Sunday, 17 October 2010

Denormalisation: 'an obvious escape from this negativity is to quit smoking'

So says a 2007 BMJ report (Australian) about denormalisation and smoking: bear in mind that this is a publicly funded study. Entitled 'Markers of the denormalisation of smoking and the tobacco industry', it delinates some of these 'markers', such as: 
Smokers as malodorous
Smokers as litterers
Smokers as unattractive and undesirable housemates
Smokers as undereducated and a social underclass
Smokers as excessive users of public health services
Smokers as employer liabilities
(h/tap Rose for this neat summary, writing on Frank Davis's column). So much for smokers: and let nobody say in future that this is about denormalising smoking, as opposed to smokers. This is the horse's mouth. This section describes the ways in which a denormalisation campaign seeks to portray smokers ('smokers are framed as mindless, almost criminally anti-social polluters'; 'recent public debate about whether smokers should be given lower priority than non-smokers in surgical waiting lists or even denied elective surgery paid for by the public health system have drawn on implications that smokers are somehow unwilling to assist in improving their own prognosis').

As for denormalising tobacco companies: universities will not accept funding from them, credit card companies and courier companies have ceased involvement with internet sales of tobacco, and so it goes on. Tobacco companies have been spurned by ethical investment companies and promoters of Corporate Social Responsibility.

The paragraph on negative consequences asks the pertinent questions: 
Are smokers less likely to seek medical help due to public debates around whether they “deserve” medical treatments? Will they feel ashamed when doing so, adding to their stress and perhaps prognosis? Are smokers unreasonably discriminated against in the workplace, even when they do not smoke indoors and put others at risk? [emphasis added]
But it continues by quoting a referenced paper by Bayer and Stuber: 'policies and cultural standards that result in isolation and severe embarrassment are different from those that cause discomfort … Acts that seek to limit the contexts in which smoking is permitted are different from those that restrict the right to work, to access health or life insurance, or to reside in communities of one’s choice' [emphasis added]. If that isn't moral equivocation I don't know what is.  A 'utilitarian calculus' must be applied, whatever the hell that is. (If it means benefiting the greatest number I couldn't agree more but they got it wrong because they forgot to include the smokers who don't want to stop smoking when told to.)

In conclusion, the markers of denormalisation are meant as a measure of the progress of tobacco control in different localities. Since its authors promote tobacco control, they commend these markers and recommend their regular reporting and analysis. Their inherent purpose is to demoralise and marginalise a specific group in society. The smoker's only possible recourse is to stop smoking (see title of this post): they see smoker cessation as intrinsic to their goals:
For governments, this negativity foments a public climate that is highly receptive to tobacco control legislation, polices and programs. We would argue that there is a dynamic, synergistic relationship between formal tobacco control interventions and policies, falling smoking prevalence and the increasing range and growth of the markers we have listed.
Would they acknowledge failure if the numbers of smokers were unquestionably shown to increase, revealing the propagation of denormalisation and victimisation as an activity limited to zealots?

The paper was funded publicly by the Australian Government, and has to be among the most appalling I have ever read. In its war against tobacco companies, Tobacco Control declares that its manifesto is demonising and lowering tobacco users in the eyes of the public and states that their remedy is to succomb to bullying and stop using the product: even while admitting that smokers subjected to denormalisation for smoking could absent themselves from necessary medical treatment, at risk to their lives (i.e. admitting that the denormalisation process could be more damaging than actually smoking in the short term). In its crusade against tobacco companies, it is not only denormalising smokers, it is also disenfranchising them, and not only smokers but also anybody who is employed or otherwise associated to the tobacco trade, howsoever marginally.

I am delighted that Frank Davis has concluded, three years on, that denormalisation hasn't worked (as above)!

Link to more of Rose's research (a forum in the Forces Tavern: (free) registration required)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well the local councils in this country have not spurned the tobacco companies, they Invest in them with some gusto because they are a good investment and help safeguard their Pension funds.