that smoking article

Did y’all see this article in Contexts:

“In Defense of Smokers,” Contexts Summer 2009

What a truly bizarre argument, presented apparently without irony (intentionally at least). The article assumes, without demonstrating in any way, that the evidence that smoking causes health problems is incorrect or trumped up; it then goes on to call upon sociologists to “recognize, analyze, and (perhaps even) disrupt the public attack on smoking and smokers.” The rhetoric is overheated to the point of silliness; the author implies that smokers are denigrated while cocaine and heroin users and rifle-carriers are left to roam the streets.

The punch-line, though, is the claim that the spread of “no smoking” rules impedes the “open spaces of conviviality.” Again: no evidence offered whatsoever.

Sociology can’t succumb to the totalitarian medical views toward cigarette smokers. Sociology is meaningless if we allow other fields of social knowledge tell us what the precise meaning of “public” is. Public life and the rituals of group solidarity should be kept alive, free from excessive forms of social  control.

The article reads like a complaint letter from a disgruntled smoker. I thought sociologists were supposed to offer some kind of evidence to support arguments in professional publications!

Author: andrewperrin

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

4 thoughts on “that smoking article”

  1. I’ll read this when the library electronic copy is updated.

    Doesn’t this highlight [C]ontext’s general problem of not adequately citing sources for info? If they did, I’d subscribe and assign it in class. (I assume my other complaint about the journal — failure to capitalize headlines — would fall on deaf ears here in lower-case land…)


  2. In its effort to be edgy and contrarian, Slate is increasingly crossing the line into ridiculous and factually incorrect. I hope that [C]ontexts doesn’t fall into the same trap. (This is not meant to be a critique of the smoking article, which I haven’t read because it’s behind a paywall.)


  3. Typical. I heard this stuff from many Euro types at the start of bans on indoor smoking in public places. My perception is that in Europe and Asia there are many smokers who are more healthy than the average American smoker. And, the anti-smoking message regarding long-term health was more salient for exercise oriented Americans. If you don’t believe me, go to the starting pen of a major US marathon like Boston or New York—there will be a smoking section populated by Europeans and Asians, and on the other side of the holding pen are horrified Americans, shocked that fellow competitors are having a few smokes before a marathon.

    As for Contexts, why does the ASA publish it?


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