Pause in the street for a cigarette today and you could find yourself approached by one of a team of stop smoking officers employed to roam the capital. Under plans for a ‘hard hitting’ approach smokers will be approached at bus stops, betting shops and shopping centres and offered a carbon monoxide test to ‘shock’ them into signing up for a stopping smoking service. The plans come on the back of a similar scheme for fat-busting nurses to patrol the streets of Scotland armed with measuring tapes and equipment to test blood pressure.
We all know that smoking is a filthy, expensive and deadly habit - we are told as much by the health warnings emblazoned across our cigarette packets. And we are quite aware that eating fatty foods and drinking too much is not the best way to ensure that you are around to see your great grandchildren. Smoking, drinking and eating too much are choices – choices that we should be free to make.
The approach increasingly adopted by the state - harassing, shaming and persecuting those who do not conform to the puritanical lifestyle that they espouse is designed explicitly with stigmatisation in mind. Government sponsored campaigns increasingly portray smokers and drinkers as unattractive or morally corrupt. But, shaming us into believing that certain choices we make are dirty or abnormal is nothing less than state-sanctioned bullying. And there is nothing attractive or moral about bullies.