Attitudes about smoking have changed drastically in the last fifty years. People have access to a wide array of studies and research that show smoking leads to numerous diseases and shortens life span. A conflict theorist would say that because of these shifting attitudes, smoking is seen as a habit...
Attitudes about smoking have changed drastically in the last fifty years. People have access to a wide array of studies and research that show smoking leads to numerous diseases and shortens life span. A conflict theorist would say that because of these shifting attitudes, smoking is seen as a habit of the poor or working class, who are forced to pay more for this vice due to taxes and fines placed on cigarettes. In the functional realm, there is the view that smoking, once something that served a definite purpose in society, has now become associated with increased healthcare costs. A symbolic interactionism view says that cigarettes have tapered off in being a symbol of masculinity or glamor. They have lost their appeal as society becomes more health-conscious about the mind and body.
Smoking has declined over the last 50 years, and most Americans now regard it unfavorably. It has also become heavily taxed. A functionalist viewpoint might examine the way in which taxing smoking helps generate revenue that is used to pay for the costs of treating smokers' health issues. The tax is placed on the person who consumes cigarettes, and that person may also wind up consuming more healthcare and other resources as a result of smoking.
A conflict perspective might examine the ways in which smoking has come to be associated with the working class and the poor, and they are the ones hit with heavy taxes on cigarettes. One might argue that smoking used to be an affordable way of providing pleasure for people, but now, though smoking is more prevalent among less educated, poorer people, it has been so heavily taxed that it places an undue burden on the poor.
The symbolic interactionist perspective might look at how cigarettes have changed as symbols. People used to regard smoking as sexy and sophisticated, but it is now associated with being unsexy and unsophisticated for the most part.
The pervasive attitude toward smoking and smokers has definitely shifted over the last 50 years, from favorable (or at least neutral) to unfavorable. Each of the dominant three theoretical perspectives has a different way of interpreting this shift.
A conflict theorist would view the change in attitudes towards smoking as a means of controlling supply, thereby keeping common goods out of the reach of the underclass. As taxes are piled on cigarettes and new legislation promotes fines for smokers, those in the underclass are forced to either quit smoking -- a solution conflict theorists would view as paternalistic -- or spend money they do not have to afford goods that are marked up at a higher percentage than other retail goods.
A functionalist would view the change in attitudes towards smoking as a means of generating revenue. States, counties, cities, and townships have been able to fund projects through raising taxes on cigarettes, and levying fines on smokers. Functionalists would also likely view the reduction in smoking across most demographics as a natural ebb of the marketplace, one that another good or service will fill.
A symbolic interactionist would view the change in attitudes towards smoking as a meaningful change in attitudes regarding personal health. Though 50 years ago the science around smoking was already grim, advertising executives aided the general public in viewing smoking as sexy, macho/feminine, cool, fun behavior. After large settlements by the tobacco industry, science linking cigarettes to cancer, and the removal of cigarette ads from television, smokers and smoking are viewed as unhealthy and in need of intervention.