Nanny State

Post-Punk Icon Joe Jackson on The Nanny State, Smoking Bans, & His Next Musical Adventure


"A smoking ban in bars is saying that adult citizens are not allowed to use a legal substance even though they're very highly taxed for doing so in a place that is private property," explains Joe Jackson, the hitmeister behind indelible tunes such as "Look Sharp!," "Is She Really Going Out With Him?," and, yes, "(Everything Gives You) Cancer."

Jackson's not a smoker himself but he insists that smoking bans and other for-your-own-good restrictions infantalize us all and challenge basic concepts of freedom. "You're throwing out the window the property right of the owner of that establishment, freedom of choice, a lot of things, compared to a health risk [from second- and third-hand smoke] that is really unproven."

Jackson's antipathy for the creeping nanny state in his native England and his longtime home of New York City led him to write a meticulously researched essay called "Smoking, Lies and The Nanny State." It also led him to finally flee New York and London, setting up residence in Berlin because there he at least feels like he is relatively "free" and "treated like an adult."

Jackson sat down with's Nick Gillespie and talked about his frustrations as an anti-smoking ban activist, the "gathering storm of prohibitionism," and the bold and risky evolutions of his signature musical style over the years.

Runs about 7.30 minutes.

Shot by Meredith Bragg, Jim Epstein and Anthony L. Fisher. Edited by Anthony L. Fisher.

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  1. He moved to Berlin to escape the health nazis? Ironic.

    1. Does Germany still have all those blue laws (for lack of a better term) restricting business hours, parking freight trucks on the weekends, etc.?

      1. Only on Hitler’s birthday.

      2. Germany has relaxed a lot of those laws, especially in Berlin and Munich. Germany really is a nice place if you can afford it or can get a job there. I did a year in an engineering program out there where we worked for a car manufacturer. Fantastic standard of living, great people, good weed and great beer.

        1. No one who speaks German can be evil!

    2. You know who else set up residence in Berlin?

  2. Is he on sax or keyboards for this one?

  3. “It’s gonna take more people having their own lifestyles and their own choices affected…”

    Ain’t that the truth. Most people won’t change their minds, won’t think of public policy critically, until it personally affects them, until it hits home. Most people are douchebags.

    1. Even then, it usually swings the other way. Otherwise independent people I know suddenly want moar government as soon as they see an opportunity to improve their own short-term position.

      Some unemployed friends suddenly became huge fans of unemployment lasting 3 years, people who quit smoking suddenly supported bans, new parents suddenly wanted advertising regulated, etc.

      1. New parents are the worst. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE. It takes a village, my ass.

        1. You MONSTER! You’ll understand when you have children of your own.

          1. We MUST do it for the chiiiiiiiiiiiillllllllllllddddddddddrrrrrrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeeeeeennnnnnnnn!

  4. Sorry, OT, but another SAT scandal has arisen:…..hon=501,ny

    I used to work in this arena. The stopgaps on impersonation were laughable. And standardized tests are overrated. It needs to be said over and over again.

    1. They are overrated but the results are still depressing. The math on the SAT is middle school shit and yet Highschool juniors are getting pathetic results.

      1. To be fair, some people just suck at math.

        1. I am a math tutor in my spare time (mostly Algebra to nursing students but also SAT takers and homeschoolers) and in truth very few people actually suck at math. People assume they suck at math because they were so poorly taught and got lost and out of their league. Success in math relies heavily on fully understanding basic concepts and only then advancing to more advanced ones. When I take on a new student, I usually end up starting over with grade school stuff to correct long overlooked deficiencies.

          1. I suck at maths and things that use math because I can’t memorize complicated processes. I need to look at formulas for specific operations step by step to complete computations, impossible on a math exam. I believe this to be the same reason why I can not learn foreign languages: a process is a language. My brain must have tuned out by the time I learned to speak the english language and do multiplication. By the way, I’m in a career where “knowing calculus is required”. I get by.

            1. CA, you are wrong about language and math;  I spoke more than one without even realizing they were so.  Music and math are interconnected, and I can play my piano with about the same proficiency. 

              I know a retired math professor who told me he could teach anyone but I told him I’d feel guilty if he died with a failure on his record.  I can never understand why I suck; I like patterns 

              1. Heh. My father IS a retired math professor, one might say I grew up with math as my native language.

            2. I feel your pain.

              My teachers tried their best, but math is still not my strong suit.

    2. Hey, standardized tests are the only thing that got me into college (even the third-tier ESU where I’ve been ever since).

      And if standardized tests were created to benefit the white middle class male (as critics allege) I must have been the whitest, middle-classest, male-est kid in my high school (or in the top couple of percent, anyway).

  5. NTM the “war on boys” in academia is strong. Some feminists even claim that wage disparity arises from the fact that employers devalue college degrees because women earn them in greater numbers than men .

    1. “Some feminists even claim that wage disparity arises from the fact that employers devalue college degrees because women earn them in greater numbers than men.”

      Wow. They are really grasping at straws now to keep their professional victimhood going. I can’t do anything but laugh.

      1. Zeb, I’m a woman ICYDK. I’ve become strongly opposed to what feminism means in recent years. Especially w/r/t women wanting to “have it all.”

        The lows to which feminists will stoop never ceases to amaze me, but I am seldom surprised by the lows any longer. I attended the women’s college of a liberal public institution of higher in the mid-90s – you do the math.

        For my part, I feel more liberated by being married to a man willing to give me the privilege of being a proper mother and wife, rather than being his slave and concubine. Working with men is OK, working with other women as peers or superiors, but especially as superiors, sucks a load of donkey shit. I’d not trade my place for any of that drama regardless of the pay day.

        1. I had gathered that you are a woman. I hope it was clear that by “they” I mean that particularly obnoxious brand of feminist, not women in general. I’d like to think that feminism could still mean simply that women get to choose, as individuals, what path they want to pursue in life, but I’m afraid that ship has sailed. Today’s feminists seem to miss the individual choice part.

        2. Feminism: “We want women everywhere to deny men running their lives so that overbearing women can run their lives.”

          It’s not about liberation from the patriarchy; it’s about running the lives of women themselves.

  6. Wow, I would’ve never guessed that Joe Jackson would have some libertarian tendencies.

    But why are you calling him “post-punk”?

    1. Listen to “[Got the] Time”. It’s a bit more of a rocker than “Steppin’ Out”

    2. Early Joe Jackson always reminded me most of a more straightforward XTC. Sure, there’s a lot of pub rock in there too, and he’s probably more accurately “new wave”, but those lines are a bit blurry.

  7. How can you talk about Joe Jackson without mentioning “Steppin’ Out”?

    1. “Different for Girls” was waaaaaaay better than anything on that album.

  8. No criticism on his looks? Oh, I forgot he didn’t have tits, and a vagina.

    Since it is obvious; tell the surgeon to drop the knife; there is nothing punk about fucking with your face

    1. Yes, we’re all horrible sexists. You’d better find a less horrible blog to comment on.

      1. Zeb, I am here for your courage through the dark years.

        I can’t help you with what you must soon face, except to tell you that the future is not set.

        You must be stronger than you imagine you can be. You must survive, or libertarianism will never exist without women

  9. I remember him complaining several years ago about smoking bans. He had a website about it (probably still does)

  10. When did Joe quit? I know he was a smoker. I have read articles by him where he talks about his smoking and the anti-smoking nazis.

  11. Joe Jackson is a libertarian? Well that’s about the coolest fucking thing I’ve seen in a while. Great music, and good thinker.

    1. No shit. I wonder if he is my 101 hits from Berlin?

  12. Joe Jackson is not a punk

  13. Joe Jackson is not a punk

    Also not a post.


    1. “Also not a post.”
      Said he who defines libertarianism with his worthless numeric value

  14. A “meticulously researched essay”?

    Dude, instead, maybe you should try to write another hit song.

  15. Jackson’s not a smoker himself but he insists that smoking bans and other for-your-own-good restrictions infantalize us all and challenge basic concepts of freedom.

    Last I heard Joe smoked cigarettes,am I wrong!

    Im a daily fighter the world over against the smoking bans and the junk mythological second hand smoke shit they try to use for justification!

    The nazis know shs/ets is fabricated just like all the rest of us including SMOKING JOE!

    Rock on Joe and a big hello from harleyrider and the rest of us freedom fighters at the!

  16. Bavarian purity law: Good, or nanny state?

    1. MMM-MMM-MMM GOOD! People can still get weak horsepiss anywhere, if they prefer weak horsepiss to a good beer.

  17. Joe Jackson’s satire of smoking bans.

    Even better is that some people took it seriously.

  18. Speaking of the U.S. fashion industry, a handful of the few big-name designers. However, you must not forget Marc Jacobs. His designs are generally free, but the product is designed themselves. For example: Marc Jacobs Handbag, Marc by Marc Jacobs Handbag. In fact, his decks Marc by Marc Jacobs also stand out in the fashion industry. Marc by Marc Jacobs Bags as many types of styles, has also been sought after by many big Hollywood stars.

  19. I’m not necessarily disagreeing with him, but his statement that nobody can find a documented case of lung cancer which can be proven to be caused by second hand smoke really doesn’t hold water as an argument.

    I don’t know how you would trace second hand smoke exposure in any reliable way, much less draw any conclusions about what amounts would raise your risk of cancer, and even more less blame a single case of lung cancer death on second hand smoking. I can certainly understand the reasoning behind someone saying “we know that smoking leads to increased risks of cancers and other health problems in adults, and exposure to it increases asthma exacerbations and upper respiratory infections in children, so it’s very likely that it is harmful to be exposed to it period”. Again, I’m not disagreeing with the overall point, that the government should not be banning adults from engaging in the use of the substances of their choice on private property, but that particular aspect of his point just doesn’t hold up.

    1. Not 1 Death or Sickness Etiologically Assigned to Tobacco. All the diseases attributed to smoking are also present in non smokers. It means, in other words, that they are multifactorial, that is, the result of the interaction of tens, hundreds, sometimes thousands of factors, either known or suspected contributors – of which smoking can be one!

      7 October, the COT meeting on 26 October and the COC meeting on 18
      November 2004.

      “5. The Committees commented that tobacco smoke was a highly complex chemical mixture and that the causative agents for smoke induced diseases (such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, effects on reproduction and on offspring) was unknown. The mechanisms by which tobacco induced adverse effects were not established. The best information related to tobacco smoke – induced lung cancer, but even in this instance a detailed mechanism was not available. The Committees therefore agreed that on the basis of current knowledge it would be very difficult to identify a toxicological testing strategy or a biomonitoring approach for use in volunteer studies with smokers where the end-points determined or biomarkers measured were predictive of the overall burden of tobacco-induced adverse disease.”

      In other words … our first hand smoke theory is so lame we can’t even design a bogus lab experiment to prove it. In fact … we don’t even know how tobacco does all of the magical things we claim it does.

      The greatest threat to the second hand theory is the weakness of the first hand theory.

    2. Your point holds up nowhere,epidemiology is a joke it proves nothing and to this day they havent proven smoking causes anything in anybody!

      They started using terms like causality to try and claim it causes things when they have no proof at all except what they spin from slanted epidemiology studies!

  20. Lung Cancer a Different Disease in Smokers and Nonsmokers

    PHILADELPHIA ? Lung cancer that develops in smokers is not the same disease as lung cancer that develops in people who’ve never touched a cigarette, a new study finds.

    There are nearly twice as many DNA changes in the tumors of people who have never smoked than in the tumors of people who smoke, which suggests the cancer of “never-smokers” is different from smokers’ cancer, said Kelsie Thu, a Ph.D. candidate at the BC Cancer Research Center in Canada.

    “We think this finding provides evidence that never-smoker and smoker lung cancers are different, and suggests they arise through different molecular pathways,” Thu told MyHealthNewsDaily. “Never-smokers might be exposed to a carcinogen, not from cigarettes, that causes their tumors to have more DNA alterations and promotes lung cancer development.”…..okers.html

  21. A federal Judge by the name of osteen got a case dropped in his lap in North Carolina,the case was that of EPA’S study on second hand smoke/environmental tobacco smoke.The judge an anti-tobbaco judge by reputation spent 4 years going thru the study and interviewing scientists at EPA and came to the conclusion :


    ”EPA’s 1992 conclusions are not supported by reliable scientific evidence. The report has been largely discredited and, in 1998, was legally vacated by a federal judge.Before its 1992 report, EPA had always used epidemiology’s gold standard CI of 95 percent to measure statistical significance. But because the U.S. studies chosen[cherry picked] for the report were not statistically significant within a 95 percent CI, for the first time in its history EPA changed the rules and used a 90 percent CI, which doubled the chance of being wrong.

    This allowed it to report a statistically significant 19 percent increase [a 1.19rr] of lung cancer cases in the nonsmoking spouses of smokers over those cases found in nonsmoking spouses of nonsmokers. Even though the RR was only 1.19–an amount far short of what is normally required to demonstrate correlation or causality–the agency concluded this was proof SHS increased the risk of U.S. nonsmokers developing lung cancer by 19 percent.”

    The EPA fought to have Osteen’s decision overturned on technical grounds, ignoring the multitude of facts in the decision. They succeeded in 2002 on the narrowest of technicalities. The fourth circuit court of appeals ruled that because the report was not an official policy document Osteen’s court did not have jurisdiction. In their appeal the EPA did not answer a single criticism in the 92 page report, nor challenge a single fact put forth by Judge Osteen. Not one.

    Although the anti-smoker movement was already established, this report was used, and continues to be used, to bolster their claim that SHS is a killer. #

  22. About 90% of secondary smoke is composed of water vapor and ordinary air with a minor amount of carbon dioxide. The volume of water vapor of second hand smoke becomes even larger as it qickly disperses into the air,depending upon the humidity factors within a set location indoors or outdoors. Exhaled smoke from a smoker will provide 20% more water vapor to the smoke as it exists the smokers mouth.

    4 % is carbon monoxide.

    6 % is those supposed 4,000 chemicals to be found in tobacco smoke. Unfortunatley for the smoke free advocates these supposed chemicals are more theorized than actually found.What is found is so small to even call them threats to humans is beyond belief.Nanograms,picograms and femptograms……
    (1989 Report of the Surgeon General p. 80).

  23. According to independent Public and Health Policy Research group, Littlewood & Fennel of Austin, Tx, on the subject of secondhand smoke……..

    They did the figures for what it takes to meet all of OSHA’S minimum PEL’S on shs/ets…….Did it ever set the debate on fire.

    They concluded that:

    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

  24. second hand smoke is the biggest lie ever told and ranks right up there with the great global warming hoax!

  25. 5 years ago he complained about Bush inbetween every song onstage. Now his biggest problem is smoking bans?

  26. His contention that people ought to be allowed to ingest a legal substance in a private institution ignores the effect that practice has on other citizens. It’s like saying that a person ought to have the right to drive drunk in his private vehicle because alcohol is a legal substance, and if he wants to kill himself he ought to have the right to do it. But that ignores the people in other cars who are put at risk because of his drunk driving. Banning smoking in public places protects other citizens from the bad effects of that legal substance, tobacco. Ergo, Joe Jackson has his head where the sun doesn’t shine. But then, his music already tells you that . . . . .

  27. thank you a lotsssssssssssssss

  28. thank you a lotsssssssssssssss

  29. They did the figures for what it takes to meet all of OSHA’S minimum PEL’S on shs/ets…….Did it ever set the debate on fire.

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