Stop the Smoke Shaming
Honestly, it’s been too long
With every passing generation, it seems the kids are get healthier.
In young adults, the smoking population has dropped from 40% to 27% since 2002, probably explainable by the rise of vaping (we get it) and mass public health campaigns, largely based around displaying in pretty graphic fashion the nasty side of a nicotine habit. Pictures of blackened, tar ridden lungs along with cancerous tumours can be pretty off putting when you’re trying to enjoy a mid-afternoon cig. This is only set to get worse, with new legislation requiring cigarette packs be coloured with ‘the worst colour in the wold’ (it literally looks like shit), most likely aiming to remove any sense of glamour the archaic habit has left.
With the government (probably rightly) aiming to lower the burden on the NHS with raft after raft of taxes and legislation, it’s a wonder that an army of people still seem to feel the need to dedicate themselves to the anti-smoking brigade. With a bizarre amount of vigour, these oh so valuable humans enjoy nothing more than to see smokers penned into the smoking area like lepers and shamed like criminals. How dare they treat their bodies to callously? How could they be so cruel as to pollute the air? Why must they spend relatively small amounts of cash on a simple vice that they enjoy?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in away happy or supportive of my own little smoking habit. Indeed I view it mainly as something that long ago got way out of hand, but what confuses me more than anything is why above all, smoking is seen as the ultimate evil. Cambridge is pretty infamous for it’s drinking culture (raa raa pass the port), yet for people who effectively abuse alcohol on a semi-regular basis, there is no culture of shame. Fresher’s Week is structured around heavy drinking and given recent NHS reviews show a direct link between alcohol and 7 types of cancer, it’s a wonder such a double standard exists.
The 2010s has brought a lot of new things to the table. Thanks largely to social media, we now live in a world of safe spaces, privilege quantifiers and corporation-induced censorship. It’s a wonder that for perhaps the worst lifestyle choice of them all: obesity, there now exists the farce that is ‘fat shaming’. While it’s probably fine to suggest that people should leave you and your McDonalds penchant alone, the most confusing part is no equivalent framework for protecting smokers exists. I can’t imagine many of us are asking for safe spaces (although a non-social-smokers section in the Life alley would be pretty welcome), but our cause is yet to be taken up by the much-maligned Twitter liberals.
Perhaps the worst thing about the culture of shame is the perception that you’re some kind of facile idiot for your dependence. I have genuinely been asked whether I knew smoking caused lung cancer, as though I’d managed to miss every TV ad campaign, every PSHE lesson and indeed every white label on the pack saying ‘smoking causes cancer’. This weird belief that every smoker lives in total ignorance of the consequences of his actions has no real basis in reality.
Smokers understand more than anyone the reality of their habit and most regret every trying it, but now, chained down by a pretty cruel nicotine dependence (something impossible to conceive without experience), live out the consequences of their actions. The coughing, the expense, the foul taste in your mouth every morning, these are all things we live with and your banal little comments on clean living really can grate.
So perhaps it’s time you stopped with the judgement, after all, I hear it’s addictive.