The health minister has sparked controversy by claiming that poor people in Britain should be allowed to continue smoking without being pressured to quit. John Reid argued that smoking was not the worst of the problems facing Britain's poorer classes, and in fact claimed that cigarettes are among the few pleasures left to those who live in the nation's more deprived areas.
Furthermore, Mr Reid argued that the middle classes are obsessed with telling people from lower socio-economic backgrounds how to live their lives. Mr Reid said that the campaign against smoking is "an obsession of the learned middle class" and asked: "What enjoyment does a 21-year-old single mother of three living in a council sink estate get? The only enjoyment sometimes they have is to have a cigarette."
However, Mr Reid's comments brought a heated response from anti-smoking campaigners. A spokesman for the anti-smoking group Ash said: "It's incredibly patronising to talk about smoking in this way. The argument is that we should have smoke-free work environments. John Reid has got this hang-up about the middle class imposing itself on the lower class, when it's the least empowered, people like bar workers, who are having smoking imposed on them."
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