Up in Smoke: Freedom and Responsibility in the Corporatist State

Smokers, I have found, are inclined to disbelieve just how unpleasant others find their habit. Since they themselves can’t or don’t detect the lingering smell of stale smoke in rooms, in corridors, on clothes, even in books (my second-hand copy of Father Coplestone’s study of Nietzsche is a smoke-filled room in itself), they think that non-smokers exaggerate when they complain of it. They don’t believe that the smoke that gets in your eyes stings, or that it rasps the throat, or that it destroys pleasure in food. The late Christopher Hitchens, an inveterate smoker, told a self-congratulatory anecdote about how he was bravely determined to strike a blow for freedom by breaking the law in New York. Determined to smoke a cigarette in a restaurant, he asked the people at the next table whether they minded if he lit up. It was characteristic of smokers’ egotism, and perhaps that of the author also, that he thought his question a neutral one, such that a reply to the effect that they did not mind meant that they really did not mind.

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