Pro-smoking and more smirking

Posted by on Jul 9, 2008 in Uncategorized | No Comments

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Lots of stuff in the UK media today about the BMA (British Medical Association)'s proposed plan to reduce teenage smoking. 

Most of you would probably agree that it's worth while creating a climate that reduces the likelihood of smoking being as widespread in the next generation as it has been in previous generations: whether you're a recovering smoker like myself and even you've never taken up the noxious weed, you'd rather your kids didn't get the habit. 

Lots of good social policy work is already in place – for my money the legislation which reduced the availability of smoking locations is likely to have had a significantly greater effect on the incidence of smoking than the endless educational communication campaigns (it took me an awful long time and exposure to any number of these campaigns to do anything about my smoking). 

Most of the comment in the press rightly focuses on the bossiness of the interfering medical profession (themselves one of the most prone to alchohol and & drug addictions various) who know what's best for us civilians (and won't hold back from telling us). 

Of course, there's a big debate here about where to draw the line between what authorities deem right and where citizens have the right to choose what to do but what strikes me is the clueless approach of the BMA to mass behaviour and how to go about shaping it. 

Part of the appeal of smoking to young recruits is its agreed social significance: a cigarette is proper social object, reeking of rebellion – indeed, the more outlawed the better. Smoking remains a "brilliant" thing to do with your mates (it's relatively cheap and easy thing to participate in), the more so if it p****** your folks, teachers and other grown-ups off. Smoking is cool because we all agree it is (even though we know it's v bad for you). And even more so because you disapprove. Not being seen doesn't reduce the illicit appeal of narcotics…It's the fact your mates do it that makes it cool and it's going to take a long time for the social disapproval to move on. 

Sure, manage the supply end (with legislation, fiscal changes and the like) but trying to shape what movies are acceptable is just silly. Time methinks for those shaping social policy to get with the Herd…

PS I'm with Marcel Berlins: why stop at films? What about books (like "Cigs are Sublime" (above) an elegy to smoking which an ex- bought for me in the hope I'd give up)? Would we restrict that? Or songs…or Waynetta Slob

UPDATE: more smoking-in-the-movies-silliness from well-intentioned health pros here