At every turn, smokers get a kicking by government

Alex MacDonald February 1, 2014 12
At every turn, smokers get a kicking by government

 

The recent smoking related news may have shocked you, or not: Labour are thinking about banning smoking in cars. Hold The Front Page! The smoking community are wheezing hard into their inhalers about this, and rightly so: At every opportunity, smokers get a kicking from politicians.

I’ve smoked – well I dabble. About two a week; cut down from 10 a day: It is a Love / Hate relationship in all honesty. The hate is directed mostly towards the ideas which meander their way to becoming law due to ‘health’ concerns. We are persistently told – like a repetitive banging of a bass drum – that smoking is bad for us and that it should be avoided at all costs… Guess what? Everyone has heard it and seen it. We are so bored of being told about the health issues from smoking.

Every year there is a new shock tactic from the Government to convince us that our choices are poor and that we should consider putting down the tobacco:

In the 2011-12 financial year the UK Government spent £88.2 million of your money on the Stop Smoking Services in England and an additional £66.4m on medicinal aids – such as Nicotine replacement therapy.

In December 2012, the Coalition government launched a new campaign which cost £2.7m of taxpayers’ money and used the graphic image of a tumour growing on a fag end… – charming.

Last December, the State used another brutal advertising technique which aimed to shock ‘addicts’ into quitting; the video used images of polluted and toxic-like blood flowing the body in an attempt to urge smokers to quit.

Let’s not forget that on every cigarette packet there is an image of a collapsed lung, or a dying man, or a helpless soul – all victims of the dreaded ciggy, and all there to remind you that your choices are wrong.

Then it was the pubs: “Oh no, you can’t go smoking in there” they said – even whilst many Pub owners objected to the rules they could set in their own establishment. “That encroaches on the Liberty of others” the government said… “It’s not right.”

Then it was the taxes and State interference that made British cigarettes the most expensive in the European Union at €9.94 a pack for 20. The only European country with higher prices for fags is Norway, where average earnings (GDP PPP Per Capita) are $18,100 higher as of 2013 than the UK. Even Sweden and Finland (the co-tax capitals of Europe) have much lower prices for 20 sticks, Sweden is €6.52 and Finland is just €5.

In fact, cigarettes have become so expensive that an estimated 50% of all hand rolled tobacco is now smuggled into parts of Britain. The Daily Mail reports that counterfeit cigarettes have contained ‘rat droppings and lethal chemicals’ – black market trading is synonymously linked with high prices and bans, and as such, the counterfeit culture of modern cigarettes is partially a governmental failure. (The Mail may not realise it, but their article is a superb illustration of why drugs should be legal as well).

But now, the politicos have come knocking on the smoker’s door yet again. “Don’t smoke in your car, but only if you have children in your car; you can still smoke in your house in front of your children, or for that matter… anywhere else except a pub, but discontinue your nasty smoking car habit,” they told us. “After all, one YouGov poll back in 2011 showed that many people agreed with us and therefore we have public support… So put down the smokes.”

This time it is more than slight interference or encroachment on our “semi-highly valued liberties – sort of”, it’s actually a message from Labour which puts forward a message that indicates that as a smoker and a parent, you must be controlled and maintained to be a success. This is further fiddling with parental responsibilities and duties.

Everyone knows that smoking is unhealthy, and parents with a basic understanding – or exposure to the £88m (or so) spent of anti-smoking propaganda per year – will know not to smoke in front of their children; no matter where or when.

Aside from the lessons in Liberty, the fundamental flaw of this idea is that it is entirely unworkable. How do you spot a smoker on the M4? Presumably a police car would have to be side by side with the unsuspecting ‘perp’ and catch him doing the dirty deed there and then. This would then lead to a pull over in a layby, questioning, a fine, or a slap on the wrist.

It’s either that or a permanent camera in every voiture (don’t get any ideas).

This is quite possibly the worst use of police time I can think of.

But moreover, there is a financial point to be made. The government persistently bash smokers as they are an easy target, but smokers actually contribute more than their fair share to the Treasury piggy bank – £12.3bn to be precise in 2012/13. Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) reported in 2010 that the cost of smoking related diseases to the NHS was 2.7bn a year. Therefore, smokers – who contributed a total of 11.1bn in 2010 (a net of 8.4bn) – more than pay for their own demons.

Yes smoking is unhealthy and can have major life threating consequences, but parents know that too. Deep down this idea is flawed because the State is pursuing the role of the parent, when only parents should be responsible for parenting, and on a more practical level we ought to ask: Is this a workable and practical way to allocate police hours and resources?

The cynic in me just analyses it like this: It’s the same old stuff coming from Westminster. Yet, good on any politician who sticks their neck out and opposes this.

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