"Fags Aint Freedom", Says Educated Chatham Girl
Despite numerous conspiracies claiming that the smoking ban was introduced to curb the free-thinking minds and limit the agency of individuals, this is quite clearly not the case. The smoking ban was simply a product of bureaucracy, an over-protective nanny state and a more and more Americanised legal system whereby eventually an employee would be able to sue their employer if they suffered lung cancer/bronchitis/etc because they had to work in a smoke-filled environment. The smoking ban has only been successful in that people have obeyed it. However, people have not stopped smoking, there is no concrete evidence to show that cigarette sales have decreased and all the 'oh so protected' employees who now have the luxury of a smoke-free workplace still get polluted in numerous other ways, and breath smoke in many other public spaces, as do we all. Additionally smokers still have their own solidarity, their own social space, their own free choice - this just happens to be outdoors rather than indoors.
It is impossible to tell if someone is a smoker just by looking at them, smokers, ex-smokers or non-smokers are not necessarily any more or less healthy, happy, friendly or optimistic - these are completely individual traits. So called smoking-related diseases are not solely developed or contracted by smokers, plenty of smokers will not die of smoking related ill-health and plenty of non-smokers will develop bronchitis or lung-cancer.
Take Steve who smoked the odd rolled cigarette and died tragically young from a heart attack, nothing proved this was due to smoking. Sarah who gave up smoking 8 years ago but cycles though central London regularly without a mask, her lungs are probably the same as a smoker's! Lucy smokes and has a profound talent for finding the negative in every situation or experience and Jake has never smoked a cigarette in his life and has the most optimistic and active life philosophy you could imagine. The list goes on... none of these traits have any correlation to whether the person smokes. There is freedom to smoke, or freedom from addiction - each has its benefits and its drawbacks and can affect our sense of self, but does not define who we are and how we behave.
There should be three rules with regards to smoking:
- Don't make other people breathe your smoke - as this infringes their freedom!
- If you enjoy smoking then continue to enjoy it, if you don't enjoy smoking then find the energy to give up.
- If you think other people shouldn't smoke and would like to voice this opinion with a clear conscience: firstly give up every single luxury and vice that you indulge in and then, remove every polluting element from your lifestyle and then (and only then) are you allowed to be judgemental.
Yes we live in an unjust and individualised neo-liberalist society where community and solidarity is put at the bottom of a pile of priorities including wealth, comfort, privacy and material luxuries - yes the government and our social structures control how we think and behave and genuine sites of revolution and revolt are few and far between. The class system is massively dominant in today's society and more dangerous than ever due to successful attempts to disguise and deny it.
Sociological studies are vital for us to move on from this unrewarding capitalist system whereby the average person lacks spiritual awareness and a sense of oneness. Power relations are a key issue, but if we suggested that tobacco or the freedom to smoke indoors is the source of agency or the site of resistance to Louis Althusser or Michel Foucault they would surely laugh in your face!
By Violet Iris
Armchair Activist & Anti-Capitalist Sociologist.
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