Monday, April 23, 2007

ASH Suggests that Smokers are Weak and Stupid; Appears to Be Trying to Make Candidate Smoking an Issue in Presidential Race

In a commentary posted on its website, a national anti-smoking group - Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) - casts smokers as being weak and stupid, or at least as being perceived that way by the public.

Although Senator Barack Obama has apparently stated that he quit smoking for his health, ASH appears to contend that he is lying, and that he actually quit because the public views smokers as weak and stupid and he wants to avoid those connotations.

ASH quotes its executive director as stating: "Many figures in public life -- including politicians and broadcasters -- try to keep their cigarette smoking from the public. Unlike Edward R. Murrow and others of his era who were quite open about it, broadcasters and political figures today are wary of the image of a cigarette smoker as someone who lacks either the intelligence to understand how dangerous it is, or the willpower and resourcefulness to end it."

The Rest of the Story

To me, this has the appearance of ASH taking advantage of an opportunity to take a swipe at smokers. Why else would they want to force the issue, suggesting that Obama is lying about the true reasons for his quitting smoking? Since there is absolutely no evidence that he is lying, and no one would know but Obama himself, why does ASH need to publicly suggest that Obama is lying unless it wants to drum home the point that smokers are perceived as weak and stupid?

Frankly, I'm aware of no evidence - zero - that anyone (other than some anti-smoking advocates and groups, like ASH) perceive smokers as being so unintelligent that they are not capable of understanding how dangerous smoking is. It appears to me that ASH is trying to take a pot shot at smokers - casting them publicly as being stupid - but without having to fully accept responsibility for that claim.

If confronted, ASH could simply say: "We are not suggesting that smokers are stupid. We're just pointing out that the public thinks they are stupid."

But there is no evidence that the public feels this way. Moreover, even if they did, why would ASH go to great pains to reinforce, rather than confront that stereotype?

ASH had every opportunity to close its commentary by stating its own opinion that smokers are not stupid and weak and should not be viewed that way. But ASH chose not to do so. That makes it difficult for me to believe that it doesn't represent ASH's actual opinion. But regardless of how ASH actually feels, by suggesting to the public that smokers are stupid and weak, it is inevitably putting this idea in people's minds, helping to disseminate this idea.

It also seems to me that ASH is trying to reinforce the issue of smoking as a bona fide concern in the presidential race, rather than to counter this idea. Would it have been asking too much for ASH to conclude its post by suggesting that perhaps a candidate's individual health habits are not a primary concern in a political race? Why keep harping on this if ASH were not trying to keep this issue in the public's eye in order to reinforce or inject Obama's smoking as an issue in the campaign?

Maybe I'm overinterpreting, but can you see why I get the impression that there is a lot of hatred of smokers out here in the anti-smoking movement?

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