Why the excessive highlighting of health problems aren’t enough to eliminate cigarettes: A sociological look into cigarette’s part 2

Before looking at this post, I strongly recommend reading part 1 of this piece of writing. Not just because of the cliché point of the two being linked, but also because it is a much more detailed and explanatory piece of writing compared to what you’re about to see here. This part will continue on the structure of class and it determines who is more likely to smoke and the reasons for it. As mentioned in part one, people are not stupid and are clearly aware of the health implications smoking can cause, but because of our fondness to having habits and also being part of a social group (such as a group of teenagers rebelling against parent control) which can even encourage smokers further toward the spiral of nicotine addiction. At the end of this piece, there will also be an argument as to how the newest in smoking fashion, known as E-cigs, are pretty much in social terms, the same as cigarettes in terms of how they are represented in society.

However, before we look into the idea of class structure, it must be pointed out that other structures and factors such as ethnicity, gender and age can also be looked at in the same perspective of class. It is these factors which health experts seek to gain knowledge of and use as a marker for how bad cigarettes are for you when taking in different characteristics and contexts. It is precisely this reason why sociology can help to play a part in this issue. Sociology can research these different groups and determine, based on social theories and research, why different groups may choose to smoke in different numbers and frequencies. When the answer to this question is answered, health experts can then use that information to determine how lifestyles and contexts become a catalyst for how much someone smokes. And then (if all goes to plan), health experts can target all the specific groups in their own way through advertising through smoke-free campaigns in order to appeal to the smokers in a unique and collective manner which makes those social groups aware of the dangers of smoking. Or alternatively, to try and change the lifestyles and social group’s characteristics whereby smoking is not a common stress reliever and attempt to taboo the act of smoking similar to chewing Tabaco.

When looking at class more specifically, qualitative research conducted on working class smokers typically used the reasons of stress from work and childcare, the boredom and mundane feelings as a result of long term unemployment, a lack of assets and material goods for pleasure being factors that contribute to levels of smoking, which makes smoking in working class communities a normal everyday act of self-pleasure. When looking at society as a whole then, could it be argued that the decreasing working class communities (which is arguably the case in the UK currently) are just one factor as to why the levels of smokers overall have also decreased in the UK? Possibly. But this research also supports the idea of the importance of sociology. By finding out the “why” of the act of smoking in working class communities, it then allows prevention mechanisms and policies to take place to prevent smoking in the future. One prevention could be to try and make messages of the dangers of smoking more situated within working class environments.

Not only do working class communities use smoking as a self-pleasured act in order to get through the day, it is also used as a form of currency. Since the normal form of currency of money is much more limited compared to other classes, cigarettes are just one example of currency the working class can use in exchange for personal loan debts and also as forms of gifts. This use of cigarettes encourages smoking cigarettes as it is a good substitute and in some cases can have a higher value of worth compared to actual money, cutting out the middle man of actually buying the cigarettes in a shop for example. Therefore in order to reduce the numbers of smokers, another battle could be making cigarettes less valuable to working class communities and making sure money is the clear form of currency in all communities, but as you’ve probably thought, if money was the clearest form of currency in the first place and was more accessible, than cigarettes wouldn’t have such an influence. This I agree.

When looking at smoking advertisements in mainstream media, it gives the impression of smoking for working class people being a stereotype. The idea that smoking is for the uneducated and the insensitive, for example, smoking in front of children or when pregnant, ties in nicely with other characteristics that are labelled within working class communities such as being “on the dole” and being a teenage mother. All these labels make it even more difficult for working class areas to decrease levels of smoking, not because they are stupid, but because no one is going to tell them any different because it is to be expected and is part of the stereotype. For example, a “7 steps out” poster found on the internet (which won’t be posted on here due to Copyright) is located in what looks like a working class neighbourhood with a green car that certainly isn’t part of the 2017 car range. These small notices make it seem like the smoking problem is part of an identity of being working class and a problem for the working class as a result.

But it’s not just working class people that smoke. Those that are considered middle class who smoke are regularly hiding and keeping their addiction a secret since it isn’t part of what is now considered a middle-class trait. Being spotted in the act is more than likely going to produce a master label where they will then be identified as a “smoker” with links towards insensitivity and a lack of education, simply because it isn’t expected of typical middle class

PUB pic no ecigs
Recently spotted in a local pub, similar treatment to cigarettes.

But then I thought to myself, well what about the newest phenomena that have hit the streets over the past 2 years? E-cigs are arguably the 21st-century cigarettes. With being both healthier for yourself and for others around you as well as all the extravagant flavours available, some of which even I agree does have a certain smell of strawberry or sweetness about them, is it possible that these are going to be accepted, unlike cigarettes? In short, No. Smoking E-cigs are still just as stigmatised and labelled as a working class act just as much as cigarettes. The best example of this is the fact that all shops and restaurants and businesses are very unlikely going to allow them within their vicinity. Despite it not being in breach of the smoke-free legislation act 2007, it still connotes insensitivity and is more than likely going to be taken unpleasantly by customers. By doing this it means that smoking E-cigs must be done outside or within a smoking area, whereby you might as well smoke a regular cigarette. By not doing so is more than likely going to marginalise the smoker even further than usual because you aren’t smoking a traditional cigarette. These policies by businesses, as a result, give it a familiarity to smoking cigarettes and will, therefore, have the same negative social impact. As well as this the actual e-cig itself carries the same conventions of that of cigarette smoking. The technique, the shape, the smoke itself, as well as the end result of self-pleasure and feeding a nicotine addiction allows society to be able to label it the same as cigarettes and thus gives it the same taboo.

When looking at cigarettes as a whole, the decrease of cigarettes in the main has come from health warnings and advancements in technology. But despite this, the number has still not decreased to zero. As well as this the age demographic of smokers should be based on older people where smoking was frowned upon as much less than today, but as we all know this isn’t the case. The idea of social factors such as socioeconomic discussed in this blog, allows sociology to attempt to answer the gaps in smokers that scientists and smoke campaigns have failed to. By looking at sociological viewpoints, it can not only give an insight into why certain groups smoke but as a result of this perhaps gives an opportunity for social scientists,  anti-smoking campaigns and physiological scientists (biology and physiology) to work together to extinguish smoking once and for all.


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