The language we use has power.
The ancients, as well as today’s PR firms understand the power of language to create. Abracadabra is purported to be a derivation of old Aramaic words meaning “I will create as I speak”. The Gospel of John in the New Testament begins “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God”. Sit with that idea for a moment. It means that speaking has the power to bring things into being. Like Captain Picard saying “Make it so, Number One” we influence circumstances by the way we speak about them.
Given the power of language why would we use terms that make permanent a condition we don’t desire? Recently the AP Style Guide recommended that the term “addict” not be used to apply to someone who has an addiction. The term has negative connotations that make achieving and maintaining recover more difficult. It implies that the person is somehow separate from and less than other members of humanity when each of us has the capacity for addiction.
The same is true for the term “smoker” when applied to a human being rather than an apparatus used to cook food. It puts a person with an addiction to tobacco into a false class created by the act of labeling, where some will claim discrimination because a behavior to which they have an addiction is not allowed in certain venues.
No one is born with a pack of cigarettes in their hands. Smoking is not an innate characteristic of the type which we grant protected legal status. It is insulting to those people who have suffered egregious, degrading, and deadly forms of abuse because of an innate characteristic to elevate a voluntary and destructive behavior to the same status, no matter how addictive it may be.
It’s time to retire this term, which works to the tobacco industry’s advantage by pitting people against each other, rather than against smoking which is the actual issue. They know that by keeping people talking about “smoker’s rights”- which are no more or less than anyone else’s rights- people would notice that smoking interferes with everyone’s right to draw their next breath.
While it may be human nature to categorize people, it is the basis of all sorts of misunderstanding and prejudice. Let’s retire this term and keep the discussion about the smoke.