Business Day column: Anti-tobacco fanaticism threatens every aspect of your life and liberty

MAY 31 was World No Freedom Day. World Health Organisation (WHO) propaganda disguised it as World No Tobacco Day (WNTD). In response, the Free Market Foundation (FMF) celebrated World Tobacco Freedom Day and Free to Choose Day.

The difference between the WHO and such surrogates as our anti-freedom health department, on one hand, and the FMF, alongside the world’s freedom-lovers, on the other, is that the former want to control you and the latter want you to control yourself.

Why on earth does the FMF care about smokers? It does not. It cares about you. Especially if you hate smoking. The more anti-tobacco you are, the more the FMF cares about you because you might not realise how seriously anti-tobacco fanaticism threatens every aspect of your life and liberty.

The theme of the WHO’s WNTD was compulsory ‘plain packaging’. Unless the madness is stopped, the idea will be taken to its logical conclusion. Everything targeted by prevailing health fads will have to be plain packaged.

Calling what they have in mind ‘plain packaging’ is an obnoxious lie. Literally. What they demand is obnoxious black packaging with obnoxious pictures of rotting body parts. They want everyone who sees a cigarette pack to endure their most obnoxious fantasy.

We have been bombarded by so much propaganda that it is difficult to get decent people to see through official lies, exaggerations and consumer insults. The most obnoxious lie is that people for smokers’ rights are against protection from ‘passive’ and ‘second-hand’ smoking. On the contrary, smokers’ rights advocates care more about non-smoker’s rights than anti-tobacco fanatics who want to prohibit the perfect protection of ventilated indoor smoking areas and force smokers onto the pavement where innocent victims become passive smokers. At their draconian behest, big buildings and factories have big gatherings with big clouds of smoke through which non-smokers must walk.

The FMF also cares more than health fanatics about the cost of caring for smokers at public expense. The truth is that smokers subsidise non-smoker health by contributing more to government revenue than is spent on them.

If people allow the continued erosion of cherished principles, they will have no principled argument against what will follow in other contexts. At today’s Free to Choose Tuesday celebration, the FMF displayed what awaits consumers who do not defend smokers’ rights: ‘plain packaged’ cold drinks, chocolates and wine. Attractive and dignified branding was covered up and replaced by images of cancer-ridden, rotting body parts. Cars are more dangerous than tobacco, so a car was ‘plain packaged’ with make and model blanked out and sporting ‘health’ warning and photographs of mangled bodies.

Today was a modest start to what should become a worldwide pro-rights response to health fanaticism. Next year, other products loathed by health fanatics will be ‘plain packaged’, such as salted nuts and crisps, salad dressing, braai meat, health supplements, alternative medicines, baby food, traditional herbs and roots, acupuncture needles, and easy chairs.

The consumer rights alternative to the WHO’s torrent of twitter twaddle is #ConsumerRights. Product-specific twitter hashtags are being added to #AgainstSugarTax.

To the WHO and its surrogate health departments, you are like a tree in an orchard. To the FMF, you have a mind. Your psychological and physical health entail complex body-mind relationships. Seemingly unhealthy behaviour may be a healthy way of coping with lethargy, pain, fatigue, depression, insecurity, stress, and more. It might promote happiness, contentment, stimulation, creativity, concentration or relaxation, all of which are mentally and physically healthy.

If you do not want the wine bottle on your dinner table to be black and displaying sickening photographs of rotting livers, if you want product information and brand competition, if you want to be the boss of yourself, you must oppose plain ghastly packaging.

Louw is executive director of the FMF.

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