CVS' decision to stop selling tobacco products "is only the latest in a string of anti-smoking measures that have gone into effect with almost no pushback," writes Alice Robb in the New Republic. Consider New York, where Michael Bloomberg's campaign to change the smoking age to 21 was a roaring success, despite the fact that there was enormous opposition to his similar battles against soda and trans fats. Examples like this—and there are others—reflect "greater awareness of the health risks of smoking," sure, Robb writes. "But it’s also a sign of the stigma that’s come to surround cigarettes and the people who still buy them," and things have gone too far.
Multiple studies have shown non-smokers think negatively about smokers, using words like "outcast" and "leper" to describe their societal status and admitting their reluctance to date a smoker or hire a smoker for child care. Smokers of a lower socio-economic status have it even worse. And lung cancer patients—even those who never smoked—are also badly stigmatized. "Stigma can be useful if it deters people from smoking, but it can have nasty side effects—like tempting smokers to hide their habits from their doctors," writes Robb. "Health care officials know this: That’s why they’ve fought to lessen the stigma attached to other conditions and behaviors, from AIDS to depression." It's time smoking got the same treatment. Click for her full column.