Wednesday 16 March 2011

Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar

I have just tried to go to, not to buy cigars (I do not smoke), but because I came across the brand in another context and was idly curious.

I was redirected to, and was shown the message:

"We are sorry due to national legal restrictions we can not grant you access to our Website Thank you for your understanding."

This appears to reflect the prohibition on tobacco advertising in the UK. Not only are we not allowed to see adverts, across which we might stumble by accident. We are not allowed to go in search of information on a product that we already know is made of tobacco.

I had feared that in due course, the great firewall of the UK would be built to keep out messages that were politically subversive, or pornography at which uptight politicians took offence. But no, the first target is innocent information on a perfectly legal product. (It is not quite a firewall. The page appears to be one of Davidoff's own, and is presumably displayed if one has a UK IP address. But the effect is the same.)

Davidoff did not think of this themselves. They, or tobacco companies in general, must have been asked to do it, by the UK government. Some politicians, presumably in the last government, or some senior civil servants, had such a casual disregard for freedom of information that they thought it worth interfering with that freedom for a plainly inadequate reason.

We should be worried at the existence of such an attitude, anywhere in government. We should also be told the names of the guilty politicians or civil servants. Meanwhile, I used a proxy server to get to the forbidden, and not in the least bit dangerous, site.


  1. Would you object to marihuana advertising ?
    Or cocaine advertising ?
    Some artists need cocaine for their inspiration.
    Some workers need opium in order to feel good after a long day of hard work ...

  2. First, we need to decide whether those drugs should remain illegal. So long as they remain illegal, there may be a case against allowing advertisements for them. But there is no case against discussing them, or showing the forms in which they are made available. Meanwhile, tobacco is perfectly legal in Britain. There is a ban on advertising tobacco in Britain, which I think is wrong. But even if that ban is acceptable, it is both wrong and crazy to stop people in Britain seeing material that is made available abroad. Fortunately, the attempt to stop us seeing it is ineffective.

  3. Not everything is legal for the same age group.
    I assume that selling cigarettes and alcohol to minors is illegal in the UK.
    A cool advertisement with a cowboy smoking a Marlboro cigarette evokes the wrong sort of dreams in an immature mind.
    And therefore should be avoided.
    Internet is accessible by everyone and so certain advertisements should be banned, for the sake of the young and immature citizens.

  4. We will have to disagree on that. I do not think that things should be banned just to stop children seeing them. It is better to let parents control what their children see, than to have censorship for everyone. I do not think that governments have any right to control what we see, or read, or write.

    One reason for my view is that our freedom is very precious. If we let governments take away parts of it that seem unimportant, they will start to take away parts that are more important. And even the unimportant things matter. Don't you feel insulted when a government tells you that you should not see something?

  5. It´s not the government, I suppose, it is the House of Commons or some other parliament in a democratic country, which is a representation of the will of the majority of the citizens or Her Majesty´s subjects.
    A governement usually does not make laws, it only executes laws passed by a parliament.

    An adult can find a way to see material of doubtful moral value if he absolutely wants to. The protection of immature minds should be given preference, it seems to me.

  6. You are right, it is Parliament and not the Government. I should have said the State, in all its forms. We will still have to disagree. I do not think that the majority should be able to tell the minority what they can see, or read, or show, or write. Democracy is necessary for freedom, because even if we had a benevolent non-democratic ruler who allowed us our freedom, we would censor ourselves in order not to provoke him or her into taking away freedoms. But democracy is not the same as freedom, and it is not sufficient for freedom.

  7. An immature mind cannot censor himself as well as a mature one. So the immature mind should be protected by not being offered displays of naked bodies or smoking cowboys or whatever in public places.

    Unrestricted freedom is an illusion.
    There never has been or ever will be unrestricted freedom on earth.
    How about my freedom NOT to see smoking cowboys and huge naked bodies (advertising beach dresses) when I go out.

    There is a collusion of freedoms everywhere and compromises have to be found.

  8. Freedom may not be absolute. People cannot have the freedom to limit other people's freedom. But we can allow everyone the greatest possible range of actions, consistent with everyone else having the same range of actions open to them.

    If we put it like that, then one person's actions are not restricted by the fact that someone else might be offended. The offended person's actions are not restricted. But things like blocking someone's way, or stealing from them, are forbidden, because they restrict the victim's freedom of action.

    If we do not put the principle in terms of action, but put it in terms that imply that if someone finds something offensive, that is a limit on their freedom, then we end up with much less freedom to act. One person's preferences can stop another person from putting up posters.

    I firmly believe that we should put the principle in terms of action. If people had rights not to be offended, the actions of others would be hugely restricted. If people do not like to see certain posters, they should not look at them. If they are offended by the quick glance that they need before they look away, then they are just far too sensitive. And a large enough conservative group could oppress the whole population.

  9. Not one person´s preferences, but a majority´s preferences.
    If a majority decides that it is obscene to put huge advertisements of underwear in public places or of condoms or of other things, then the advertisor´s freedom should be restricted in this case.

    Averting one´s glance is all right, according to you.
    How about loud advertising commercials, maybe a cowboy roaring that Marlboro tastes good. Should someone who does not want to hear such commercials cover his ears with his hands in order not to hear ?

  10. Loud noises do prevent others from acting. They stop people from being able to think clearly, or have conversations, or listen to music. So we can deal with adverts in the street that make a loud noise.

    You still have not convinced me that the majority should be able to impose their view of obscenity on others. And what about blasphemy, or extreme political views? I still believe that we must defend freedom against the censors. If something is offensive, other people should of course be free to put up posters saying so, or putting an opposite point of view. But the answer to offensive free expression is free expression on the other side, not suppression.

    Our discussion has come a long way from the initial topic, an innocent website about cigars!

  11. Even not so loud noises can penetrate your mind and soul and make you try something unhealthy.

    "Smoke a Marlboro, be like a cool man." whispers a half-naked beauty in a store close to a school in which students buy chocolate and cokes and redbulls.
    Should these young boys put up posters saying: I want to be a scout and scouts do not endanger their health. ?

    I have not smoked a cigarette yet but I usually accompanied another student outside because she needed to smoke one. Often it was even me who initiated the going out by saying: Gehen wir eine rauchen ?
    But she was an adult. More or less mature, so it was up to her to do with her life what she pleased.

  12. Sogenannte "harte Drogen" sind illegal, sagen Sie. Aber das hat doch auch eine Mehrheit per Gesetz entschieden. Und eine liberale Minderheit musste es akzeptieren.
    In diesem Fall stört es Sie also nicht, dass eine Mehrheit ihre Meinung durchsetzt ?

  13. Ich schrieb nicht, dass harte Drogen illegal sollen, nur dass sie illegal sind, und wenn illegal, dass es Grund (aber vielleicht nicht zureichender Grund) für ein Werbungsverbot gibt.

    Es gibt eine größere Frage. Wie können wir Streiten zwischen der demokratische Macht der Mehrheit und der Freiheit vermeiden? Meiner Meinung nach, brauchen wir ein Grundgesetz, dass sehr schwierig zu ändern ist, und dass die Freiheiten garantiert. Wir brauchen auch Bürgerinnen und Bürger, die regelmäßig und öffentlich die Freiheiten nutzen. Unbenutzte Freiheiten sind leicht zu unterschätzen.

  14. Einverstanden.
    Dieses Gesetz, das die Freiheiten garantiert und schwer zu ändern ist, kann aber geändert werden, wenn eine bestimmte Mehrheit dafür ist.
    Also doch wieder eine Mehrheitsentscheidung.

    Es gibt keine Alternative zu Mehrheitsentscheidungen. Oder wollen Sie etwa einen Philosophen entscheiden lassen ? :)

  15. "Diese Aufgabe ist daher die schwerste unter allen; ja ihre vollkommene Auflösung ist unmöglich; aus so krummem Holze, als woraus der Mensch gemacht ist, kann nichts ganz Gerades gezimmert werden" (Kant, Idee zu einer allgemeinen Geschichte in weltbürgerlicher Absicht, sechster Satz).

  16. Und doch haben die Menschen immer versucht, ein friedliches Zusammenleben aller zu zimmern.
    Dies kann nur gelingen, wenn der Einzelne zu Kompromissen bereit ist und das eigene egoistische Streben nach Glück und Selbstverwirklichung einschränkt.

  17. Welche Freiheiten werden zu selten ausgeübt ?
    Hätten Sie vielleicht ein Beispiel ?

    Neulich haben sich im Stadtwald Mountain-Biker und Spaziergänger gegenseitig die Wege streitig gemacht.
    Ich sehe meistens nur Interessenskonflikte um mich herum.

  18. Le site n´est pas dangereux, dites-vous, M. Baron. Et si vous aviez des enfants mineurs ? Vous les laisseriez regarder ce site ?
    Le point de vue d´un libertain n´est pas le même que celui d´un bon père de famille ...

  19. Beispiel für eine zu seltene ausgeübte Freiheit:

    Respekt vor dem religiösen Glauben der Anderen nicht zu zeigen.

  20. Oui, si j'avais des enfants mineurs, je les laisserais regarder ce site. Mais il faut que les parents décident. Il n'appartient pas à l'État de décider.

  21. Ich bin mir nicht sicher, ob ich Sie richtig verstanden habe.

    Meinen Sie, dass man keinen Respekt vor religiösen Überzeugungen anderer zu heucheln braucht ?

    Plädieren Sie also dafür, dass man religiöse Überzeugungen offen missbilligen darf ?
    Oder zumindest dürfen soll ?

  22. Le problème est qu´il est assez souvent impossible de surveiller ce que les enfants regardent et ce qu´ils ne regardent pas.
    N´oublions pas que les gens qui votent pour une loi ce sont souvent des parents, des instituteurs etc., donc des gens en charge d´enfants mineurs qu´ils veulent protéger.

    L´État c´est nous.

  23. Ich meine, dass man religiöse Überzeugungen offen missbilligen darf. Viele Leute sagen "Ich glaube nicht an Gott, aber ich achte den Glauben der Anderen". Wenn das wahr ist, soll man das sagen. Aber wenn man "aber ich achte den Glauben der Anderen" nur aus Höflichkeit sagt, lügt man.

  24. Non, l'État n'est pas nous. Chacun est libre et chacun est responsable. Et puis, des photos des cigares, ou des gens nus, ne sont pas dangereuses pour les enfants.