I’ve got to call out the truth ad campaign on some falsehoods. They posit in their latest ad that smoking lowers your earning potential. It doesn’t matter by how much because it actually doesn’t affect what you get paid, but how much disposable income goes towards necessities. But they suggest, boldly, that smokers earn less. Not true (for the reasons they suggest.)
Far be it from me to discourage anyone from quitting smoking. I was raised around smokers and learned to hate the stale, foul odors that clung to my loved ones from an early age. When I was three, my Dad quit smoking because I asked him to. Other relatives – not so much. My grandmother smoked Alpine (generic) menthols until her death and my grandfather on the other side smoked Prince Edwards until he got lip cancer.
I worked in the “unskilled” labor market for many years and still do so occasionally. Hell, even when I do skilled work I make unskilled wages here in Tennessee. (Opening a factory? Come to lovely Tennessee! It’s the best state for bilking wage earners.) There’s something about busting your ass for people who look down on you socially that really makes you want to have a smoke break. In fact, if you don’t smoke you might not get a break. I can’t back up that assertion with a link to some evidence because I know this from plain old personal experience. You’re going to have to take my word for it.
Low wage work breeds low esteem for your own life. You get batted around by the bottom dollar. There doesn’t seem like a lot of hope in your life for a future. There is also a link between generational poverty, poor education, and bad habits. Recent studies have emerged showing that raising wages, even a little bit, reduces smoking rates among those workers. The reasoning goes, “If I have a better chance of affording the things I need, I might as well improve other aspects of my life. Why don’t I quit smoking so I can live to enjoy my greater spending capacity?”
So the good people who have taken on the admirable task of discouraging tobacco use in young people by providing information have over-stepped. If what you are saying is not really the #truth, then kids will begin to mistrust you. If kids begin to mistrust you, they will stop listening to you.
My generation learned this the rough way by being indoctrinated in the false dangers of marijuana use. Our reasoning went, “I tried pot and that shit was a revelation. What will happen with cocaine? Is it mild and not very addictive too?” No. Not all intoxicants are created equal. That’s a dangerous lesson for millions to learn by trial and error.
People will make healthy life choices if you give them access to the right tools. As a society, we need accurate information, widely disseminated. We need alternatives to bad habits and addiction. We need evidence-based methods for getting and staying off addictive substances, legal and illegal. We need enough opportunities for people to escape their current living situations. How about we also stop ruining people’s lives with incarceration, court costs, and criminal records?
I suppose it’s the amount of exposure this ad has gotten, bombarding me in the middle of Hulu shows, that prompts me to write something . There is also a danger in over-stigmatizing a growing segment of the population – bummed-out poor people – as being the cause of their own need for artificial comfort. We have a class problem here in America that we seldom address. Not every problem we have boils down to race but race is usually a factor in every problem. But money trumps everything.