Tag Archives: velvet glove iron fist

Book reviews, health and politics, etc.

1. Book reviews

Over at Spiked, Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick has two book reviews; one we’ve read (Velvet Glove Iron Fist) and another one that looks as promising (Geoffrey Kabat’s Hyping Health Risks). (See The anti-smoking ‘truth regime’ that cannot be questioned:Two new books expose how epidemiology has been used as a tool of propaganda in the war on tobacco – and woe betide anyone who tries to inject some real facts into the debate.) Fitzpatrick’s own Tyranny of Health is a bracing rant against the medicalization of everyday life including the valuation of length over quality of life.

2. At The Rest of the Story (two narratives)..

Most recently, Michael Siegel writes New Study Finds Nicotine Gum May Pose Carcinogen Hazard to NRT Users; Will Anti-Smoking Groups Call for Removal of Oral NRT Products from Market?
The title is fairly self explanatory with the blog post asking whether these same groups who have campaigned so strongly for the removal of ecigarettes (which in terms of this research have less proven harm than oral nicotine) be consistent and campaign against these now. This is not an argument against the NRTs since they are still obviously much safer than smoking but rather a question of consistency…..if oral NRTs are better than smoking, then surely ecigarettes are as well.

And previously this same writer posted Colleagues Accuse Me of Working for Big Tobacco and E-Cigarette Industry; Anti-Smoking Advocates Seem Unable to Address Opposing Views Substantively. This sort of experience is not news to those of us in tobacco harm reduction but it is even more dramatic when it happens to Siegel who was a vociferous supporter of smoke free legislation. He has remained health focussed while his erstwhile colleagues have become even more political and is now being castigated for what they believe is fifth column behavior.

Both these posts and so many other commentaries illustrate the depressing fact that in this area rather than the debate being over which is the best way to improve health it is a battle between health and politics and as the battle continues the casualties are not among those fighting but among the civilians.


Velvet Glove Iron Fist


Subtitled A History of Anti-smoking, Christopher Snowden‘s book Velvet Glove Iron Fist is perhaps the best ever written on this subject, at least the best I have read. Entertaining as well as informative, this book should be in every library. (See the Velvetglove website for excerpts).

Though harm reductionists and anti-tobacco activists share the goal of getting smokers away from smoking, we differ radically on how we conceptualize the process. Anti-smoking activists are paternalistic and feel that smokers will only respond to force as in increasingly onerous restrictions and various other steps in the direction of prohibition.

Harm reduction is based on the idea of choice and autonomy. Smokers smoke for good reason (even if it is unhealthy) and only by accepting those reasons as valid can we develop attractive alternatives to smoking. Secondly, and quite a different point, is that the anti-smoking movement has created the very barriers that stop smokers from knowing about safer alternatives.

Know the enemy; read this book.