Seriously, lay off smoking now

Smoking is stupid. It gives you cancer, heart disease, ages you, makes you smell and drains your cash.

I’m not saying it’s clever or healthy, how could I?

But seriously, it’s time to stop the persecution of smokers. We’ve given up airplanes, cinemas, workplaces, restaurants, wine bars, and pubs.

Gladly in most cases.

The pleasure of lighting up in all of the above places is something we used to love but we knew it couldn’t, and shouldn’t last. Out of consideration for others and oursleves we gave up that right.

We’ve also put up with the constant price-hikes of the past three decades, shelling out more and more tax every time we buy a pack.

Going after smokers as though they were sadists lurking in among the good citizens of Britain has blinkered the government.

All this time the government has been on its hands and knees obsessively weeding out tobacco, while other equally dangerous poisons have been allowed to fester and spread.

More than 60 % of adults in the UK are now overweight. Over the past 20 years the number of obese adults has surged, with a quarter of the population now in that precarious bracket.

If this trend continues, and every possible indicator says it will, 40% of the UK population will be obese by 2030.

The health effects of this are becoming devastating. The catalogue of dreadful problems obesity causes is costing the NHS £500 million every year, and the economy as a whole £2 billion a year in lost productivity.

All smoking-related disease combined costs £2.7 billion a year to the NHS, while tobacco generated £11.1 billion in 2011/12 in tax revenue.

Yet the causes of this lethal obesity epidemic all go by on the nod. The suppliers of the high sugar, high fat convenience grub largely responsible, the supermarkets, have become the new untouchables; no government would dare tax the unhealthy junk slowly killing the people for fear of the vicious backlash.

So they go back to the crusade against smoking.

And under their watch alcohol is becoming a more and more deadly problem.

In 2011 the NHS admitted that visits to hospitals as a result of alcohol-related health  problems has doubled since 2002, with over a million visits in 2009/10, a new record. This is predicted to rise to 1.5 million by 2015.

Treating the direct health problems associated with drinking already costs the NHS £2.7 billion a year, and will be at £3.7 billion in three years time as the surge continues under its watch.

And then there’s the incalculable costs to society of fighting the army of other consequences.

Tobacco doesn’t cause domestic violence. A study in 2003 showed that in the UK alcohol was a factor in 62% of all cases of domestic violence.

Nicotine doesn’t cause thousands of driving accidents a year, unlike alcohol which is still a major, although thankfully decreasing factor.

Tobacco never caused anyone to lose their job, wreck their own marriage, neglect their family, become violent, cruel or abusive.

Tobacco doesn’t pack A&E departments with thousands of violent incidents every weekend up and down the country, leading the NHS to fork out millions more and use valuable resources to fix drunks who have attacked each other.

Smoking doesn’t lead to the types of scenes of depraved excess that make our cities such ugly places on a Saturday night, which the rest of the population finds so odious.

It doesn’t lead to the type of dis-inhibition that makes it OK to piss and puke all over the streets and leave broken bottles and kebab wrappers strewn across a city at the end of a night, costing millions to clear up.

Tobacco doesn’t cause the lack of inhibition that leads to millions of one-night stands every weekend. Sexually transmitted diseases are on the increase, and so is the bill for treating them, with the number of cases hitting 500,000 in 2010 and rising since then.

Alcohol does all of these things every year, and it’s advertised on TV.

Totting up the cost of all these dreadful consequences, financially, socially and even spiritually on us as a nation would be a grim task.

So they pick up their arms again and go back to the war on smoking. And the really hard fights carry on being shied away from.

Smoking doesn’t lead to homelessness and begging, a reality we’d all rather pretend we didn’t notice. Nicotine doesn’t put thousands of children into care, unlike heroin and crack which are causing a depressing number of young people to be unloved, unwanted and abused from day one.

Cigarettes aren’t the cause of the thousands of gang-related crimes that make parts of the country no-go zones for ordinary people who live in fear of robbery, assault, rape and murder every day.

Drugs are the cause, because they are big business and they are underground.

When tobacco is finally made illegal it will be in this category of social killers.

Cannabis has never been legal in the UK, but, and I can confidently speak for a majority of my generation, it has been an ubiquitous part of my social life, an ever present fixture at parties and gatherings for years.

And for excitable teenagers the fact that it’s illegal is as intoxicating as smoking it. The buzz of meeting a shady dealer in the back of a car, and even the thrill of breaking the law, are potent highs when you’re 17.

The teenagers of the future have this to look forward to with tobacco, when the government has its way and the dealers are running the market, which will happen when it goes underground.

The civil servants sitting in hopelessly disconnected government departments making arbitrary decisions don’t have a clue about this reality. They just don’t get how black markets work and how common drug use has become in young people, let alone what the hell they can do about it.

Cocaine is everywhere, MDMA and Ketamine are routine, and ‘legal highs’ are so common that they’re not even considered dangerous any more.

If the people who are leading the persecution of smokers knew how their children were spending their weekends, and how easy drugs were to get, they might take another look at their priorities.

The ‘experts’ are so far removed from the scene it’s laughable. They over-compensate for their ignorance by making ludicrous threats and spreading desperately transparent horror-stories, while out there on the streets nobody is listening.

It’s a futile war fought pathetically and the civil servants in charge know this. So they go back to their familiar war on tobacco.

It’s a battle already being won, so it’s a lot easier to fight.

Smokers are now the minority, and presumably a tiny minority among the civil servants, politicians and medical professionals on the front line, who are happy to attack the habit because it isn’t one of theirs.

This battle is being fought with ludicrous zeal.

Already in some places tobacco is hidden from view, to protect us dumb impressionable lot from temptation. Fine, do it.

Next cigarettes will be totally hidden from view. OK don’t care.

Then there will be generic packaging on all brands. Don’t really care, but I’m not looking forward to all the illegal fakes that will flourish containing god knows what (they’re already common enough).

Smoking is a choice. I choose to do it, because I like it. And I’d say half the ‘smokers’ I know never even touch the things most of the time, just once every few weeks buy a pack of ten or pinch a couple off me when they’re having a drink. They’re definitely not addicted, they just like a cigarette here and there.

I’m going to quit one day; I already smoke less than I used to.

When I do it won’t be because I’m being told to. I can choose, thank you very much. I walk past a MacDonalds every day but I’ve not had one in years, because I don’t want to. I go past the off-license every day but I don’t buy a bottle of whisky.

What about the people who do, every single day? Or the people who drink-drive, or spend every weekend high on drugs the government hasn’t even heard of yet, or who get a glass smashed in their face after 10 pints then need fixing, or who are addicted to heroin, homeless, pregnant or obese.

None of these people ever read a government warning, unless they smoke.

The drugs are uncontrollable and the alcohol’s acceptable; the food is irresistible and the homelessness regrettable.

But smoking’s got to stop.


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