The Stubbornness Effect

So the workplace ban didn't stop people smoking?

Now this is strange because I was always lead to believe the workplace ban was there for the sake of bar staff and other employees?  Are they finally admitting that its sole purpose was to marginalise, demonise and denormalise smokers?

That aside, there is nothing surprising in the report. 

Basically the workplace ban affected two groups of smokers.  The first group is the person who is employed in a workplace environment – office staff, bar workers, shopkeepers and so on.  The second group are those who only enter a workplace by choice – the self employed, workers in an outside environment [builders, farmers and the like] and the unemployed.

The first group are the ones who were hardest hit as they suddenly found themselves forced to completely abstain apart from smoking breaks.  This is the group one would expect to have the highest quit rate.

The second group were only really affected if they had to enter a place of employment such as shops, hotels and of course pubs.

Within the timeframe of the study there have been several massive price hikes levied on tobacco, so I would expect a decrease in overall rates.  One would expect though that the first group would be the greatest quitters as they have to suffer the price hike plus the workplace ban, whereas the second group only gave to bear the price hikes?  Yet the study shows the reverse is true?

My theory is quite simple – it's the Stubbornness Effect kicking in.

People don't like to be ordered around.  They don't like laws, rules and regulations.  The more you order them to do something [particularly something illogical] they more they will resist and refuse to comply.  Smokers see themselves as being ordered to quit so naturally they respond with the two fingers.  Our first group, while having to endure the workplace ban are financially better able to weather the price hikes and are therefore better able to continue to resist.  Our second group however are more likely to have suffered financially from the downturn and in many cases have joined the unemployed and have therefore been forced to quit.

From the turn of the Millennium Ireland has been subjected to a whole raft of Draconian legislations.  We have suffered from the workplace ban, massive price hikes, a ban on sales of 10 cigarettes [I still can’t find the logic in that], a ban on all advertising and sponsorship, a ban on vending machines and a ban on even the sight of cigarettes in shops, yet the smoking cessation rate remains at one of the lowest in the world.  With the possible exception of the price hikes not one measure has had the slightest effect on smoking rates in Ireland.   The more they demand, the more the smoker resists.

By the very nature of the bans, they have succeeded in creating a subculture whose membership consists of exiled smokers.  Walk up to any group outside an office or pub and if you have a cigarette [or pipe] in your hand you are instantly welcomed.  There are many anecdotal reports of non-smokers actually taking up the odd puff just to join in the camaraderie of the subculture, which proves that in some cases the laws have actually become counterproductive.

If they really wanted to cut the smoking rate here in Ireland they would stand a much better chance by simply reversing all that petty legislation.

OECD Smoking Rates

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The Stubbornness Effect — 9 Comments

  1. did saying no to children ever achieve the intended outcome?
    Didn't here just made something I was curious about suddenly appear to be very attractive.
    Ireland has smallish population and so were the smokers to actually stay away from the places they are not allowed to smoke in for a few days things would grind to a halt very quickly.

    How hard would it be to cripple industry by coordinating all smokers to take the same week off across Ireland be it on paid holiday or sick leave or just plain staying away from their place of employment.

    Trouble is as with this blighted isle, blighted by the abomination that is the UK, folks will not do what eneds to be done out of fear of reprisals. From who I have never found out. Perhaps the risk of being noticed is enough I really do not understand it.

    • A good idea but it would never work.  As you say – too many would be afraid of the consequences.  Also it would play into the hands of the Antis – "look at those filthy smokers and the trouble they are causing.  We have to eradicate them!"

    • "…blighted by the abomination that is the UK, …". Alas, it is the plight of a great nation to be sniped at by the potato republics. Oh, does that rankle a bit? Feeling a little miffed by the presumption? Then do feel free to wake up and smell the international oppression in the air.

  2. Being serious for a second (unusual for me) I'd suggest one unintended side-effect of going outside for a fag-break IS healthy, but I only wish there was an equivalent for the non-smoker.

    Goes like this – modern workplace, stress is a killer (try some of these call centres for instance). Any doctor can testify to that . If a client or your co-workers wind you up to bursting point and you're a smoker, simple answer. Step outside, have a fag, calm down, come back in, carry on. End result, go home happy, don't kill your family, keep job, don't have heart attack.

    Non-smoker? No excuse to go out, you're either going to blow, be off sick, maybe long term stress-related illness or get sacked for a temper tantrum. I'm a lifelong non-smoker, actually considered taking up the fags or vaping just for an excuse to de-stress .Luckily, understanding boss when I have some freakish annoying sods to work with and I put this dilemma to him, so I have an agreement with him if things are getting out of hand I'll take a walk outside for 5 and come back. Works OK, and the work gets done.

    If you want more proof – friend of mine is a psychologist with 2 sources of income from a major bank with a call centre. One is a mandatory quit smoking program. T'other is coping with stress. Smokers rarely need the second. Obvious conclusions?

    Maybe an argument for you smokers to push – split the difference so anyone in a stressful environment  can take 5 once an hour as smokers do, but if you choose to light up or not your choice .Equal opportunity thingie and probably save employers a packet, so everyone wins.

    • To be serious myself [for a second] you are absolutely right.  Smoking has proven to be an aid to concentration and also is a relaxant.  Also a break from the work environment is also a good way to solve problems!  In my working days I would come up against some problem or other.  My solution was to take brief walk outside [and a puff of the pipe] and invariably the answer to my problem would come to mind.  It's like the ago old thing of forgetting someone's name, or the name of a film or something – stop mentally searching and the answer will pop into you head.

      I put the stress theory to Doc some time back.  I asked which he considered the greatest danger to health – smoking or stress.  He immediately replied that stress was the worse of the two, being the cause of probably the majority of heart attacks, strokes and even possibly even cancers.  Stress is probably the greatest cause of sick-leave too so employers would do well to take note and stop whinging about "smoke breaks". 

  3. Stubbornness has taken many forms in the UK since 2007. I clearly remember the first few months after the ban re my local pub. The same people continued to attend and, if the weather was OK, a dozen or so would be outside as a group sitting around smoking, laughing and drinking. It was good fun. But as the winter started to close in, more and more people drifted away – not just from the group, but from the pub altogether. Friday night used to be a great night; now hardly anyone goes in. But the demise has taken a long time. Death by a thousand cuts, you might say. So it is quite easy to counter the cost of increased taxes by not paying pub prices for drinks. Why do you think that the Zealots are desperate to get minimum pricing? 

    Finance comes into the picture strongly. I can afford to venture abroad three or four times a year and lay out £1,000 each time to stock up (both herself and I enjoy tobacco a lot). Many people cannot do that. There are people who buy whole leaf and people who grow their own (or do all three!). Those too are different forms of stubbornness.

    I did a little experiment a couple of days ago. Seven of us were going out for a celebratory meal. I knew that the restaurant, which was a good restaurant, had no smoking facilities outside due to the way in which it is constructed. I decided to act in much the same way that I do when I fly to Spain. I decided to fully accept the idea that I would not smoke. I took a conscious decision. I found it no trouble at all to abstain for the three hours that we were there. No problem. I just pushed the idea out of my mind when it popped in. Of course, as soon as we got home, I got my fags out. 

    I read somewhere that the average smoker smokes 14 cigs per day. It not difficult to suppose that many people smoke more than that and, therefore, many people smoke less. It is easy to deduce that people who smoke, say, 10 cigs per day do not find the cost particularly burdensome. I suspect that it is these people who maintain legitimate cig sales, while the heavier smokers are the ones who have 'diversified'. Od course, that does not mean that there are not many poorer, heavier smokers who are using 'white van man'. I am sure that there are. 

    I'm sure that a lot of other factors are also involved, which must be driving tobacco control craze. 

    • I have been attending a hospital quite a lot in recent times [not for myself, in case you're worried].  This involves quite a lot of sitting around staring into space.  The lack of a puff on the pipe doesn't bother me in the slightest, and in fact it doesn't even occur to me to miss it, which would tend to show that smoking is far more a habit than an addiction?  I do light up as soon as I get outside the door, but that's only because of the massive "the hospital and grounds are a smoke free zone" signs and I refused to be bossed in the open air [call it stubbornness?]

      If I find myself imbibing in a "smoke free" pub I tend to head for the beer garden or smoking area, mainly because pubs tend to be very depressing these days – half empty and the non-smokers tend to be a miserable bunch!  Also they are a lot smellier than they used to be!

      I really envy you lot and your ability to nip across the Channel for some cheap baccy.  It would take two days and several hundred yoyos for me to go to Cherbourg and back. 🙁

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