Take this item from the Winnipeg Free Press about an unfortunate woman who nearly froze to death after being locked outside a hospital.
It was a bitter winter night, -30 C, in December 2000, when a 54-year-old hospital patient slipped outside Seven Oaks Hospital in her hospital gown, pulling her intravenous pole behind her.
She wanted a smoke.
An hour later, she was found comatose in a snowbank. The woman had suffered hypothermia and frostbite to her hands and feet. Four fingers on her right hand had to be amputated. She was left with limited mobility in her left hand.
The door had locked automatically behind the patient and she couldn't find a way back in.
It's hard not to feel sorry for a lady who had a near-death experience and suffered multiple amputations.
Or so you might think. In fact, the mental image of a woman having a cigarette alone in arctic temperatures unleashed a river of bile in the comments section.
Shouldn't be smoking in the first place. Maybe a little cold made the lady realize that smoking is not healthy for you and neither is hanging out in the cold in a hospital gown.
This is a disgusting, filthy habit, and for people who are already in the hospital for a smoking-related illness wanting to go outside and smoke some more is just sickening. It's one thing not to be concerned for your own health - that's your perogative, but don't put the other patients & children with weakened immune systems in the way of second hand smoke. There are hundreds of other places to smoke, and a hospital or the hospital grounds definetely should not be one. Take a walk down the street, across from the hospital to inhale your death stick. If you can drag yourself out of bed, with your IV pole and grown, down the elevators outside, then you can take a few extra steps to move away from the building. Yes, even if it's -40. It won't kill you. Or maybe it will.
It's a dirty blue collar habit. And as for the stereotype - it need only be confirmed by the appearance of them in mass aroud the door of a building in the winter.
Absolutely zero sympathy for anyone who defies a doctor's caution to stop smoking and gets lung cancer. In fact, they should be refused any treatment whatsoever.
And how about this light-hearted little item in The Economist, in which a journalist notices that many airports around the world manage to accommodate smokers in some small way without inconveniencing other passengers.
Yes, smoking is bad for you. But if you are a smoker, a civilised cigarette makes all the difference between being an irritable passenger itching to burst out of the terminal doors and a calm, considerate sort who makes room for his fellow travellers.
... Smokers don’t ask much. Put a designated smoking zone in the shoddiest corner of the terminal and they will trek to it, thanking the authorities with every carcinogenic breath. It would make economic sense too: Heathrow worries about losing its place as Europe’s foremost hub for international air traffic now that plans for the airport’s expansion have been shelved. But why waste money on a third runway when you can build a little smoking room and watch travellers flood in?
This is very moderate and unassuming stuff. The risks of smoking are acknowledged and all that is being asked for is "the shoddiest corner". Will the readers of this article respond with similar bonhomie and tolerance? They will not.
Smoking is a filthy habit that should be discouraged, not encouraged. "Kissing a smoker is like licking a full ashtray". I don't want to sit next to a passenger who has been chain smoking, whose head and arm hair and clothes stink of stale smoke, whose yellowed teeth exhale nicotine air in my ambiance as s/he coughs his lungs up. Not to mention the cost to clean up smoking lounge draperies, fabric chairs, carpet. Because smoking kills the olfactories, smokers have no idea how badly they smell and they cannot taste food. Get a life, save money, and quit!
Having someone who has recently been smoking sit next to you on a flight is almost as bad as having them smoking there. The stench of cigarette smoke hangs in that persons hair, clothing and (if you are close enough) breath for a very long time. Let's keep it as far away as possible. Those demeaning goldfish-bowl smoking rooms are one of the saddest sights I've ever seen at an airport. Do these people know just how ridiculous they look?
If I am going to sit next to someone on a nine hour flight I don't want them stinking of fag ash. I don't mind if people smoke in special smoking rooms as long as they are required to shower and change into fresh clothes immediately afterwards.
Why not facilities for other drug addicts whilst one is about it? Of course the rest of us do not wish to be in the plane with smelly smokers, let alone drug-addicted pilots, so we are looking at complete segregation here....
Remember how in the very recent past, tobaccophobes insisted that they were not against people smoking per se, they just didn't want people to do it around them. Now, it seems, their sensitive noses need protecting to such an extent that the mere presence of someone who smoked several hours ago is enough to stir their righteous indignation. In the first story, we see a woman who has done everything that is demanded of her by braving sub-zero temperatures so that not a wisp of smoke goes up the delicate nostrils of fellow Canadians and yet all that can be said of her is that it is a shame she survived.
Finding anonymous half-mad obsessives spouting drivel on the internet is the easiest task in the galaxy, of course. It is always possible that a handful of loons scour the search engines for any mention of their bête noire to make sure their peculiar voices are heard. And yet, there is something in the sheer hatefulness—and quantity—of these comments that suggests that the policy of 'denormalisation' is producing fruit.
This is the inevitable result of the state-sanctioned stigmatisation that the anti-smoking movement has been working towards for twenty years. The public health establishment might distance itself from such sentiments but when even the NHS produces adverts like the one below, they must take some responsibility for lighting the blue touch paper.
Governments have a responsibility to quell tensions and defuse conflict in society. In no other area of life does government deliberately create and inflame hostility. Like so many other failed tobacco control policies, the doctrine of denormalisation is counter-productive and damaging because it is the brain-child of a small group of emotional zealots, some of whom are operating at a sub-optimal level of mental health themselves. It's time for the government to put the tobacco control freaks behind them and chart a new course before things get really nasty.