retail distribution? First, there is an issue
as to the premises which would be suitable. Let's assume that we
would demand that it be sold in places where the age limit could
be enforced, and therefore that high street tobacconists would be
thought too unlikely to be strict enough for our purposes granted
their failure to properly regulate the purchase of ordinary cigarettes.
Is cannabis more like tobacco, alcohol or a beta blocker? Should
it be sold in off-licences and pubs, or in pharmacies? The former
have the advantages of being places used to dealing with the inebriated
and (in principle) able to check age limits. They are open at the
times when people seek recreation. But some pharmacies already deal
with the distribution of addictive drugs and their substitutes,
and thus might be thought suitable for the sale of this less dramatic
drug. Still, one can imagine pharmacists balking at the potential
for new difficulties this new trade might bring. And anyway, though
cannabis for medical uses and on prescription would clearly be got
from pharmacies, presumably cannabis when used for recreation might
more properly be retailed alongside alcohol. That's to say: pharmacies
might feel that they are not part of the leisure industry, or easily
able to adapt to the requirement of party-goers rather than the
sick. There is a further issue: Boots, for instance, might face
resistance from its own admirable but often "straight"
staff if it moved into recreational drugs.
Besides, pubs and off-licences have the advantage that they already
stock both alcohol and cigarettes - and cannabis might be sold in
drink and in smoking form.
What form should cannabis take?
Cannabis in pill form might be had from pharmacies whilst cannabis
in drink or cigarette form might be retailed from off licences and
pubs. After all, its use is likely to be therapeutic or palliative
in the case of the unwell or old, but recreational for many others.
This gives us a feel for the question as to which industry should
produce and supply cannabis: cigarette manufacturers, brewers and
pharmaceutical firms could all make interesting claims to bits of
Taxation issues: the argument for a high price
If legalised, and no longer attracting the premium demanded by criminals,
cannabis could presumably be very cheap indeed. If we take the analogy
of drink or tobacco, the cannabis ingredient of a smoke or drink
would cost pennies rather than pounds. Only an extreme libertarian
would believe that cannabis should be sold at a rock bottom cost-plus-profit
prices. Parents would presumably insist that it be taxed such that
a moderate "high" lasting for a couple or three hours
should cost equivalent to a packet of cigarettes or - more likely
- a few pints of beer.
…and for low prices
However, over-taxation might produce an incentive for a black market
to develop again. Besides, cannabis can easily be grown at home.
Cannabis is much easier to produce than tobacco. But it is about
as difficult to produce as, say, wine or beer from a kit. In our
present affluent times, beer and winemaking are not nearly as common
as they were twenty or thirty years ago. It seems likely that most
cannabis users would rather pay retail prices, including large tranches
of tax, than make their own.
If the taxation of cannabis was got right, young consumers might
usefully see that the use of the drug was cheap enough to enjoy
but not so cheap as to often abuse it.
Taxation issues: health
But there is another important point. Most people consume cannabis
as "weed", which is arguably the most dangerous of its
forms. Unfortunately, it is also the most easily produced at home.
By smoking the "weed" itself and certainly by smoking
it with tobacco, these majority users are flirting with normal smoking
risks, and perhaps increased smoking risk.
If the state legalised the production and possession of small quantities
of weed for individual use, that would to some extent encourage
a known hazard - smoking.
One would probably on health grounds prefer to encourage people
to use cannabis, if at all, in the form of a pill, or some derivative
of resin (a treated form of cannabis). This would have the advantage
that it would deflect users away from the smoking hazards most incur
with "weed". One could develop products - drinks, pills,
and so on - which were factory-made and tailored to specific effects,
which could be identified and made well-known.
This class of product could be taxed with greater robustness and
ease than weed, because it would be much harder to evade the tax
by making the product at home. But even so, care would be needed:
the taxation regime on the preferred pill or drink form might "push"
people toward weed, and that would be counter-productive.
Health messages would be valuable here. "Weed" (homegrown
or not) could be stigmatised as the choice of self-polluters, whilst
cannabis in pill or drink could be identified as less dangerous
at least on that score.
Addicts may not be making sensible decisions. But much of the use
of Forbidden Fruits is rational, and even those users who end up
being addicts can be thought of as starting their use of Forbidden
Fruit with a quotient of rationality. Rightly enough, society sees
the dead and sick - the losers - as more important than they seem
to the optimistic youngsters embarking on bad behaviour. But we
cannot outlaw or condemn, or even much disapprove, of habits which
are so valuable to people, though they cause such suffering to some.
Granted that the whole enterprise is undertaken in order to take
a risk, be a chancer, and to join the clan of people who lived for
today and not for tomorrow, and who lived for glamour not good sense,
then one can see well enough why one wanted to count oneself amongst
the feckless crowd, and may yet have to suffer for it.
We know a lot more about addiction than we used to. We know its
chemistry far better. But the philosophy of the thing survives more
or less as we inherited it from our parents and grandparents. The
long-standing accommodations we have made with addiction can be
adjusted, but their basic soundness is well-established. Thoughtful
people never did entirely believe that individuals are making free
choices at every point in their lives. Free choice is not so much
a fact as an aspiration. It is not a proven mechanism (or rather,
absence of mechanism) so much as an empowering metaphor. We cannot
see people as mostly machines (though in part they are), nor deny
them autonomous status (though they do not deserve it). In trivial
things, such distinctions don't matter. They matter very much indeed
in matters of criminality and addiction. We know that addiction
erodes freedom of choice. But we know too that when we advertise
both the awfulness of addiction and promote the autonomy of the
person, we can suppose that we have responsibly bolstered the mechanisms
by which the person approaching an addictive substance can recall
an awareness of the awfulness of the possible consequences of what
he is about to do.
It is because we know something of the mechanisms of the human
psyche that we emphasise the ideal of the autonomous individual.
The more we know of the mechanisms of human neuro-physiology, the
more we admire the rhetoric of free will, and need it.
When legitimate commerce enters this field it brings many benefits.
It usually and readily obeys the rules inhibiting advertising and
imposing cautionary notes on products. It usually and readily obeys
and operates the taxation rules which society supposes moderate
bad habits and raise revenue. It usually and readily ensures the
quality of the products and discloses what is in them. Wherever
and whenever firms do not behave well, we are shocked and they are
rightly condemned. How much worse, though, must be the position
when criminals provide these products?
Above all, society needs to see that riskiness is not merely inevitable
to progress, it is inevitable to the development of the human person.
Mature societies cannot be supposed to be full merely of children
requiring protection. They are full, too, of young people requiring
experiment and older people insisting on their rights to adventure.
The business of socially sanctioning such habits and products is
necessarily murky. Society cannot wholeheartedly condone the obviously
dangerous. But it is even more important that it not wholeheartedly
condemn it either.
Modern Western society faces the threat of the Blame Culture and
impossibilist demands made by people who dislike much of the ethos
of the Western way of life. They proceed by stigmatising firms wherever
they may. A little straight-thinking can demonstrate that they are
morally wrong, but also that the culture they promote is deeply
unattractive. Pace, Peter Pringle, it is they, not Big Tobacco,
which are in a Dirty Business [Pringle, 1998] As The Economist remarked:"Smoking
is not, properly speaking, a social problem but the growing anti-smoking
movement is rapidly becoming one" [Economist, 1998].
References, and some quotations
BLAKEMORE, 2002 Blakemore, C: We should face the fact that drugs
war is lost, Independent on Sunday, March 17, 2002
Brampton, 2001 "Breaking up with a very old friend", Brampton,
Sally, January 11, 2001
Calfee, 1997 Calfee, John E, Fear of Persuasion : A new perspective
on advertising and regulation, Agora, 1997 Published and distributed
by Agora Association PO Box J13, CH-1125, Monnaz, Switzerland. E-mail:
This book usefully rehearses the research which suggests that advertising
helps markets work and seems to have no baleful effect in turning
consumers toward Forbidden Fruit. For instance:
[This suggests that] ad bans do not reduce smoking. This is confirmed
by a recent analysis of data for 22 developed nations during the
years 1964-1990. lf one compares per capita cigarette consumption
in nations that imposed bans (beginning with Iceland in 1971, then
Norway in 1975, Finland in 1978, Italy and Portugal in 1983, and
Canada in 1988/1989), one finds that consumption dropped more rapidly
in the non-ban countries than in any of the ban countries except
for Canada, which also increased prices by 18 per cent. A statistical
analysis, taking into account standard economic variables such as
price and income, revealed that ad bans were in fact well associated
with higher, not lower, consumption. [This data is from Michael
J Stewart (1993) 'The Effect on Tobacco Consumption of Advertising
Bans in OECD Countries', International Journal of Advertising, v12]
Cassell, 1998 The Cassell Dictionary of Slang, ed Jonathon Green,
COURTWRIGHT, 2001 Forces of Habit, Harvard, 2001 - reviewed by Caldwell,
C, The Wall Street Journal, March 15, 2001
Crane, 2000 Smokescreen: Bette Davis and the Cigarette, Crane, Angus
E, published on the Internet at www.reelclassics.com.
Davenport-Hines, 1993 Vice: an anthology, compiled by Richard Davenport-Hines,
Hamish Hamilton, 1993
Dollimore, 1998 Death, Desire and Loss In Western Culture First
published by Allen Lane 1998 Jonathan Dollimore
Dunthorne, 1994 The Enlightenment, Hugh Dunthorne, The Historical
Association, London, 1994
A useful short account of the history and ideas of the
For our purposes it usefully notes,
[A] more dramatic departure [from conventional views of the Enlightenment
as solely rationalistic] was the Eighteenth century's cult of sensibility.
In outline, this revolved around two basic themes: first the realisation
that knowledge and morality derived not only from reason but also
( and perhaps to a greater extent ) from imagination, feeling and
conscience; and secondly, the increasing awareness of conflict in
nature, particularly of conflict between the natural instincts (of
the individual human being and the conventions of modern civilized
The cult of sensibility, after all, was not new in the 1780s. It
had already emerged in the earlier part of the century in works
....Richardson's Pamela (1740).
Economist, 2000 "Blowing smoke", The Economist, July 22
includes ideas about taxation without representation and other
Economist, 1997 Tobacco and tolerance, The Economist, December 20
Elster and Skog, 1999 Getting Hooked : Rationality and addiction,
edited by Jon Elster and Ole-Jorgen Skog. Cambridge University Press
Evening Standard, 2000 Evening Standard, August 1 2000:
For a small minority of people the natural high that exercise causes
becomes psychologically addictive.... Stuart Riddle, Professor of
Exercise and Sport Psychology at Loughborough University, stresses
that the dependency is very rare but may be on the increase, as
exercise patterns change. ''Thirty years ago, when people had more
strenuous, active lives, there was no need to promote the kind of
artificial means of exercise we have now, such as gyms.''
Professor Biddle says addicts experience extreme discomfort when
they are unable to exercise. ''They desperately want to get back
to it and exercise when perhaps it is unwise, such as when they
are unwell or injured,'' he says. ''If someone starts to put exercising
ahead of all their other personal and work-related commitments,
then they have a problem with exercise dependency.''
Fisher, 1989 Liminality: The vocation of the early church, Duncan
Fisher, Cistercian Studies, 2, 1989 and Cistercian Studies, 3, 1990
Duncan Fisher describes liminality thus:
The concept of liminality was first proposed by Arnold van Gennep
at the beginning of this century. He investigates a pattern of change
in status or position in human society, in a dynamic system consisting
of three stages: separation, marge, agrégation; or separation,
transition, incorporation. He also refers to the three-fold passage
as pre-liminal, liminal and post-liminal stages, here stressing
the intermediate liminal or threshold stage. Victor Turner, in The
Ritual Process (London 1969), revives and expands upon van Gennep's
thesis, again concentrating on the liminal state. Turner describes
many examples of the transition from one status to another through
a liminal state, for exampIe, the installation of an Ndembu chief
in Zambia. This transition, like others involving a move to a higher
social status, involves total abasement and humiliation of the chief-elect
to a position of weakness and passivity. There are lengthy ritual
cleansing ceremonies followed by a night alone in a hut apart from
Gardner and David, 1999 The Neurobiology of Chemical Addiction,
Eliot L Gardner and James David, in Getting Hooked, a paper in Elster
and Skog, 1999
A succinct account of modern scientific research, including:
This physician [whose experience is cited in research] then finds
himself fantasising about the radiologist discovering a lesion on
the film and of then being given a terminal diagnosis of untreatable
lung cancer - and he feels a flicker of hopeful excitement- because
this otherwise terrible news would free him to immediately resume
smoking, no longer hindered by his prior choice to avoid the long-term
consequences of smoking. as above.
Gladwell, 2000 The Tipping Point: How little things can make a big
difference, Malcolm Gladwell, published by Little, Brown, 2000
Greenfield, 2000 The Private Life of the Brain, Susan Greenfield,
Professor Greenfield's useful account of modern thinking is markedly
unenthusiastic about drugs and bad behaviour in general, as evidenced
by these remarks:
When I was recently in northeast Australia, I saw many ads for .....
"extreme'' sport. Often the sales pitch emphasised the promise
that the participant would be ''totally out of control!' I pondered
why exactly a loss of control would be pleasurable and eventually
realised that only when you are out of control can the senses really
dominate because ''you'' have been swept away. Pleasure is, literally,
a sensational moment of life.
Ghodse and Maxwell, 1990 Ghodse, H and Maxwell, D, Substance Abuse
and Dependence, MacMillan Scientific and Technical, 1990
Grossman and Chaloupka 1997 Grossman, Michael and Chaloupka, Frank,
Public Health Reports, US, July/August, 1997
GUARDIAN, 2002a Cripps, R: My high life, The Guardian, August 14,
GUARDIAN, 2002b Travis, A: Labour opens up drug laws, The Guardian,
July 11, 2002
GUARDIAN, 2001 Holden, M: High society (a preview of "Grass",
Film Four, July 22, 2001), The Guide, The Guardian, July 21, 2001.
Hobbs, 2000. Professor Dick Hobbs, a sociologist at the University
of Durham, spoke of this on BBC Radio 4's Thinking Allowed July
26, 2000, and especially in the context of inner city areas where
pubs and clubs predominate, in a way which is both commercial and
"cowboy". He subsequently e-mailed me in December 2000:
"I have used the term liminal as borrowed from Victor Turner
[see Fisher, 1989] and it does not
vary that much from your understanding. I am also all for liminality,
not so much in favour of the deliberate construction of artificial
zones which are both exploitative in the commercial sense and physically
dangerous. We have a piece in the current British Journal of Sociology
exploring some of these themes and suggesting that the night time
economy is akin to the western frontier of C19 USA."
JENKINS, 2001. Jenkins, S: Make drugs legal and save lives, Evening
Standard, 5 July 2001
Klein, 1993 Cigarettes Are Sublime, Richard Klein, Picador, 1993
Slightly over-egged but readable and well-read, post-modern in
tone, this book explores the allure of smoking, as in:
1) But in the end, I concluded, it is not the utility of cigarettes,
however significantly useful they may be, that explains their power
to attract the undying allegiance of billions of people dying from
their habit. Rather, the quality that explains their enormous power
of seduction is linked to the specific forms of beauty they foster.
That beauty has never been understood or represented as unequivocally
positive; the smoking of cigarettes, from its inception in the nineteenth
century, has always been associated with distaste, transgression,
and death. Kant calls ''sublime'' that aesthetic satisfaction which
includes as one of its moments a negative experience, a shock, a
blockage, an intimation of mortality. It is in this very strict
sense that Kant gives the term that the beauty of cigarettes may
be considered to be sublime.
2) For many, where cigarettes are concerned, discouraging [them]
is a form of ensuring their continuing to smoke. For some, it may
cause them to start.
LILLEY, 2001, Peter Lilley, Social Market Foundation, London
LORDS, House of Lords, Science and Technology Committee, "Cannabis
- the scientific and medical evidence", Ninth Report, 1998
McWilliams, 1993 Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do: The absurdity
of consensual crimes in a free society, Peter McWilliams, Prelude,
Los Angeles, 1993
Nicklès, 1994 Drinking, Smoking, and Screwing: Great Writers
on Good Times, edited by Sara Nicklès; introduction by Bob
Shacochis, Chronicle Books Compilation 1994
North, 2000 Risk: The human choice, European Science and Environment
Forum, 4 Church Lane, Barton, Cambridge, CB3 7BE
Pearson, 1990 Hooligan: A history of respectable fears Geoffrey
Pearson, Macmillan, 1990
A useful account of why young people do not always behave well,
and why some must experiment with bad behaviour. Including:
There may even have been a certain temperamental affinity between
Baden-Powell's Scouting philosophy and the restless energies of
Hooliganism, and he was even so outrageous as to recommend the Hooligans
to the National Defence Association as 'the best class of boy':
'We say to a boy, "come and be good." Well, the best class
of boy - that is, the Hooligan - says, "I'm blowed if I'm going
to be good!" We say, "Come and be a red Indian, and dress
like a Scout", and he will come along like anything.
Peto, Darby, Deo, Silcocks, Whitley, Doll, 2000 Peto, R; Darby,
S; Deo, H; Silcocks, P; Whitley, E; Doll, R, Smoking, smoking cessation,
and lung cancer in the UK since 1950: combination of national statistics
with two case-control studies in the UK since 1950, BMJ 2000;321:323-329
Porter, 1990 The Enlightenment, Roy Porter 1990 Studies in European
A very useful account, including for our purposes:
The new Enlightenment approaches to human nature, by contrast, dismissed
the idea of innate 'sinfulness' as unscientific and without foundation,
arguing instead that passions such as love, desire, pride and ambition
were not inevitably evil or destructive; properly channelled, they
could serve as aids to human advancement. In Bernard Mandeville's
paradoxical formula, 'private vices' (such as vanity or greed) could
prove 'public benefits' (for instance, by encouraging consumption
and thereby stimulating the economy). Many Enlightenment thinkers,
such as Helvetius in France and the pioneer 'utilitarian', Bentham,
in England, developed a psychological approach. Replacing the old
moralising vision of' man as a rational being threatened by brutish
appetites, they newly envisaged man as a creature sensibly programmed
by nature to seek pleasure and to avoid pain. The true end of enlightened
social policy ought therefore to be to encourage enlightened self-interest
to realise the 'greatest happiness of the greatest number'. Traditional
preachers would have denounced such advocacy of the 'pleasure principle'
as sinful, brutish hedonism. But a new breed of 'political economists',
notably the Scot Adam Smith in his "Wealth of Nations"
(1776), contended that the selfish behaviour of individual producers
and consumers, if pursued in accordance with the competitive laws
of the market, would result in the common good - thanks, in part,
to the help of the 'invisible hand' of Providence.
Pringle, 1998 Dirty Business: Big Tobacco at the bar of justice,
Peter Pringle, 1998 Aurum
Rowntree, 1997 Young People and Drugs, Joseph Rowntree Foundation,
York, discussed in Illegal Drugs, Issues, Volume 2, Independence
Educational Publishers, Cambridge, 1999. See also their Smoking,
Runciman, 2000 Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Misuse
of Drugs Act 1971, Viscountess Runciman and others, The Police Foundation,
Stern, 2000 The Smoking Book Lesley Stern University of Chicago
Press, distributed in UK by John Wiley, 2000
S TIMES 2002 Woods, R, Leppard, D, Cracknell, D, Blair's taste for
the strong stuff, Sunday Times, July 14, 2002
Sunday Times, 2000 Sunday Times, August 13, 2000:
Cannabis may make you a safer driver
... in the study, conducted by the Transport Research Laboratory,
grade A cannabis specially imported America, was given to 15 regular
users.....instead of proving that drug-taking while driving increased
the risk of accidents, researchers found that the mellowing effects
of cannabis made drivers more cautious and so less likely to drive
TELEGRAPH, 2001 Coleman, P: Cannabis devastates lives - we would
be mad to legalise it. Daily Telegraph, July 16, 2001
TIMES, 2001 Lister, D: Dutch burghers plan McDope, a drug drive-thru,
The Times, May 26, 2001
Times, 2000b The Times, Daisy Waugh, The naughtiness of smoking,
May 9 2000
Times, 2000a The Times, August 3 2000
[According to new research by Professor Richard Doll, the founder
of smoking-related epidemiology, reported in the British Medical
Journal...] smokers must try their utmost to give up before 35.
If they do they almost eliminate their risk of dying from the disease.
Even quitting at the age of 50 reduces the chance of dying from
lung cancer by almost two thirds. Those who continue to smoke past
that age will have a one in six chance of being killed by the disease.
The figures show that smoking is at least three times as dangerous
as predicted at the time of Professor Doll's first study and suggests
that far greater numbers of people will die from the habit than
previously thought. Lung cancer itself, although it kills more than
any other cancer, accounts for only about a third of smoking-related
deaths. There are 12 million smokers in Britain and half of them
will die prematurely, often through heart attacks and strokes. In
other words, smoking will kill one in six British adults.
Vaughan, 1994 Romanticism and Art, William Vaughan, Thames and Hudson
Viscusi, 1992 Smoking : making the risky decision, W. Kip Viscusi.
1992 by Oxford University Press, Inc :
Smoking risk perceptions were even widespread over four decades
ago..... in 1949 over half of all smokers and two-thirds of non-smokers
regarded cigarette smoking as being ''harmful.'' The great majority
of the population regarded smoking as a risky pursuit, and although
this does not represent a universal perception, it does indicate
a substantial awareness of the risk. Whereas 50 percent of the population
in 1957 viewed smoking: as a cause of lung cancer, only 30 percent
of the population had similar views about the cigarette smoking-heart