It appears that the new epidemic that has been popping up all over the United States where it has been linked to a number of deaths has arrived here in Canada. The disease affects the respiratory system and seems to be caused by the use of some new-fangled, technological, gizmos called e-cigarettes. Since the use of these contraptions is called vaping the epidemic has therefore been colloquially dubbed the vaping sickness or the vaping illness. Whether it has been given a more official, technical sounding, name or not, I am unaware. The lower House of Congress, with which the American republic, lacking a proper Parliament, is forced to make do, has just launched an inquiry into the epidemic. It has affected over five hundred people in almost forty states. The death toll, at last count, is sitting at nine. The first known instance of the disease in our Dominion landed a teenager in London, Upper Canada, on life-support from which he has since been taken off, one hopes due to recovery.
Health Canada, the branch of our civil service or bureaucracy (1) charged with looking into such matters, has vowed to get to the bottom of this. In the interest of saving them time and the taxpayer money I will point out a simple solution to this crisis. We can easily discourage people from endangering their health and lives by risking the unknown perils of experimenting with something that in all likelihood was whipped up by some mad scientist in his laboratory in the tower of an abandoned castle somewhere as lightning flashed all around him and he rubbed his hands together laughing and shrieking “Muah hah hah hah hah! Fools! I’ll destroy them all!” which I imagine to be the standard way in which technological inventions come about. All we need to do is encourage them to try a safer, natural alternative that has been around for centuries, bringing comfort and pleasure to countless generations, and which has stood the test of time. We can encourage them to take up smoking instead.
An important note of clarification - I am not talking about smoking the vile and noxious drug that comes from the flowers, fruit and leaves of cannabis sativa or hemp, as it is called in the vernacular, which Captain Airhead aka the Kokanee Groper aka Blackface the Two-Faced Hypocrite aka Justin “Baby Doc” Trudeau legalized last year, and which is notorious for turning its users into gibbering idiots and sometimes paranoid psychotics. I am talking about smoking nicotiana tabacum, tobacco in the common tongue, which in the good old days would have been automatically understood as the unstated object of the verb smoking with no need of such clarification. Alas those days are long gone.
Smoking had a well-established, respectable, place within the cultural life of our civilization, before the American health commissar (2) declared war on it in 1964, and the rest of the West followed the Americans’ bad example.
"Smoking", Fran Lebowitz once said, "is, as far as I am concerned, the entire point of being an adult." Smoking was an indispensable part of the lives of the humourists of yesteryear. Try to imagine Mark Twain, Groucho Marx or W. C. Fields without his cigar. It simply cannot be done. This undoubtedly goes a long way towards explaining why the comedians of our own age, the antismoking age, are just not funny anymore.
Granted, smoking had its naysayers in the old days as well. Usually these were nags of the Mrs. Grundy type, who all seemed to think that there was an eleventh commandment reading "thou shalt not smoke." Perhaps they found it in the pseudoapocryphal Book of Hezekiah. Stephen Leacock, the pipe and cigar smoking political scientist and economist - he was a traditional Canadian Tory of the old school - who is better remembered for his prolific output of humourous fiction, demonstrated how to deal with this sort. Early in his career Leacock taught modern languages at Upper Canada College, known as the "Canadian Eton." One of the headmasters he worked under was George Robert Parkin who one day said to him "Leacock, I wish I could break this pernicious habit of smoking and swearing in school", meaning, of course, among the scholars. Leacock replied "I know it's a difficult habit to break oneself of, Dr. Parkin, but if you will put all of your energy into breaking yourself of it, I am sure that grace will be given you."
Parkin's grandson, by the way, was George Grant, another traditional Tory. Grant was a smoker which presumably contributed to his becoming Canada's greatest philosopher. I have no idea if Parkin's great-grandson and Grant's nephew, Michael Ignatieff, smokes or not, but I rather suspect not. He is a Grit, after all.
The Mrs. Grundys who thought that smoking was sinful, did not represent the great tradition of Christian moral theology but rather a mutant strain that had found its way into non-conformist English Protestantism. The greatest Christian thinkers of the last century, G.K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, and J. R. R. Tolkien were all dedicated smokers. In Tolkien’s case, the heroes of his stories – the Hobbits, Gandalf the Grey, Aragorn, etc., with the possible exception of the elves, are all pipe-smokers as well. Chesterton expressed the view of orthodox Christian moral theology when he wrote:
To have a horror of tobacco is not to have an abstract standard of right; but exactly the opposite. It is to have no standard of right whatever; and to make certain local likes and dislikes as a substitute. Nobody who has an abstract standard of right and wrong can possibly think it wrong to smoke a cigar.
From 1939 to 1945, the British family of nations and their allies heroically and desperately fought against the most notorious anti-smoker and vegetarian in all of history who had launched a Second World War in his determination to conquer the world and force us all to stop smoking and eat tofu. For most of this period, the British government was led by a statesman who seemed to be John Bull himself, come to life in the flesh, Sir Winston Churchill. He was seldom seen without a huge cigar clamped firmly between his teeth, the kind of cigar that is now named after him. Our American “allies” were determined to undermine everything for which he stood. Thanks to a deal which their morally as well as physically handicapped president, FDR, had struck with Stalin, we were forced to leave Poland, the Nazi invasion of which had started the war, under Soviet slavery in 1945. Two decades later, when they set their War on Tobacco in motion it was as if Hitler had won after all.
Up to that point, smokers were notoriously long-lived and healthy. Everyone at the time had at least one relative who smoked heavily every day of his life and lived to be over one hundred. That they started getting emphysema and lung cancer after the Surgeon General’s warning would almost seem to suggest that the warning, rather than the smoking, was the cause of these diseases!
Was the antismoking crusade actually just one more Modern assault on Aristotelianism, this time on Aristotle’s understanding of causality?
More likely, the post-Surgeon General’s Warning skyrocketing of smoking-related health problems is yet another negative consequence of industrialism, mass-production, and the factory system. Cigarettes are the industrial form of tobacco. They are designed to be mass-produced in a factory. Unsurprisingly, they are also the least healthy way to smoke tobacco, and always have been. Over the course of the twentieth century, the percentage of smokers who opted for cigarettes rather than pipes or cigars went up, and the quality of cigarettes went down, as all factory-made products tend to do.
Indeed, what are e-cigarettes and vaping but the next phase in the technological industrialization of smoking?
It is clear, therefore, that our response to the present crisis ought to be to take a page out of the book of Colonel Sibthorp, denounce all of this technological humbuggery, and encourage everyone to turn back to the older, tested and true, ways of smoking tobacco. There is always the old, quiet and dignified method of packing the leaf into the bowl of a pipe and drawing the smoke through the stem. For those who prefer a more ostentatious smoke there is also the option of smoking cigars. Note that I do not mean the cheap machine-produced kind which are little better than cigarettes. I mean real cigars, in which wrapper leaf is stuffed with filler leaf, all of the finest, dried and fermented tobacco, hand-rolled on a virgin’s thigh, to the sound of classical music or the reading of great works of literature. Provided, of course, that anyone still makes them this way. One would like to think so, although with Cuba having suffered decades of Communist misrule under Castro, it is difficult to be certain.
A public campaign encouraging people to stop vaping and start smoking again will probably have to be directed towards adults. Some might say that this is regrettable, as young people seem to be the most affected by the vaping sickness, but we will have to leave it up to parents to lead by example and inform their teenagers about making wiser choices. Indeed, we would be much better off if the state left the education of children on a lot more matters up to their parents. Granted, there will always be the kind of parents who set a bad example for their children and lead them astray so that they end up doing something stupid like making fools of themselves in front of the entire planet by throwing a temper tantrum at the United Nations while lecturing world leaders about something of which they are ill-informed themselves, but these are the exception rather than the rule.
I urge you to contact Ginette Petitpas Taylor, the present Minister of Health, or her successor in this office if, as we all hope and pray, the Grits are turfed out in the next election, and urge her to direct Health Canada to take this wise and appropriate step and nip the coming vaping crisis in the bud.
(1) Civil service and bureaucracy mean the same thing. The choice of which to use depends largely upon whether you view those who do most of the leg-and-paper work of the ministers of the Crown as members of a long, dignified, tradition of dutiful and public-minded officials or as the arrogant apparatchiks of encroaching Leviathan. Both types are to be found and, of course, there are many who are to varying degrees, both. Bureaucracy is the more pejorative term.
(2) “Health Commissar” is a much more accurate description of the role of the American Surgeon General than “Health Czar” and I use it so as not sully the traditional hereditary title of the head of the Russian royal family which was deposed and murdered by the very revolutionary terrorists who inflicted commissars, among many other evils, upon the world.
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