Many other bloggers who I may have linked to once or twice in the past have commented before on the denormalisation of smoking, and the dehumanisation of one’s enemies is a tried and tested technique. So it was quite fascinating to watch a very blatant example of such a thing on BBC4 tonight in The Smoking years. Notionally a historical program the propaganda aspects weren’t even thinly veiled with smokers referred to as “creatures” and a separate species from early on and in the blurb on the BBC’s web site:
“Timeshift reveals the story of the creature that is ‘the smoker’. How did this species arrive on our shores?”
“The Smoking Years tells the unnatural history of a quite remarkable – and now threatened – creature. Warning: smoke-filled nostalgia may damage your health.”
The reference to smokers as a separate and worth less species was fairly unrelenting, with the first world war being described as providing the ideal breeding ground, and smokers benefiting from the ingenuity of others – with the development of mass production allowing for cheaper cigarettes to be produced. The obvious comfort and enjoyment of cigarettes by soldiers was closed over as quickly as possible to discuss how importing cigarettes prevented the import of vital food and munitions, and the use of pre-war tobacco cards by the Nazi’s to identify allied ships.
Moving into the fifties we learn that cigarette smoking is the direct cause of 95% of lung cancer. Though there is hope as apparently only one in two smokers die, so take up smoking and you’ve a 50/50 chance of immortality! Unless of course in fact everyone dies regardless of if they smoke or not. But that 50% mortality rate is why big tobacco need to “recruit new customers”. Into the 60’s and when a small survey asked if there should be optional non-smoking sections 80% said yes, this was seen as over whelming hostility to smoking rather than maybe people being considerate and in favour of choice? But it’s ok because we’re told that the “Smoker has been herded into a new ecosystem.” where they can be easily identified. After all the smoker has apparently “accepted it’s fate to live in a smoke free world“, as apparently asking to smoke in someone’s house is now as horrifying as asking to shoot up would be!
As a final interesting adjunct to the program it was followed by a trailer for a show that challenged celebrities to give up drinking for Christmas. Not subtle but then the puritans never have been. As a final thought watch the show and just substitute the word “smoker” with any approved of minorities you like and think how many complaints the BBC would get for that.