Reprinted from "Tobacco" issue of Visions Journal, 2007, 3 (4), p. 3
Well, out of all the issues that I have written editorials on, this one leaves me the most conflicted. While I do not smoke, many important people in my life have been and are smokers. I know the potentially tragic consequences of smoking on a person’s body and on their family but like all addictions, smoking has many facets. In fact, smoking can become a convenient catch-all rationale for an overburdened medical system on which a multitude of bodily issues can be pinned.
Smoking has really come full circle, Early on, it was a visible sign of non-conformity that progressed not only into a socially acceptable but socially necessary habit. Now, smoking is again socially unacceptable and some non-smokers can be rather fanatic in their condemnations. As the CACTUS project (see article in this issue) points out, shame and guilt are two of the most potent feelings reported by smokers who felt that others were judging them. Is this how we want smokers to feel? Is this the tactic that we use with other addicted people?
The personal experiences are telling: one shows us just how conflicted smokers really are, between wanting to stop and enjoying it, others talk of the use of smoking to fit in socially. It’s a particularly difficult addiction to beat because it is legal and so many people still smoke. As for the debate, my favourite smoker claims arguing against non-smoking is like arguing against global warming:there is little room for contrary thought.
But there is some caution to be used here. We sometimes grasp at smoking as a worthy and necessary target while not considering the effect that we have on individuals. As we know from other addictions, individual commitment to change is a must. But policies are also part of the picture. For example, do policies such as smoking bans in health care facilities open an avenue of communication or close them off? Let me be clear. I wish no one smoked. But, the arguments have reached a level of such social acceptability that there is no questioning of method, judgement, or consequence.
On a personal note, this is my last editorial in Visions. I want to say how much I have enjoyed brainstorming, reading, and debating with the many people work at producing an edition. I have learned so much from all the contributors and feel uniquely blessed.
About the authorChristina is Executive Director of the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Mid-Island and Cowichan Valley Branches. She has an MEd in Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies and is working towards her doctorate in Policy and Practice in the Faculty of Human and Social Development at the University of Victoria