Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Stop press: Campaign of hate has negative consequences

From The Times...

Scientists have investigated the unintended consequences of three decades of public policy aimed at stigmatising smokers. 

Could a state-sanctioned hate campaign possibly have any negative effects? Say it ain't so!

And they have suggested that so effective has the strategy been that, rather than pushing people away from smoking, a hardcore group of smokers now feel sufficiently depressed at being outcast from society that they lack the mental resources to do anything other than keep on with their habit.

Note that the perceived problem here is not that a group of fellow citizens has been turned into depressed outcasts, but that they have not given up smoking as a result.

Researchers from the London School of Economics (LSE) reviewed dozens of research papers related to the psychological effects of smoking. They consistently found that the habit led to self-loathing. “Participants felt shame, guilt, and embarrassment for their own smoking behaviour,” they write in the journal Social Science & Medicine. “In multiple studies, participants applied words such as ‘leper,’ ‘outcast,’ ‘bad person,’ ‘lowlife,’ and ‘pathetic’ in reference to their own smoking behaviours. “Many smokers reported feeling stigmatised for their smoking status,” the paper continued.

Tell me again how the public health mob are the good guys.

While this might seem like a positive outcome of policies designed to de-normalise smoking, Sara Evans-Lacko, from LSE, said that too little attention had been paid to whether making smokers feel like pathetic leprous lowlifes was a uniformly positive thing. 

I think you'll find that most anti-smoking fanatics think it's a thoroughly wonderful thing. Treating smokers like scum is a feature, not a bug, of their system. It is not an unintended consequence, it is the prize.
“The evidence is that it reduces and stops smoking. A lot less work has been done looking at unintended consequences. People can feel worse when they start to apply these stereotypes to themselves,” she said. This can reduce self-esteem to such an extent, that Dr Evans-Lacko suggested it might now be counterproductive. “The subsequent consequence is a reduction in self-efficacy — people are less able to quit. They feel so bad about themselves, they simply don’t have the resources to give up.”

It's hardly news if a 'public health' policy has achieved the opposite of its stated objective, nor is it surprising that it has caused collateral damage, but here's a radical thought. Regardless of whether bullying, harassing and stigmatising people 'reduces and stops smoking', maybe the government shouldn't be doing it.

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