One academic has boldly put her head above the parapet of political correctness and pointed out what people have been saying for years, that the government-sponsored campaign to stigmatise smoking inevitably results in the growth of an unsavoury prejudice against smokers themselves.
Anti-smoking campaigns and laws have turned smokers into a despised underclass, a study by a Department of Health adviser warned yesterday.I wonder how long it will be before her government research grant is withdrawn. And she doesn’t go quite as far as suggesting that the best way to combat this prejudice is to encourage the re-integration of smokers into society. Some of the comments clearly demonstrate how successful the hate campaign has been: “Smoking is disgusting and dirty. And so are smokers. I think I'd prefer to have the lepers.”
It said smokers have come to be seen as disgusting and dirty and are increasingly becoming regarded as outcasts.
The vilification is also stoking up prejudice against the poor because those who are already on low incomes or at a disadvantage are most likely to be smokers, the report by Professor Hilary Graham found.
Smokers are like ‘migrant and indigenous groups’ in past centuries who were seen as contaminating the rest of society and threatening the way of life of normal, healthy people, Professor Graham, of York University, added.
Her report calls for anti-smoking campaigns to be redrawn so they try to help the poor improve their lives.
The study, published by Cambridge University Press, suggests the tightening of laws controlling smoking, mean smokers are held in contempt by the non-smoking majority.
I have also seen the argument made in several places that the official policy of treating smokers as outcasts has greatly reduced their participation in the “leisure economy” and thus may have exacerbated the recession.
The same is happening in a more subtle and insidious way towards drinkers, especially those who drink in pubs. The constant campaigns about the evils of drink have a slow, drip-drip effect.
I’ve mentioned in the past how just going to the pub for a drink has come to be seen in recent years as somehow less normal and socially acceptable than it once was, at least amongst “respectable” people. Just think how often you and your work colleagues used to go out to the pub at lunchtimes twenty or twenty-five years ago, compared with today, and, if you do ever go today, how many of them religiously stick to soft drinks.