Friday, 12 July 2013

Stigmatise smokers

So we're spending half a million dollars playing on and fueling the stigmatisation of young smokers.
The sight of diseased livers, bloodshot eyeballs and rotting teeth on cigarette packets has almost no impact on young smokers, who view grotesque images as irrelevant, a new study suggests.

Instead, researchers from the University of Otago found warnings that play on young people's fear of social ostracism - and how unattractive they look and smell - are most effective.

Taglines like "Kissing a smoker is not a turn-on", "Everyone can smell a smoker", and "Smoking stuffs your lungs", had the biggest impact on a group of 18 to 30-year-olds.
Recall anti-smoking advocate Richard Edwards' plenary address from a couple of years ago.
We need to be very careful that interventions do not stigmatise smokers. Once again this involves keeping in close touch with how smokers are feeling through in-depth research. These quotes show how the experience of stigma among smokers and practice of stigmatising behaviours can be very real. This reduces support among smokes (and also among non-smokers) for tobacco control and the tobacco free vision, and may drive smokers together in a sort of Dunkirk spirit against the perceived assault from a marginalising society or harden the determination of smokers to smoke, as encapsulated in this last quote. We should be anti-smoking, but never anti-smoker.
I look forward to Otago's future recommendations to combat obesity by telling the obese that nobody likes them.


  1. Not directly related, but:

  2. Is your objection primarily moral or pragmatic? That such a direct attack on a group of people is unprincipled, or that it's counterproductive because of the hardening/grouping together effects Edwards talked about?

    I suppose it could be both: they're both fine arguments.

  3. 1. If anti-tobacco were all about the harm reduction, rather than about shaming smokers and hating risky pleasures and ESPECIALLY hating the kinds of risky pleasures primarily enjoyed by lower-class groups, they'd be pushing snus and e-cigarettes as very effective less risky products. Instead, their puritanism shows in their tactics. "Let's all gang up to further marginalise a marginalised group" irks me.
    2. It might not even be effective on its own grounds, as Edwards's talk notes. Again, that's consistent with the motivation being hating on smokers for its own sake.