“Not Just Tobacco,” by Chris R. Tame

Not Just Tobacco:
Health Scares, Medical Paternalism, and Individual Liberty
By Chris R. Tame

First published on the 20th April 2016
By the Hampden Press, London
© Chris R. Tame, Sean Gabb (Editor), 2016


The Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco (FOREST) was an organisation set up in 1979 by the British tobacco industry for the purpose described in its name. Its first Directors were Air Chief Marshal Sir Christopher Foxley-Norris and Lieutenant-General Sir Geoffrey Charles Evans. Though men of some distinction, neither had experience of dealing with the corporate bureaucrats who funded their activities. Their names remained on the headed notepaper, but they were replaced in 1981 by Stephen Eyres, who had been an effective Campaigns Director at the Freedom Association. Under his leadership, FOREST settled into a well-funded and well-connected opposition to the growing clamour against the tobacco industry and its customers. His genius lay in persuading his funders that his increasingly libertarian campaign for free choice was no danger to their own wish for a compromise with the prohibitionists.

His weakness was a great and undiscriminating taste for the company of strangers. Late in 1987, he began to show the symptoms of an illness he had done nothing to avoid. By the following summer, he was incapable of managing the daily affairs of FOREST, and he appointed Chris Tame as the Campaigns Director.

Chris took on the position with much enthusiasm. He had already distinguished himself as Manager of the Alternative Bookshop in Covent Garden, and as Director of the Libertarian Alliance. He had been considering a position in the Institute of Economic Affairs, or in some other organisation that focussed on economics. The offer from Eyres seemed far better. Unlike most other libertarians and conservatives in the 1980s, Chris no longer saw traditional socialism as the main enemy. The Soviet Union was a power in evident decline. State socialism, as defined by nationalisation for the benefit of the working classes, was equally in decline. The enemies now of our traditional liberties wore business suits and looked like social democrats. They had no interest in nationalisation and little in high income taxes and welfare redistribution. Their road to power lay through the regulation of thought and lifestyle.

Many of his friends thought defending the right to smoke was at best a diversion from the real struggle. Chris saw it as central to the real struggle. The enemy was not stupid union leaders or ranting Trotskyites. It was a group that goes under many names, but that may for the moment be called the Enemy Class, and that may loosely be defined as those administrators, lawyers, experts, educators and media people whose living is connected with the State, and whose guiding principle is belief in their right and duty to tell everyone else how to live. Such people, of course, have always been with us. What made these people different was their swelling numbers, and their fondness for ideologies of control that made them a collective, though not wholly cohesive, enemy of the English liberal tradition.

Though constrained by a small budget, Chris spent the next year putting detail into a strategy that Eyres had already outlined, but for which he lacked the intellectual resources. This was to give the tobacco industry just enough short term public relations to keep its managers happy, and to make a purely token effort at populist outreach. The main effort was to be a sustained attack on the ideological bases of the Enemy Class. A month or so after taking up his position at FOREST, Chris asked me to write about the theology of free choice as it applied to tobacco. After I had delivered the manuscript, he commissioned me to ghost or edit a series of short books. These took their evidence from the debate on smoking, but they were always an attack on the Enemy Class.

Sadly, by the end of 1989, Eyres reached a crisis in his moral and physical decline. Never very scrupulous in his use of money, he had turned to outright embezzlement. I am not sure how much money he stole from the FOREST accounts, but it was more than £100,000 – money all spent on unlikely therapies, or on paying for enthusiasms that continued until just a few weeks before his death. The discovery of his crimes would always have been a problem for the organisation. The coincidental appointment of Ralph Harris to the governing board of FOREST made it into a problem for Chris.

The appearance Harris gave the world was of an affable pipe-smoker. He wrote well, and he had a way with charming money from tight-fisted businessmen. He was also a man of dark and even villainous passions. If I choose to pass over the more scandalous facts, his many adulteries had opened him to blackmail. Eyres had no inclination to spend his last months in a prison hospital, and he threatened Harris with a letter to The Guardian. The deal then worked out was that Chris should be sacked. The police would not be set on him, but the funders would be told that he was at least partly to blame for the vanished money.

This was one of the few Harris plots that failed, and, while Eyres was paid off most generously to console him for blindness and the amputation of his toes, Chris was appointed Director of FOREST in January 1990. He was forty, and in charge of an organisation that he hoped he could use to make a difference. Harris thought otherwise. He never forgave Chris for besting him. If for other reasons, the tobacco people agreed. The Eyres scandal had undermined their willingness to let FOREST go about its work with only loose supervision. Over the next few years, the budget was repeatedly cut. Chris was forced to give up most of his ideological project, putting his time instead into fighting discrimination against smokers in their places of work. Early in 1995, he was released from his contract. I attended his leaving party. Harris made a farewell speech of lush praise, and had already put the word round to stop Chris from finding work anywhere else.

The text here republished was written after Chris had left FOREST. His leaving package included some tapering consultancy of which this was one of the last items. He was never a fluent writer, and the failure of his professional hopes, and the gathering disintegration of his marriage, had left him depressed. He asked David Botsford for help. But David was falling into a depression of his own. Work on the book went slowly. A few weeks before the deadline, Chris asked me to help.

Reading the complete text for the first time in twenty years, I can often see my work. There are many passages that I remember having written, and several more that sound like me. But the text is properly described as the work of Chris Tame. He provided both tone and overall structure. Sat at home in Charlton, I would put together the Tame and Botsford fragments, filling out the blanks, until I had a draft of one of the sections. I would e-mail it to Chris as a plaintext. He would print it and write all over it, and provide another half dozen clippings, and post it to David, who would then type it into WordPerfect 5.1, and post me the disk for approval and amendments. We met several times in Central London to discuss the analytical approach we were trying to develop. Our last review meeting was in a coffee bar in Southampton Row. In all but matters of style and grammar, we deferred to Chris. After I had printed and read the consolidated text, I spoke to David on the telephone. We agreed that Chris had overseen the production of something important that would have an impact on the debate over lifestyle regulation.

Harris disagreed. By now, he was in unchallenged control of FOREST, and this was not something he wanted his FOREST to publish. I am told his first act when shown the manuscript was to cross out my name – he never much liked me, though why is no longer relevant. This done, he cut half the evidence and neutered the analysis. As I could only bring myself to skim the version that he allowed through the press, I cannot say in detail what was published. But no one thought it very important, and it had no impact.

It is now twenty years later. Harris is dead. So is Chris. So is David. As the only man left who had any share in its production, and since I am taking the trouble to publish it and offer it for sale, I feel obliged to say what I think of the complete version of the text. Do I still think it as good as its three authors did over the coffee cups in Southampton Row? Or has it, after so long, become as dated as some turgid report of its day from the Adam Smith Institute?

I do not think the factual claims we discuss have dated. The mass of news clippings that Chris provided are all a generation old. Almost any one of them could go, without looking out of place, into a newspaper published tomorrow.

Take this:

“Eating too many pickled onions increases the risk of throat cancer and a preference for taking very hot soup or drinks as well will increase the risk further.” (The Independent, 29 May 1992)

Or this:

“Nearly 35,000 children a week drink more alcohol than the safe limit for adults, survey find­ings show … as the Drinkwise campaign was launched … ‘It is estimated from this survey that 130,000 children under the age of 16 claim to be drinking alcohol regularly in pubs’, the [Health Education Authority] says.” (The Guardian, 12 June, 1990)

Or this:

“Frying or barbecuing meat, chicken or fish produces potentially cancer‑causing substances [according to the] US National Cancer Institute.” (The Irish Times, 27 March, 1991)

The claims have not dated. Nor have the responses we made in the text, or referred to in the notes. This gives our work a value none of us imagined in 1996. If someone tells you, with high authority, that the world will end next Tuesday, you may or may not be persuaded. If you learn that he made the same prediction for last Tuesday, and the Tuesday before that, and for any number of other Tuesdays stretching back into the more or less distant past, you will need to be in the grip of some unusual passion not to regard him as insane or a fraud. The obesity time bomb has still not exploded. Mad Cow Disease has not yet rotted our minds. The young men of 1996 who were said to be destroying themselves with cheap lager do not seem to be falling dead in middle age. If for no other reason, what we wrote in 1996 is worth reading today for its deflating effect on the latest scare stories.

I am less happy with some of our analysis. We believed that the purpose of the various scares was to lead us into a total state based on health fascism, and that this purpose would be achieved without firm ideological opposition. But there has been no firm ideological opposition. Since we wrote, the British libertarian movement has pretty well died. Before illness claimed him, Eyres was a man of ability. Harris, whatever can be said against him, bordered on greatness, and his peerage was one of Margaret Thatcher’s less risible creations. Since 1996, British libertarianism had decayed into an organised mediocrity, enlivened by a set of bizarre personality cults. Yet the continued freshness of the evidence we accumulated falsifies our prediction. Scare stories can only be recycled as they have been when they remain unaddressed.

Undoubtedly, England has become a more authoritarian country than it was in 1996. Speech is less free. The rule of law has been weakened. Another generation of having news and entertainment and education in the grip of the Enemy Class has left an English people still more degraded and hysterical than it was a year before Diana had her car crash. But Mars Bars and bacon remain openly on sale. Coffee is still untaxed and has no statutory warnings all over its packaging. Cigarettes are more expensive than they were, and they can be smoked in fewer places. But the Puritan State we predicted seems, in its full imposition, as distant now as it was then.

Something we failed to predict was how the Enemy Class would behave once it was fully in power. No doubt, it still has members who dream of putting everyone on a diet of raw porridge and boiled potatoes, and are willing to lock anyone away who gives them a funny look. I was once in a radio debate with a health bureaucrat who wanted to deny cigarettes to terminal cancer patients. Her argument was that a hospital was supposed to be a place of healing, and that smoking had no place there.

In the main, however, the Enemy Class in power is less like a plague bacillus than a parasite. Its members have salaries and status. If there are many more of them today than in 1996, they are more interested in controlling whatever moves than in stopping it from moving. They want to educate us about the dangers of passive drinking. They want voluntary agreements on how things can be described and where they can be sold. They want to commission endless further research by their friends. With few exceptions, they do not really want to ban anything. I repeat that nearly all the things attacked in 1996 remain openly available.

Another failure was our dismissal of big business. I did not write this passage in the text, but I did agree with it:

The[…] tendency [of corporate bureaucrats] is to engage in what can only be called pre-emptive cringing. They lean over backwards to be “reasonable.” Instead of confronting, refuting and defeating their enemies, they produce platitudes. They have no conception of the nature of the opposition they face from enemies determined to cripple or destroy them. They “compromise” when compromise only encourages their opponents, and opens the door to the next restriction. They rely on PR hacks who have little understanding of the power of political ideologies and no idea how to combat them. They think things can be sorted out with behind-the-scenes “deals” with politicians – who cannot be trusted and will succumb to whosoever exerts the most pressure.

All three of us were feeling bitter about the failure of these people to see our merits and shower us with even half the money Steven Eyres spent on amyl nitrate. Well, they were right. Compromise worked – or it has so far. They bribed. They wheedled. They selectively gave in. They employed Enemy Class consultants and learned how to turn away wrath by learning to speak the language of that class. They recognised the changing nature of that class in power from total state revolutionaries to rent-seeking apparatchiks, and made all necessary adaptations. They faced the resulting increase in costs just as they might any increase in their material costs. They even took take advantage of the new order that was ushered fully into being with Tony Blair’s first election victory. Advertising bans were made into opportunities for cartelising cost. Regulations were turned into the means of preserving market share against competition from outside.

And that was it. Business went on as usual. Old products were improved, new products introduced. Prices of nearly everything continued to fall in real terms. Better technology aside, we live in a world not radically different from that of 1996. Indeed, the past twenty years seem to me a kind of endless present – the same hysterical preaching of threats and calls to action, the same lack of really decisive action. We may be sinking, but we have not yet broken in half, and the deck chairs have not substantially moved.

I think, even so, we were right in our claim that the function of all these revolving health scares was to make people into a flock of terrified sheep. If we can be alarmed into diets that make Orthodox Judaism look sensible, or if we can be made to believe that too much washing will give us cancer, or that every male over the age of five is a potential paedophile, or that leaving a few lights on will make our planet into a copy of Venus – why, no one will complain about the salaries and pensions lavished on our new masters, or about the generally more authoritarian state we nowadays endure. If we exaggerated the effect of the scares on their formal targets, there is no doubt of how they helped legitimise the emergence of a new and generally more authoritarian ruling class. Revealing the methods used may not in itself undo this legitimisation. But the ammunition it provides remains useful for a broader attack.

Aware, then, of its virtues and its faults, I commend the present text. If it can have any part of the effect its authors hoped it would, I shall not have published in vain.

Sean Gabb
April 2016


  1. The busybodies might not be as strident as predicted but that doesn’t mean ineffective. If the only way one can smoke is to stand out in the elements and otherwise not be allowed to experience any enjoyment with the process, then more and more people choose to forgo this supposedly addictive practice, voluntarily.

    Similarly, if one finds out that going to a pub isn’t as fun as it used to be, because the patrons are overindulging in liquor because tobacco breaks are too inconvenient, then fewer people will go to pubs. Very gradually, questioning the moral virtues of abstinence of all sorts will be found “odd”. Not exactly the gulag, but less likely to fan a passionate opposition movement either.

    Eventually, getting together with like minds will be for narrower and narrower purposes.

    Here is the philosophy (or one of them) behind the current creeping conformity: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nudge_theory

  2. Recently, Sean told me he favoured the Enlightenment rather that the Romantic reaction to it, as daft Ayn Rand did. I said I rather thought he was with Romance up till then. I certainly think that Chris was.

    Dirty little ideas like “class”, “struggle”, and “enemy” infuse the Romantic paradigm and the outlook is personal rather than objective whereas the Enlightenment paradigm thinks in terms of ignorance, objective knowledge and the basic unity of interests in any society.

    Above, Sean tells us that Chris saw a new enemy in the real struggle. But liberalism has no enemies and it seeks to enlighten one and all. Sean himself likes to talk of the enemy class but that looks like sheer Romance to me.

    Our enemy is the institution of the state, we used to say but the state is just a mistaken illiberal form of impersonal organisation. It is based on the confiscation involved in taxation thus it is not free in earning its keep but rather it is proactively coercive and it uses the funds taxed for even more coercion so it is completely illiberal in all it does, but it is based on sheer ignorance rather than on a clash of economic interest groups. One idea that Keynes got right was in thinking it was ideas rather than clashing economic interests that made for conflict and that was a good insight in his 1936 book when so many were confounded by the imaginary class struggle that Marx, and the thinkers he followed before him, had thought were real.
    Marx was right that we could classify people as we wished but what truly mattered is the objective economic class interests but he failed to find any such objective interests relating to the classes relating factors of production that actually clashed with the classes he supposed related to the other factors of production and his prediction that all would fall into just two classes, a proletariat related to the factor of labour and a bourgeoisie related to the factor of capital was clear enough one that lacked any vestige of reality whatsoever; but few Marxists ever stopped to think about it. They were too busy opposing others. It was a story on top of a stick but it was good enough for the Romantics who were too keen on opposing the imagined enemy to revise their own message.
    There are two classes of those who work freely and those who work for the state today, and the state employees need taxation whilst the free workers need lower, or even no, taxation. So that is a potential clash but it is not a class struggle, as most see the state as needed. All can gain economically from simply rolling back the state. That is the idea liberalism needs to educate all people on. Those who work for the state today will most likely earn more if we get the state domain downsized, or even get rid of the state entirely. There is no essential clash of economic interests in any society. Marx got history wrong in his 1848 pamphlet with Engels.

    There is the ambition to rule over other people, the career of politics. Liberalism tends to downgrade that, as it does the work of lawyers too as liberalism aims to repeal statutory laws. And state employees will need to get another job instead of the glorified dole they rest on today. But they too might earn more by serving the public rather than by trying to rule over them.

    Above, Sean writes of attacks on the “Enemy Class” but he admits they are not cohesive. Do they even exist?

    It is not true that the British libertarian movement has died out compared to 1996. The deaths of Eyres, Harris, and the like have not meant we have “decayed into an organised mediocrity, enlivened by a set of bizarre personality cults”. The backward cult of daft Ayn Rand has been the only such cult of note and that has ebbed since 1996.

    The acme of Political Correctness [PC] was prior to 1990, when that label arose into the mass media and cut what it named in roughly about half; for it worked like a taboo label, or jargon word, of PC itself, like the silly words of “racism”, “sexism” and the rest, in that no one wanted to be called PC. This taboo was almost comical to witness. Free speech got its biggest boost in my lifetime. It has never got back to prior to about 1990 but it has recovered a little bit since 1996.

    That statists want us to be persuaded indicates a fact Sean seems to overlook viz. that the liberal idea of liberty is the top idea today; and that it has been at least since 1800, if not since 1700. But what obfuscates this is that non-LAers do not want to vie the liberal idea with whatever illiberal idea that scotches it thus they do not see democracy, or any politics whatsoever, [democracy may be the best form of politics but it is still illiberal coercion and it is totalitarian too]as being illiberal. They think that to criticise others is unfriendly. PC rules with them as it is not seen as being illiberal. PCers are even deluded that it favours equality for it promotes its pet groups to quasi-privilege by mores or to actual privilege by the PC statutory law. But the result of that is under-privilege for all others.

    Anyway, the general public remain apathetic and bored by politics and religion and Sean mistakes them for sheep, which is pure folly, but they do not want to reject illiberal ideas, despite valuing liberty as top idea. They think of adopting both in their apathy whereas the LAers reject all that clashes with the liberal idea.

    So even the statists imagine they actually support liberty in their statist outlook. The LAers are pushing on a door that is certainly not locked, if not yet wide open. Not many people want to openly say that they are against liberty. That is why Sean finds his imaginary Enemy Class members so keen on education and voluntary agreement. That is why they do not like to ban things.

    Of course, businessmen are not ideologues and it always is “business as usual” for them, whether the state goes to actual war or just taxes more or just regulates more. Few in the LA in the late 1970s thought otherwise but, maybe, Chris imagined that he had learned better later on. Entrepreneurship is about pandering to whatever is wanted by potential customers. The statists forever tell the liberals that “the market is a good servant but a poor master” but the liberal reply is that we do not ever want a master as we prefer to be free. The LA was set up to make liberal propaganda, more like being a charity than a conforming entrepreneurial firm. We do confront and debate with the ignorant but few firms will ever risk alienating customers by doing that.

    But note that debate is not competition but rather it is co-operation with the sole common aim of truth in belief or being correct in moral values. Eristic argument is mere gist to the mill of any debate but institutionally, if not personally, or psychologically, the aim is common for the debaters on each side of any debate, as there is the same one common aim of truth in all debate. Debate is an Enlightenment activity in the interests of one and all. But the Romantics imagine otherwise.

    Tax cuts are the way ahead. The denationalisation of money is required to stop inflation being used for taxation by the back door. Claptrap about class is a waste of time. Of course businessmen will conform to the state. Why would anyone ever expect otherwise?

    Blair was a return to the pre-1931 old Labour but the epigones of backward Attlee thought it was truly New Labour. It was a defeat of politics, where they often sought to follow the latest opinion polls, like servers of the public rather than to act politically, like rulers, but institutionally they were all coercive rulers nevertheless. But Sean feels this was a sort of setback for liberalism.

    It is not clear to me what Sean wants by “really decisive action” from politics or any government but it does not seem to favour liberty in any way. He seems to be merely confused. I have, repeatedly, seen Sean write about “good government” but does he imagine that sort of filth could ever be liberal?

  3. OSHA also took on the passive smoking fraud and this is what came of it:

    Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence: Third Edition

    This sorta says it all

    These limits generally are based on assessments of health risk and calculations of concentrations that are associated with what the regulators believe to be negligibly small risks. The calculations are made after first identifying the total dose of a chemical that is safe (poses a negligible risk) and then determining the concentration of that chemical in the medium of concern that should not be exceeded if exposed individuals (typically those at the high end of media contact) are not to incur a dose greater than the safe one.

    So OSHA standards are what is the guideline for what is acceptable ”SAFE LEVELS”


    All this is in a small sealed room 9×20 and must occur in ONE HOUR.

    For Benzo[a]pyrene, 222,000 cigarettes.

    “For Acetone, 118,000 cigarettes.

    “Toluene would require 50,000 packs of simultaneously smoldering cigarettes.

    Acetaldehyde or Hydrazine, more than 14,000 smokers would need to light up.

    “For Hydroquinone, “only” 1250 cigarettes.

    For arsenic 2 million 500,000 smokers at one time.

    The same number of cigarettes required for the other so called chemicals in shs/ets will have the same outcomes.

    So, OSHA finally makes a statement on shs/ets :

    Field studies of environmental tobacco smoke indicate that under normal conditions, the components in tobacco smoke are diluted below existing Permissible Exposure Levels (PELS.) as referenced in the Air Contaminant Standard (29 CFR 1910.1000)…It would be very rare to find a workplace with so much smoking that any individual PEL would be exceeded.” -Letter From Greg Watchman, Acting Sec’y, OSHA.

    Why are their any smoking bans at all they have absolutely no validity to the courts or to science!

  4. SHS is 96% water vapor and air SG report 1989 page 80. They think that’s going to cause harm its not even a nuisance to flys over your table and then let’s discuss those 3500 exhaled human breath chemicals then restaraunt cooking or grill smoke etc etc all equal to millions of cigs each day indoors or out and that’s just a single venue and its customers and cooking for a day!

  5. I have always considered smoking to be a filthy habit, but people should be at liberty to pursue it, if they wish. As I understand it, the Forest argument was based on property.

    What does intrigue me is how the conflicting interests of a property owner on the one hand and sovereignty over one’s own body on the other are mediated. For instance, let’s say Mr Jones has been invited to the home of Mr Smith. Mr Jones insists on smoking in Mr Smith’s front living room, but Mr Smith objects. I assume your position would be that Mr Smith’s objection must override Mr Jones’ bodily sovereignty, this being on the basis that, first, Mr Jones is merely an invitee (in law, merely having permission) on the property, and second, smoking is not an essential bodily function like drinking or walking or scratching your back, but should property rights always take precedence? If Mr Jones is not causing harm, can objections even from property owners override his wish to smoke at any particular place?

    I suppose the hypothetical situation is easily resolved by Mr Smith asking his guest to leave, having withdrawn consent for him to be on the property, but what if the invitation is to walk on Mr Smith’s field? At what point should the rights of a property owner give way to the bodily sovereignty of a licensee?

  6. Since Sean is one of about ten people in the world who have heard of Philip Burch, may I draw attention to my site The Burch Curve about him and his work?

    He was an eminent physicist (and lifelong non-smoker) who came to the smoking issue quite incidentally in pursuit of a theory of cancer which he was testing against the evidence. To his own considerable surprise, he came to the conclusion that smoking cannot possibly cause cancer in the way claimed by Richard Doll, Richard Peto and their associates, and that it is quite possibly harmless.

    His work is daunting because it is highly mathematical, though it actually involves little that is not in the GCSE curriculum. If you understand it, you can only be amazed at the sheer fraudulence of the arguments with which the medical establishment sought to discredit him. They are easily in the same league as the Hockey Stick diagram, hide the decline and similar propaganda masquerading as “climate science”.

    • A very interesting site. This is what makes coming on here worthwhile still and I see some interesting and useful parallels between Burch’s critique of epidemiology and the Covid-19 hysteria. A shame that Burch did not live to see the Covid-19 hysteria, he would have had a field day.

      • I really don’t know what to think about tobacco. On the one hand, I can see a gigantic fraud by the ruling class. The more alarming statistics are all fabricated. On the other hand, I do know from my own experience, that heavy smokers do very often wreck their lungs. When I went to that boot fair, I heard some fine examples of smoker’s cough.

  7. @Tom

    Thanks. I can well imagine what he would have had to say about Covid-19, but also how easily he would have been ignored away.


    Burch thought that smoking fairly demonstrably caused bronchitis, though excess illness did not necessarily translate into excess deaths.

Leave a Reply