Monday, 16 August 2010
Pro-choice: Daily Mail letter, 9 August 2010
The article on which Eddie was commenting is here. (The letter can be viewed here on a larger scale.) He challenges the description of Freedom to Choose (Scotland) as 'pro-smoking'. We neither advocate smoking nor condemn it, but we do oppose the anti-smoking movement, as its tactics have allowed people to vent their frustrations on smokers. We can see in the moves by NHS Grampian signs that institutionalised discrimination against people who smoke becomes acceptable in the eyes of authority.
When people are attacked as a group they need to be able to defend themselves as a group. There are parallels with South Africa and apartheid ... which developed into an extreme situation that led to routine and regular institutionalised violence against enemies of the system. Blacks were told that they were not single group, they were many groups: Xhosa, Zulu, etc, and progressively deprived of their participation rights: not only voting but they were excluded from many classes of labour, access to civic amenities and many other things.
In order to defend themselves they had to identify themselves as a group, as they did by developing the Black Consciousness movement among others.
Things have moved on since those days. If smokers are now told that discrimination against them is acceptable because they are not a protected group, this is when all society needs to pitch in, because it means that human rights is no longer a universal concept. It means that unless you are protected by race, gender or other protective laws you are fair game. Protecting people because of their gender, race or sexuality is understandable in view of the disadvantages that some of these groups have experienced in the past, provided it is done in the spirit that inspired the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Clearly the notion that you are 'not covered' under such a declaration makes a nonsense of the whole thing.
It is well known that 'pro-choice' actors in the field of smoking and lifestyle choice include lifelong non-smokers, including the originator of Freedom2Choose Robert Feal-Martinez and the present Chairman of The International Coalition Against Prohibition (TICAP), Bill Gibson. I hardly ever smoke myself!
Our movement includes smokers, non-smokers and 'vapers': users of e-cigarettes: in other words, people. And we are people who will not apologise for our choices.
PS I just found this account of smoking and employment law: any readers from across the pond might know whether it became unlawful to discriminate against employing smokers.