You can’t say they’re not trying. Here’s news of a campaign by an organisation with the pleasant name of Fresh, announced in the online News Guardian (24 February 2017), to try to get smokers to quit. Well, so they should, if they know what’s good for them.
Readers are reminded that cutting down on smoking leaves you still at risk for health problems and this is rubbed in with the slogan ‘Don’t be the 1’, the ‘1’ being the one out of two long-term smokers who will die of a smoking-related disease, they say. The article quotes Ailsa Rutter, the director of Fresh, as ‘urging people to think about quitting for their family. Cutting down can help people to quit, but taking the next step is vital.’
Yes indeed. She goes on: ‘We are urging people to ditch tobacco completely or if they aren’t ready to quit nicotine, to switch to a safer way of getting it, like an electronic cigarette.’
Here we go again – all the misunderstanding about why people smoke and how to help them. The assumption seems to be that smokers smoke because of ignorance of the harm of smoking. So let’s put them right about that. Then, the curious idea that ‘cutting down can help people to quit’. How does it do that?
What Ms Rutter, like so many well-intentioned people in the anti-smoking brigade, appears not to understand is why people really smoke in the first place. If smokers are urged to cut down to help them to quit, it implies they have a reason for not wanting to cut down, or at any rate not to quit. So there must be something nice about smoking that people don’t want to give up. But they should, for the sake of their families. Or, if that doesn’t make them do it, we’ll try and scare them into stopping by reminding them that they’re playing Russian roulette, if they continue to smoke, with a two-chambered gun containing one bullet. Or maybe it’s just because smokers haven’t had enough encouragement to quit, so she goes into urging mode as quoted above.
This is where the whole business falls down. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of urging, I suppose, but why does she say ‘if they aren’t ready to quit nicotine’? All smokers are in the unfortunate position of not being ready to quit nicotine – that’s why they’re smokers. Or, to put it another way, those who are ready, quit; those who aren’t, smoke.
And if those smokers who aren’t ready to quit nicotine are urged to switch to a ‘safe’ way of getting it, what does this mean? It disempowers and colludes with smokers to keep their nicotine addiction going, and Ms Rutter really can’t say that an electronic cigarette is safe. It may be safer than smoking but as yet it’s quite unknown whether it’s safe.
Apart from this, there’s a big question that’s overlooked or ignored: why should anyone in their right mind want to put nicotine into their body at all, ever? Are we non-nicotine users missing something?
Text © Gabriel Symonds