Smokers are being turned into ‘lepers’ and are being treated as ‘disgusting and dirty outcasts’, a report by a leading Department of Health adviser has claimed.
The study, written by Professor Hilary Graham and published by Cambridge University Press last month, said that anti-smoking campaigns and changes in the law to restrict smoking in public places have vilified smokers and turned them into a minority outcast group.
In the report, Professor Graham likened the view towards smokers in society to the way indigenous groups and migrants had been viewed in the past; as threatening and potentially contaminating. In the study, non-smokers who were questioned described smoking as ‘a disgusting habit’.
Her report also goes on to claim that due to this increasing view, the poorest groups in society, who are those most likely to smoke, are being further marginalised and disadvantaged.
Although Professor Graham praised the reduction in smoking levels over the past 60 years, (around 21% of the UK population currently smoke as opposed to around 80% in the 1950’s) she argues that anti-smoking campaigns need to be reviewed to ensure that smokers on low incomes are not being ignored, but are actively being helped.
“The history of public health is scarred by policies which, pursued in the name of health protection and promotion, have served to intensify public vilification and state-sanctioned discrimination against already disadvantaged groups”, commented Professor Graham in the study.