I don’t understand why it has become socially acceptable to punish addicts in New Zealand. In a nation I used to think of as fair, and indeed, supportive of the underdog, I find it horrid that we not only blame the victim, but we punish them relentlessly.
What I’m writing about is the banishment of smokers to the great outdoors. I really don’t have any problem with that. I don’t smoke, and I don’t want people smoking in the same air space I’m trying to work in. I have spent plenty of time as a passive smoker, and have no desire to repeat the experience. I wish people who smoke could give up and indulge in a safer activity. Nevertheless, it does seem strange to me that companies and organisations can’t find a budget to set up somewhere slightly more pleasant for their staff to have a cigarette. A seat. Shelter from the wind and rain. Instead I see staff standing out in the worst weather, dealing with their addiction as best they can. Don’t forget that – smoking is addictive – we know this, and what we do is force the victims of this addiction into cold and unpleasant environments in order to participate.
I guess the theory is that if it’s unpleasant enough people will stop smoking. In much the same way that the same approach to drinking helped stop alcoholism in days of six o’clock closing. New Zealand invented the bar leaner and the ability to dispense a vast amount of beer in a very short time. Seating was not used and the general approach was to make the drinking experience as unpleasant as possible. And what a royal success that turned out to be.
One of the interesting side effects of sending out small groups of people – a tiny clan of like-minded people – to face adversities like bad weather – is that they stand around talking to each other. Back in the day when I worked with helping to get people into work I used to recommend smokers identify where they wanted to work, get well presented, and then go network with smokers from that company. Build some relationships, and then use the relationships to explore employment options – the theory being you’re more likely to get work with someone you know than strangers. And, as a smoker you’ve already got something in common. And now there’s a word for the next step – smirting. Flirting while smoking. And of course, smexting – texting while smoking. There’s something bizarre, and yet encouragingly resistant, about the human drive to communicate, interact, and yes, flirt – to socialise when engaged in what is seen to be anti-social behaviour.