Doctor stands up for smoker rights

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Smokers in Norway, steadily losing ground as their habit is banned from more and more public areas, have received some much-needed support from Dr. Per Fugelli who says it’s time to stop harassing them. 

The outspoken Dr Per Fugelli thinks restrictions on smoking have gone too far in Norway.  PHOTO: WIkipedia Commons/Jarle Vines

The outspoken Dr Per Fugelli thinks restrictions on smoking have gone too far, and warns against portraying smokers as an “underclass”. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons/Jarle Vines

Fugelli, a professor at the University of Oslo’s medical school who’s been an active voice in social issues for years, says government policies to meet the needs of allergic and over-sensitive people “have gone too far.”

Fugelli, commenting on fresh proposals to extend smoking bans in restaurants and railway stations to city streets and public parks, warned against depicting smokers as inferior people.

“If an allergic person is bothered by smoke whole waiting for the tram, it’s possible to move away,” Fugelli told newspaper Aftenposten on Sunday. He warned Norwegians against the dangers of “health rage” and claimed the way smokers are being treated in Norway had “an unpleasant element of class.”

“I get a bad taste in my mouth from the successful managers of the Health Directorate (Helsedirektoratet) and other influential groups. They’re the elite, harassing the lower class,” Fugelli said, pointing out that the majority of smokers are people with little education and low-status jobs.

“We should treat them decently and with respect, and not expect that a perfect lifestyle is within reach for all”, Fugelli said.

Earlier this year, smoking was banned from the platforms in railway stations and even from Bingo parlors, one of the last sanctuaries of Norwegian smokers. Smoking rooms in private workplaces were outlawed, too. But Norway’s national heart and lung association (Landsforeningen for hjerte- og lungesyke, LHL), wants to go further. Campaigns to ban smoking in all public areas  from streets to beaches to outdoor bars — are in the works.

“That will make it harder for the smokers, “LHL’s secretary-general Frode Jahren told Aftenposten.

“They will smoke less, children and young people won’t have to watch grownups smoke, and we avoid the harmful passive smoking,” Jahren said.