Monday, 27 June 2011

The Smoking Issue

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Smoking has always been associated with the fashion world, I think it is an assumed fact that models will smoke as it suppresses appetite and helps them to keep their "model" bodies. I have never smoked, not even once, and I am proud to say that my parents gave up smoking for me and I went from growing up in a smoky household to a smoke free and healthy one.

As something to do it has never interested me, why would you want to spend all that money on cigarettes which are proven to be linked to cancer and other illnesses, when you could spend it on clothes. Seriously, the fashion world would rather spend money on these death sticks than the latest must have item of clothing. Really?! I just don't understand it.

I've never really had friends that smoke, a few of them are "social smokers" (or just smokers who are lying to themselves - you are still addicted, just admit it) but I've never had to be around smokers, however, some of my lovely friends in Leeds (you may smoke, but I still love you, don't worry) are quite big smokers when we go out, and I got home last week from a night out in York stinking of smoke with a sore throat. My clothes actually reeked, and I ask myself again, this is something that people who love fashion do? Make their expensive clothes stink of smoke? Really?! Again, words fail me.

The smoking ban has been great for me, I love the fact I can go out and not have to be around smokers, it is now completely my choice if I want to go outside and be near them, but it doesn't seem to be having a large an affect on girls and women smoking that it should be. The message should be going out to teen girls that there are healthier ways to control weight, and models should be ambassadors of this message, instead it is still accepted that this is the way models maintain their figures. I'm not trying to get in on a debate about the size models should be - but if the only way they can stay a size 4 is to heavily smoke, shouldn't this be a key reason for the fashion world to consider working with larger girls? And by larger I may just mean a size 8 (god forbid!), but a natural size 8. I don't want to start campaigning to for size 16 girls to be models, it just isn't the point I'm trying to make, but shouldn't girls who eat healthy and exercise be the famous ones, not the girls who eat junk and smoke all day?

What are your thoughts on smoking? Do you smoke? What are your reasons? Please share your thoughts.

Image from http://modareel.com/kate-moss-for-louis-vuitton/

9 comments:

Esparracat Reina said...

Hi, I've been reading your blog for a while :)
My dad smokes cigars, and has done for as long as I can remember. I never really felt the need to until I moved in with my (now ex) boyfriend who smokes like a chimney. It has since become a form of emotion control. . . I think every smoker sooner or later comes to the point where they hate it. (I'm there, I carry oust around with me! I've cut down to maybe 2 a week, I'm getting there.) It's gross, and I always tell people not to start. (and expensive, you're right, more money for clothes!) I have friends who use it as a way to suppress appetite. I personally think that's daft, it shouldn't be used as a substitute for healthy eating and *gosh* exercise!! . . . sorry for the essay! :D

Laura said...

Hi! Thank you for your comment and for reading my blog - I really appreciate it :) it's really interesting to hear from a smoker (although, from what you say I'm sure you'll be an ex-smoker soon enough!). Some people I know don't seem to think like you, they have stopped and started again, and I find it hard to understand why. I completely agree on the healthy eating and exercise - I'm not saying I'm the best at being healthy but I'm trying!x

Tiny Bow Blogger said...

Hey, love the blog :)
I'm a non smoker, none of my family, or close friends for that matter, smoke either. I've tried it once but I really, really hated it and regretted it straight away. I think there's a bit of a social stigma around smoking, particularly after the ban, but rightly so in my opinion.

I don't get how people can still do it despite knowing about the many health risks and problems. Not to mention cosmetic issues like yellow teeth, discoloration and wrinkles. Ew! So while they are trying to get ridiculously skinny they are making themselves ugly in other ways as well!! Seems stupid to me. xxx

anonymous77anna said...

A few thoughts:

1. Smoking as a way to control appetite is the least of what's wrong with the fashion industry.

2. What?! Smoking causes cancer?! I had no idea! ...Trust me, smokers are aware of the health risks affiliated with cigarettes. The reason smokers continue despite these obvious health concerns is: they enjoy smoking. It might be expensive, it might be illogical, but, generally, in my experience, smokers enjoy cigarettes. And the nicotine buzz that accompanies smoking can be fun, too.

More importantly, though, these are adults who made a conscious decision to engage (socially or regularly) in a lifestyle choice. Which leads me to...

3. If you are a consenting adult, you should be free to smoke without condescension and lifestyle policing. As you were an adult who consented to associate with smokers, I have little sympathy for your smokey-clothed plight. This statement does not apply to children and animals, however; because neither can make a conscious choice to be around smokers, they should absolutely not be exposed to cigarette smoke. I'm happy your parents decided to quit for their child's benefit.


"I don't want to start campaigning to for size 16 girls to be models, it just isn't the point I'm trying to make, but shouldn't girls who eat healthy and exercise be the famous ones, not the girls who eat junk and smoke all day?" Then by your own double-negative phrasing, not campaigning for size 16 women is kind of the point? I'm confused. Please clarify this statement; as it stands, it contains body policing and, again, lifestyle policing. eep.

I'm not trying to hate on you or troll your blog, but I hope you reconsider some of your comments, especially the one placed in quotations. Overall, I've enjoyed seeing the outfits you create and your blog has been a good read up until this point. And I support the smoking ban as well because as I stated before, in order to smoke and be exposed to smokers, you should be a consenting adult.

Laura said...

Hi, please don't think I will see this as trolling or hating, I appreciate you taking the time to read my blog and voice your opinion. I know that I have strong opinions on the subject that not everyone will agree with. I know you've said my blog has been a 'good read up to this point', I do hope you disagreeing with this post won't stop you reading from now on, but I understand if it does. Just to address the points you made:

1. Just because it's the least in your opinion, doesn't mean it isn't a problem. Personally, it's one that I think is an issue as many celebrities are "disowned" for smoking (like Cheryl Cole) but in models it is just accepted - I don't personally see why.

2.Oh, this is an argument I have encountered more times than I can remember, but it doesn't really change my opinion in that, if they understand the health risk then why do they keep doing it (I do realise you address this, but personally, I don't understand it.)

3. Oh, I'm sorry if you think me writing a blog on the subject is me lifestyle policiing, it really is just an opinion piece, and although I do voice my opinion when asked by close friends about smoking, I would never try and police anyone's lifestyle intentionally. I was using the smokey-clothed example as just that, an example of why I don't understand smokers - I wasn't trying to get sympathy as it was completely my choice, however, I now think I will have to reconsider going out with smokers as I it gives a terrible sore throat!

4. Apologies for being confusing, my point was that I'm not trying to make a point what size a model should be, more that I'm just suggesting that if the only way models can maintain their small size is by smoking, maybe that should be a reason why larger models are viewed in a good light by the industry - does that make more sense now? You definitely don't have to agree, and I don't see it as lifestyle or body policing, as I am just merely expressing my opinion - if you do then fair enough.

I hope my points have maybe made my opinion clearer, and again, I hope this doesn't mean you now hate my blog, as I definitely welcome the opinions of my readers - even if they differ from my own.

Laura said...

@Tiny Bow Blogger - Thank you for your comment :) I completely agree, it really is just ugly to me too!x

anonymous77anna said...

Thank you for your polite and articulate response; on the internet, it's all too easy to be disrespectful to people who don't share your opinions. And no, I don't hate you or your blog at all! I just felt one piece you wrote was somewhat dismissive. I should have included as a disclaimer that of course I understand this is your blog and although it is presumably intended for public consumption, you have the freedom to express any opinions in whatever way you see fit. And of course I intend to continue reading :)

You're right, though; my explanation of why people smoke was superficial. It's the default answer and I didn't feel like typing a full analysis. Here's the long answer.

From my observations in society and my study of sociology, I've divided (most) smokers in three separate groups with three separate connotations and motivations regarding cigarettes.

1. Artist communities/self-identified alternative communities: Cliche, I know, but artist communities usually strive to self-isolate from mainstream culture and society. One indicator of this particular community is the visual coding of a cigarette. As in, a cigarette as well as a certain attitude or manner of dress marks that person as an artist/other and therefore a community member. I think some artists take a fatalistic perspective as well, possibly emulating mindsets of other famous artist communities such as the Lost Generation and the Beat Generation with their histories of substance abuse, mental illness, and often early deaths. As cigarettes become increasingly taboo in mainstream society and as good health becomes increasingly institutionalized, I think smoking will most likely become increasingly appealing to alternative communities.

2. Working class culture (and masculinity): To me, working class culture's relationship with cigarettes is the most telling and tragic of these groups of smokers. As I'm less knowledgeable about working class femininity (and I theorize that working class femininity might be more fluid as the idea that women can "marry up" is still prevalent and socially accepted) I'll primarily address the connections between working class masculinity and smoking. As we live in a patriarchy, to be a man and be economically disempowered undermines a working class man's masculinity. To be (usually) white and male almost always accompanies images of power and monetary success; this disconnect results in feelings of powerlessness and frustration. Unlike his female counterpart, if he married into a higher tax bracket, the working class man would be perceived as a "kept man" and thus be emasculated. Unfortunately, these distinctions in society are real. Through smoking and its health risks, a working class man rejects poncy, middle class notions of health food and the like and, in some small way, reclaims his masculinity. Furthermore, working class men frequently work in professions that require manual labor and have greater health risks and often include greater exposure to pollution (in other words, environmental classism) so what's a cigarette break during the day. Greater substance abuse is also connected to this demographic; after all, if the price of a bottle of liquor is cheaper than a train ticket, there's no reason to go anywhere per say. Cigarettes and substance abuse also allow for escapism from a grim reality and a lack of upward mobility, a way to pass the time.

As I mentioned before, the idea that maintaining your health should be a key concern is definitely a concept which is being institutionalized in middle class/mainstream society. Interestingly, the working class population may partially be why smoking is currently viewed as a "not classy" thing to do.

anonymous77anna said...

Part II for character limit.

3. Middle class 20-somethings who smoke while going out: I think this was probably the population your post is addressing and I feel the answer in my first comment is most pertinent to this category. As said, health maintenance and the social mobility to do so is part of the middle class's cultural currency. So when young people from that background engage in smoking whether social or not, it's a little rebellious, a little sexy, a little dangerous. They usually assume, though, that they'll eventually quit, that their identity as a smoker is not so much an identity as it is a characteristic that can be acquired or dispelled. In the case of social smoking, the damage of those few cigarettes smoked at a club the other weekend heal themselves in a week or two's time so no long term health concerns or even short term ones like smoker's cough present themselves. In the case of regular smokers, again, they generally assume that when they've grown up a bit, settle down, have a family, etc, they'll outgrow smoking. In this group, smoking beyond the age group of 20 is unusual and so smoking isolates you from your peers; from my observations, if a middle class person smokes beyond his/her 20s, s/he feels a little embarrassed and ashamed, and will avoid smoking around others. So basically, within the first two groups, nearly everyone in the community smokes, but for middle class people, to be older and a smoker is a rarity. And after thinking about the issue more thoroughly, I can understand your annoyance with this collection of people. (I myself definitely fall into number 3.)

I know my summary oversimplifies matters; all analysis which groups individuals together inevitably does. I hope this answered your question more completely; it definitely made me think.

On a note unrelated to any of these populations, but still emphasizes the need for communal affirmation, a friend who is a smoker told me he enjoys the smoking community; for example, when waiting for a bus and smoking, people will approach him, ask him for a cigarette or a light, and will sometimes strike up a conversation. In terms of individual fulfillment, a former smoker told me that he realized for him cigarettes were a way for him to take 5 minutes to himself throughout the day; while quitting, he tried to take that time for himself without the cigarette.

In regards to pop culture icons like Cheryl Crow vs. models, I think fashion culture is a less accessible entity than pop culture. Vogue is an expensive, many paged magazine that many know of but few actually buy. Pop culture is larger and more publicized and therefore part of general consciousness. Whether they should or not, many pop stars are viewed as role models and many children and youth are exposed to their art. Conversely, fashion culture is more specialized and more anonymous; the population at large is exposed to models on a daily basis via advertising, but very rarely do the public know the model's names and backgrounds. I can only name a couple of models off of the top of my head while I could list endless film and music artists. So with greater fame comes greater accountability. Additionally, I think modeling carries connotations of unhealthiness most visibly in various eating disorders. Still, I like your vision more a healthier model future. Maybe you could explore fashion culture and accessibility in a future blog post?

Laura said...

Hi again, thank you so much for your thought-provoking post. I studied Psychology of Drug Use at uni so it's really interesting to read a Sociologist's point of view on the reasons behind smoking.

I think I'll definitely look at putting together a post on fashion culture - your point is definitely something I've thought about before, and I will try and spend some time brainstorming some ideas at sometime soon :)

I'm quite honoured that you took this much time to respond to something I wrote - thank you again :)

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