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Think about the effects of social and historical context, labeling, and the impact of social movements on definitions of deviance. How does the invention of new spaces (nonsmoking areas) and the use of media and the legal system promote social change in defining a behavior as "deviant," including state and corporate advertising to promote smoking cessation?

Quick answer:

Mass media promoted social change by defining a behavior as deviant by portraying the dangerous realities of smoking, transforming the public’s perception of the activity into one that is dangerous and deviant. Social deviance refers to behaviors that violate social norms. Smoking was once a mainstream activity, but the creation of non-smoking spaces forced smokers to be separate from others. The legal system enforced this separation by banning smoking in many public places.

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Not long ago smoking cigarettes was a popular activity that was promoted by the mass media. Today it is an activity that is almost universally known to cause crippling health problems. This change is in large part because smoking is now promoted as a deviant behavior.

In sociology, a behavior that is deviant is a behavior that violates social norms. The invention of nonsmoking areas helped define smoking as deviant because it distanced smokers from the rest of society. Consider the rules in a non-smoking area, like an airport baggage claim. If a person wants to smoke while in the baggage claim area, they have to step outside of the airport and smoke on the sidewalk. Now the person who is smoking is distanced from the space. Non-smoking areas thus change smoking from a mainstream activity to one that is outside of the social norm.

The legal system also played a role in this change. Laws began to enforce smoking bans in many spaces, such as offices and restaurants. In the same way that non-smoking areas forced smokers outside of the norm, the criminalization of smoking in common areas turned smoking into a behavior that violates social norms.

The media played a role in changing the public’s perception of smoking. There was a time in which advertisements, movies, and television shows romanticized the activity. Today the media depicts the realities of smoking, with many advertisements showing the detrimental effects it can have on the lungs. By portraying smoking as a grotesque activity, the public began to view smoking as a risky, taboo behavior rather than a positive one.

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