Euobserver.com reports that a Belgian judge has filed two complaints with the EU court in Luxembourg calling on the union to ban the sale of cigarettes in Belgium. If the tribunal finds the case admissible, and then rules in favour of it, this could “lead to a ban on the sale of tobacco products across the EU.” At least “in theory”, the EUobs thankfully points out. Said judge, who goes by the name of Baudouin Hubaux, a “Belgian anti-smoking campaigner” (this would sound really funny in French), is asking the court “to examine if the sale of tobacco products goes against the Lisbon Treaty, the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the UN’s 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child.” Mr Hubaux muses that “Future historians who will explore the 20th century will surely be surprised at the timidity of measures against smoking. If we fail to reduce consumption, smoking will kill 520 million people worldwide between 1950 and 2050, 10 times more than the Second World War.”
I’m more inclined to think that historians of the future will “surely be surprised” that people with university degrees like Judge Hubaux made the question of fags a human rights issue, with World War II as the ultimate moral authority. I have no recollection that the armies of Nazi Germany ran through France, bombed London, or besieged Stalingrad with cartons of Marlboro Red. Unless the historians of the 22nd century are stupider than us, then they’ll also be aware that industrial societies have a vast appetite for noxious substances that prohibition cannot curb. There’s an unwritten law to human behaviour that if you repress something it pops up somewhere else as something else. Let alone the social impact of a blanket tobacco ban on, say, midnight on the 31st December 2011 (the Obs says this case could take 17 months), and the ten of millions of smokers who might be somewhat irked, then ratty, then doing a nicotineless berserker on New Year’s Day 2012, the good Judge doesn’t seem to forsee that a black market would inevitably scoop up the resulting loss of revenue, estimated at €67bn, to member states. But then maybe he doesn’t get out enough. By the way, EU stats report that smoking costs the union less than 5% of tobacco revenues at €2.5bn annually in health costs, but the bottom line should be that as 100% of human beings eventually die, health care should be completely unconditional. But sadly, the pathos of the human condition is so lost on these joyless puritans that they pontificate over people’s consumption habits as well as make free with World War 2 metaphors. Using their own accountant’s logic, I’d love to know what kind of revenue they generate, and above all how much they cost? More importantly though, did they ever bring a fraction of the pleasure to the world that a smoking Lauren Bacall did?