EDITORIAL – Cigarettes vs. other drugs – the double standard of stigmas
An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
‘STIGMA’ IS A POPULAR WORD these days. We’re trying to remove the stigma from all sorts of things. The agreement between B.C. and the federal government to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of certain drugs is an example.
The theory is that if we reduce the penalties, people will be more encouraged to seek help for their addictions. I’m not at all certain it will work, but that’s the theory.
Regardless, there’s been a major push in recent years to “destigmatize” the use of illicit drugs.
But there’s a double standard in play. The federal government has begun a 75-day consultation period to get feedback on developing new tobacco labelling regulations.
Canada has printed health warnings on cigarette packages for a couple of decades but this would take it a step further by putting warnings on individual cigarettes.
Each cigarette would carry its own warning, such as “Poison in every puff.” Presumably, a smoker who’s about to light up would see the warning on the ciggie, toss the tobacco and go cold turkey.
That smoking is a filthy habit, an extremely tough addiction to kick, and a huge health hazard is well-known. Smokers are probably one of the most frowned-upon groups in society. Nobody likes a smoker.
Tobacco kills 48,000 Canadians every year. That’s why cigarette packages have warnings. Graphic photos accompany messages such as “Remember this face and that smoking is killing me,” “When you smoke it shows” and “Your kids are sick of your smoking.”
Ouch. If that isn’t enough, there are also warnings inside the packages. Talk about stigma.
The tobacco strategy is designed to make smokers feel bad about what they’re doing. That, supposedly, will encourage them to quit. So, we’re trying to remove the stigma from illegal drugs, and reinforce it on a legal one.
Yep, what we have here is a stigma double standard. Apparently, some stigmas are bad but others aren’t.
I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at email@example.com.
ArmchairMayor.ca welcomes comments that are respectful and issues-oriented. Name-calling, derogatory language, unfounded accusations and foul language aren’t allowed.
I think 48000 is low. We have lost several members of our own family from smoking over the years. I started at about 14 and smoked till I was 29. I lived on my boat at the time and got tired of sliding the hatch open and turfing cigarette packs over the side in the morning, I made a bet with my pals that if they ever saw me smoking another cigarette again it was 50 bucks each, That was when I was making that much a week, It was a fair amount of money in the very early 60’s but I knew they would hold me to it and I never smoked another.
My understanding is that at the moment personal possession of drugs such as heroine, cocaine etc is a criminal offence and can lead to people spending time in jail and ending up with a criminal record. When people talk about removing the “stigma” of these drugs, they are talking about treating this problem as as a health problem rather than as a criminal one. So rather than filling our jails up with people who have a health problem, the idea is to educate and ultimately treat drug users. The difference between cigarette smoking and the use of illicit drugs is that
at the moment, one is legal and the other isn’t. Our response to cigarettes has been to institute a wide education plan on it’s dangers and that has largely been successful. We don’t view smokers as criminals. On the other hand, the campaign against the use of “hard” drugs has been much less successful. If Portugal is any example, removing the criminal label on people who use hard drugs is a good idea.
It took some courage to write this, Mel. The stark reality of smoking and its toll in death and human suffering has somehow not been included although evidence exists that cigarettes have been engineered to be highly addictive while at the same time, highly toxic.