Thursday, 5 July 2012

The non-smoking habit

Vintage cigarette ad - now banned

Okay – time for some lateral thinking.

Smoking is said to be a habit and cigarettes are said to be addictive, which is why, we are told, smokers smoke. So if it is so addictive, why do we non-smokers not smoke? 

Is it because we chose not to smoke, don’t like it, can’t afford it and worry about the health risks? Or is it because anti-smoking propaganda has made it impossible for us to give it a proper trial? Is part of our failure to take up smoking due to our exposure to a massive, long-term campaign of aversive behaviour control?

The answer to this last question is probably no, but with caveats. I’m not seriously suggesting that non-smokers don’t smoke purely because of intense propaganda and social stigma. I tried smoking and didn’t enjoy it, so never took it up. It’s also expensive, it makes your clothes smell and so on.


I have been subjected to years and years of high-level aversive propaganda just as smokers have. So to what extent do I remain a non-smoker because of this endless aversive conditioning? I’d like to think I’m a non-smoker through choice and I imagine almost all non-smokers see it that way. We have to don’t we?

Of course it is a matter of choice, but maybe not entirely. It’s not a bad idea for non-smokers to think laterally and imagine how we have been affected by the propaganda. Because we must have been affected – it is reflected in changing social attitudes. Many non-smokers are priggish about their abstinence to a degree which would have been remarked on a few decades ago. No longer.

We non-smokers claim it is a matter of choice, but we would say that wouldn’t we?

So how do some non-smokers, especially pressure groups such as ASH, get away with behaving so viciously towards smokers? Making people stand outside to smoke for example. Banning smoking in pubs – even banning smoking areas. What was wrong with smoking areas? Why did we push it so far? Why the push, push, push? Was it all down to health?

Maybe not. Maybe the vicious behaviour of some non-smokers towards smokers can be put down to effective propaganda. Millions of non-smokers seem to have been successfully conditioned to condone the endless harassment of smokers. Not just persuaded to condone a form of behavioural apartheid, but to applaud it.

It all feels a bit iffy to me.

Of course there are very serious health risks with smoking, but having your attitudes tweaked by the state is also a serious matter and maybe we non-smokers should think about that too.

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