(CBS) The spread of smoke-free laws and anti-smoking sentiment has some smokers feeling like pariahs - and that feeling seems to have some basis in fact.
A recent poll shows that 25 percent of Americans have less respect for people who smoke. That's up from around 15 percent a generation ago and more than twice as high as the percentage of Americans who look down on fat people.
Why the change? Non-smokers tend to have a lower opinion of smokers than smokers do - no surprise there - and the ranks of smokers in the U.S. have contracted sharply in recent years, according to a written statement released in conjunction with the poll.
Thirty percent of nonsmokers say they look down on smokers, as compared with 5 percent of smokers. But smokers who have kicked the habit are almost as likely to look down on smokers as people who have never smoked, the poll showed.
For the poll, conducted by Gallup, researchers interviewed by telephone 1,016 adults living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.The interviews were conducted between July 7 and 10, 2011.
It's no secret, of course, that smoking is dangerous. It's been linked to lung cancer, heart disease, and other potentially deadly ailments. But have all the public health messages about the dangers of smoking created a climate that encourages a holier-than-thou attitude toward smokers?
Speaking in August about a recently enacted ban on smoking in parks and on beaches in the New York City, smokers' rights advocate Audrey Silk told the Village Voice the ban amounted to bigotry, adding, "I agree that smoking is risky. I accept that it's a risky choice. But now leave me alone!"
What do you think? Are smokers now being unfairly looked down upon?