How do the smoking, the poor justify their smoking ?

Do you-are you ever asked, you are not a smoker, why all the addicts of the cigarette, continued despite the increase in the price of sale thereof, to risk their lives, as clearly stated in the slogan on the packet “Smoking kills” or even significantly ease the wallet. Yes, me, non-smoker, I tell myself that smoking is expensive and because it is savings that I make as well. Well, I found the answer to my question in an article by Patrick Peretti-Watel and Jean Constance, of February 2009 in the journal, Deviance and Society, article titled ” How smoking poor justify their practice and think of prevention ? “.

Smoking is defined as a conduct of a risk to the public health, and as a conduit deviant for sociologists. If the prevention campaigns have reduced the number of smokers in the most disadvantaged and the least educated have not reduced their tobacco consumption. “In France, between 2000 and 2007, among the executives employment, the proportion of smokers decreased from 36% to 23% (a reduction of over a third), among the workers in employment this proportion has increased from 44% to 35% (down a fifth), while it remained almost the same among the unemployed” (45% in 2000,44% in 2007) (Peretti-Watel et al., “Poverty as a smoking trap “, International Journal of Drug Policy, p 230-236.2009). From the results of a qualitative survey carried out among smokers and poor, the article ” How smoking poor justify their practice and think of prevention? “, trying to understand the justifications of smoking poor[1].

It appears in the light of the interviews conducted by the two authors as to the number of smokers are poor, tobacco is considered a drug, which they are heavily dependent, a dependency which is reflected in the practices that they develop to obtain, in spite of their price, cigarettes : to deprive themselves of other things, beg for cigarettes, or even pick up cigarette butts. If they are aware of and recognizing that addicts of the cigarette, and they asked him, recognizing, however, many benefits : the cigarette satisfies the basic needs, which are often linked to their poverty : “ls need to manage their stress, to give a moment of happiness, to fill the vacuum of an existence without work and without the necessary resources to take advantage of their” free time “, to feel less alone… ” If they do not ignore the consequences of long-term, excessive smoking, these smokers relativize the risks, highlighting the competing risks (stop smoking, it is exposure to weight gain, to depression, to a bad mood…) or by considering it in its full sense the notion of risk (risk among others and as such subject to a hazard).

The theoretical framework ant for the sociology of deviance[2] allows the authors to understand the justification of smokers as “techniques of neutralization” that structure their “career legal” as deviant. Most of all started smoking, before this practice became the object of a “denormalization” through the anti-tobacco, these smokers have given birth to the labelling (in the sense beckerien) to which they are subject. They practice ” the accusation of the accusers “[3] in criticizing strongly anti-tobacco. “Many smokers interviewed denounce the hypocrisy of a State that points to the dangers of tobacco, hunting smokers from the public space, but continues” to be to fill their pockets ” “

If the specificity of this article is to examine the justifications given by the smokers who are poor, it is heuristic in a second time to ask if the justifications of these smokers poor differ from those that would have been able to give smokers from other social backgrounds less advantaged. The survey does not answer, the authors propose a number of elements of reflection. The about of smokers are the poor indeed seem to be a form of membership in working-class culture, characterized by a strong preference for the present, that values instant gratification at the expense of the long-term, and a distrust of authorities.


[1] In this study, are defined as poor, according to the definition of the sociological poverty, originally proposed by Georg Simmel, those who receive material aid from the community. Among the 31 respondents, 13 were women and 18 were men ; 21 were unemployed, 6 jobs and 4 inactive ; 7 were under 30 years of age, 12 are aged 30 to 50 years, and 12 have more than 50 years.

[2] Including that provided by the analyses of Sykes and Matza in 1957, in the article ” Techniques of Neutralization : A Theory of Delinquency “, American Sociological Review, 22, pp. 664-670 and Becker in 1963 in Outsiders, New York, The Free Press.

[3] The deviant counter-attack to disqualify those who tag it as such, accusing them in turn of wrongdoing.

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