The Multinational Monitor

May/June 2004 - VOLUME 25 - NUMBERS 5 & 6

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The May/June Lawrence Summers Memorial Award* goes to UK Health Minister John Reid.

Reid said that reducing smoking was "an obsession of the learned middle class," asking, "What enjoyment does a [poor] 21-year-old single mother of three .. get? The only enjoyment sometimes they have is to have a cigarette."

Actual poor single mothers savaged Reid in newspaper interviews. "Dionne Powell, 26, a single mother of one from Neasden, said: ėThat's wrong. Those comments aren't very helpful, it's just a stereotype. ... I am all for a ban on smoking [in public places]. You can't go anywhere these days without passive smoke. In a bar or club it feels like you've smoked a packet of cigarettes. It's just nasty."

Her sister Chantelle, 27, a single mother of four from Stonebridge Park, challenged the Health Secretary's assumptions: "We're both single parents and don't smoke so we think he is wrong. Just because we live on council estates doesn't mean we have to smoke."

Sources: Patrick Wintour and Colin Blackstock, "Let Poor Smoke, Says Health Secretary," The Guardian, June 9, 2004; Matheus Sanchez, "This is Patronising ... It's Just a Stereotype," Evening Standard, June 9, 2004.

*In a 1991 internal memorandum, then-World Bank economist Lawrence Summers argued for the transfer of waste and dirty industries from industrialized to developing countries. "Just between you and me, shouldn't the World Bank be encouraging more migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs (lesser developed countries)?" wrote Summers, who went on to serve as Treasury Secretary during the Clinton administration. "I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that. ... I've always thought that underpopulated countries in Africa are vastly under polluted; their air quality is vastly inefficiently low [sic] compared to Los Angeles or Mexico City." Summers later said the memo was meant to be ironic.