I was watching TV the other night when an anti smoking advertisement came on the screen. Normally these advertisements contain at least some facts about the effects of smoking and how passive smoking is also dangerous to your spouse and children or that it will shorten your life or cause other adverse health conditions. As much as these adds might make one want to light up in defiance of the campaign against smoking even the tobacco companies have a duty of care to inform its patrons so I have no problem with this. What is different with the this new add campaign is that the add clearly uses the guilt angle; there are no facts or scientific information.
So put your self in my place I am sitting there in front of the TV when this add comes on and a stream of people begin stating the same sentence broken down into sequential part that eventually say, If you’re a smoker and you care about me don’t smoke around me I’m trying to quite. Well sure I can do that! What is annoying about this add though is that it only includes a chorus of people looking sad, hurt, somehow broken and victimised so that if you as a smoker aren’t interested in giving up at least have some compassion for those that are trying… Once more fair enough. One might even invoke the biblical argument of not causing your brother to stumble or another biblical argument that we are in fact our brothers keepers and we should do for others as we would like done for ourselves.
What concerns me with this type of approach however is that it always takes the responsibility away from those perceived as, or who have obtained victim status, placing the responsibility for change on those perceived as the perpetrators or in this case the transgressors. This whole approach now dominates just about every medium you can think of including education, politics, immigration,social change and even religion.
Lets stick to smoking for a moment: Firstly no one is forced to smoke tobacco, at least 90% of all smokers know the risk. 100% of smokers at some point realise that nicotine is a highly addictive habit. There are no victims when it comes to smoking tobacco because if someone didn’t like it they wouldn’t smoke because smoking is a choice. Even those who didn’t like smoking to begin with but persisted in doing so made a choice to continue.
So back to the add: I mentioned that it contains no scientific/medical or statistical data. It is like the argument for marriage equality now raging in Australia as the world watches on. All the appeals for change lack any real data all they do contain is an emotional appeal for equal rights; anyone against change is either a hater, homophobic or a bigot. There is no rational to the argument there is no discussion or debate it simply is a circumstance that degenerates into name calling and blaming those against for the depression and suicidal behaviour of the advocates for change. There is no proof that rejection directly causes LBTQ people to suicide it is a pseudo truth that is accepted as true because it is constantly repeated.
So as not to beat up on the LBTQ people I am only using this as an example of how now even smokers are put under the spot light and made to feel guilty by the anti smoking campaigners who seem to have run out of other avenues to get their point across. I am sure there is some truth to the argument that if you are trying to quite and you stay away from other smokers that it will increase your chances of giving up. On the other hand simply having a bunch of paid actors or even reformed smokers say if you love me don’t smoke around me I’m trying to quit, may only infuriate the smokers who are already treated like lepers to tell others to go screw themselves.
I have just done a survey of articles from Cancer Research UK;
American Cancer Society;
And then there is a study by Forbes research that shows that although people inhaling second hand smoke are ingesting the same chemicals as smokers in a contained area; the risk is far less greater than it is to those who directly inhale tobacco and even less of a risk in open areas. Dr Jyoti Patel of Northwestern University School of Medicine even went so far as to admit that, “The strongest reason to avoid passive cigarette smoke is to change societal behaviour: to not live in a society where smoking is a norm,”
Can you see how this works? Those holding the affirmative position claim they have the evidence but when you read through the actual jargon they are quoting, it is only generic information that draws a casual relationship between the cause and effect… It’s not hard evidence! On the one side those against smoking quote all the hard data about smoking and its effects where it directly impacts on the user. They then very dishonestly make a casual (anecdotal) link between the direct impact on smokers and those who may inhale the smoke second hand…It’s not a proven fact!
The thing that needs to be pointed out here is the quote by Dr Patel; the information is designed to change social behaviour not that it is true or accurate! I am not advocating the use of tobacco. What I am trying to draw you attention to is the methodology employed to achieve the desired result. The information although related is incidental to the desired outcome. I could argue that swimming in cold water in winter may cause pneumonia or that the water may contain contaminates that could cause other health issues; but then my real purpose may be to keep you away from my fishing hole. In other words I may have raised a real health concern but that is not my primary reason for warning people.
Relate this to past myths (I am not implying that the risks of smoking are mere myths) my point is to say that if you’re told something often enough you begin believing it even though it isn’t true. Very often we are more likely to accept something as true because someone we trust says it, someone in authority says it is or when it is supposedly science. So next time you read a science journal or listen to your favourite politician or religious leader tell you something is true watch out for jargon words like most likely, probably, may have been, could be, experts agree, studies show that… I think you get the picture.
One of the biggest offenders is anecdotal evidence: Anecdotal evidence is saying I was bitten by a snake while I was chewing straw and I didn’t die so chewing straw is a cure for snakebites. Of we know this is false but think back to a time in history when we burned people as witches because someone died and the witnesses claimed they saw them near old Mrs Brown’s house before they got sick. Obviously Mrs Brown put a hex on the people who died therefore she is a witch. The use of coincidental relationships between an event and the circumstances surrounding it is not proof there is any link whatsoever between the two or that the assumptions are true. In my teens or early twenties there was a youth who committed suicide while listening to Heavy Metal Music as it was found playing next to his dead body. Then there was all the hoopla surrounding the role playing game Dungeons and Dragon’s with various claims that it was an apprenticeship into witchcraft or that teenagers were committing suicide because their characters died and they no longer had a reason to live. Apart from someone leaving a note saying why they ended it all I think only God knows why anyone ends their life. For the rest of us left behind it is purely guess work on our part as to why someone take their own life. Usually but not always suicide is planned and contemplated for long periods of time. The cause is not always known to others while other times if you or I are, or have been close to that person you may have some idea as to why. Sadly many who take their own lives take their secret as to why to their grave with them. More often than not we are trying to make sense of what may appear to be a senseless act. We do this for our own comfort and peace of mind
It is facts that should effect how we behave and live not feelings or whether or not we like a thing or a person or a group of people
I have placed a number of links below that explode some of our commonly held shared beliefs. The point here is that when you go looking for the facts behind myths or even the words of so called experts and authority figures we can find out that there isn’t always truth behind their statements.