She has now called for a rethink on how smoking is portrayed and for the focus to be on education rather than vilification.So what exactly does this change? The health establishment sees too many smokers among the population and especially among its disadvantaged. Beginning with the smoking ban, it has created an excessive fear of secondary smoke. It has sought to portray smokers as vulnerable and mainly poor. It has always been part of their mission to reduce what they call 'health inequalities', which (unbelievably) it actually believes smoking causes. The general public has taken its cue and come to the conclusion that smokers are smelly and pathetic as well as being murderers. At least, a vocal minority has taken this line.
The glitterati of the tobacco control movement don't have to enforce ridiculous laws like the smoking ban. (They can leave that to juniors in the environmental health departments.) They feel responsible for social inequalities – how can they fail to feel responsible, having trumped scholars through the ages by discovering what causes disparities in health in the community?
They have successfully split the left wing, which used to be friendly to working-class and community solidarity, by invoking the demon 'tobacco company' as a typical 'big business'. Tobacco funding has become dirty and is not even allowed to sponsor football matches, while, in the course of business, corporations can buy votes and ensure the success of their projects.
Professor Graham's idea of education rather than vilification doesn't fundamentally challenge anything, as the language of anti-tobacco has always been paternalistic rather than adversarial. Highly educated tobacco control professionals are taking it on themselves to explain the problems of the poor through a tobacco-soaked lens, and trying to persuade them of the errors of their ways. They encourage the community to see them as helpless addicts and have even campaigned successfully for legislation that will take them out of social circulation, to prevent them being role models for the rest of us. Hysteria about tobacco has encouraged people to think that those who have lost loved ones to heart, lung, or other 'smoking-related' complaints can justly blame tobacco, because nothing else makes people ill, right?
We are in other words in a situation where the powerful class has managed to influence social relations profoundly, and where the less powerful are told by the powerful how to behave in polite society. They are denied public space and the powerful are seeking ways to invade their private space. (They have already substantially invaded it by defining pubs, which are business enterprises as 'public places'.) There is no way that smokers can easily engage in any form of social protest, without accepting their subordination as a group. Those that cannot adapt to this requirement will see social protest as not concerning them – they will be marginalised.
And they will be the most marginalised, and perhaps in the most need of direct political action, of coming together to discuss, make plans, support each other.
No Professor Graham – you may be well intentioned, but you don't really understand that it is the purpose of tobacco control to disenfranchise and marginalise smokers, and the hateful expression of the most virulent anti-smokers is inevitable collateral damage.