Monday, February 20, 2006

Strike a light!

So the latest from the British nanny state is the proposal for a total ban of smoking in all indoor public places. Apparently, the current system of having separate smoking and non-smoking areas or advertising whether a particular establishment has a permit or prohibition is no longer good enough. We'll all have to trot outside for our nicotine fix. Why shouldn't I be allowed to go to a closed room with other consenting adults so that we can damage our health?

Contrary to the apparent belief of the Smoke Gestapo, smokers do not as a rule light up maliciously, specifically to annoy any nearby non-smokers. Neither do they gang up in doorways with the sole purpose of breathing second-hand smoke at everyone entering or leaving the building.

Those non-smokers who are currently crowing about this wonderful ban will doubtless be more than happy when their tax bill increases to cover the deficit in funds due to the absence of tobacco revenue. In Britain, smokers contribute £9.3 billion to the State annually. The cost of treatment of smoking-related illness is around £1.5 billion. It isn't rocket science to realize that the balance is £7.8 billion. In other words, with the NHS neither treating smokers nor receiving any funds from them, making up the shortfall would have to come out of everyone's pocket: Around £5 a week from each of Britain's 30 million or so taxpayers.

If the British Government is actually serious about controlling tobacco consumption (which I doubt), perhaps laws to criminalise it should be introduced? Use, possession, trading and import of tobacco would become an offence. But that would involve an enormous loss in excise revenue wouldn't it? The British National Health Service annual budget in 2002-03 was around £65 billion. Most of this money comes from direct taxation, with tobacco revenue contributing to the remaining 10%. Even assuming that the remaining 10% is entirely tobacco related, that's smokers donating £6.5 billion a year, leaving £2.8 billion for Her Majesty's Government to spend elsewhere. Deduct £1.5 billion for treatment of lung cancer, emphysema and other smoke-related morbidities, and that still leaves £4 billion that the NHS wouldn't have if tobacco didn't exist.

What is next on the list of things to ban? Alcohol perhaps, or fatty food? Maybe those carcinogenic barbecues should be made illegal, along with all dairy products? While we're about it, isn't red meat supposedly too dangerous for the public to eat?

Incidentally, the new healthy lifestyle to be imposed upon us by law will inevitably result in huge numbers of healthy senior citizens, all gleefully drawing their pensions well into their nineties and beyond. Paid for by whom, exactly? Presumably the same people who who also pay Customs and Excise to keep tobacco out of the Sceptred Isle.

And my own smoking habit? I enjoy the occasional cigar and the even more occasional pipe. I also have a sheesha (nargileh, hubble-bubble) once in a while. Cigarettes? No thanks.


ThrashB said...

While you cannot argue with the maths, I will happily pay my £5 to be able to go to the pub and not come home smelling like an ash tray.

Smoking is an addiction, not a lifestyle choice. We could make up the shortfall by legalising and taxing crack cocaine, but I wouldn't recommend it.

The hardiest smokers I have yet seen were huddled outside of office buildings in Toronto in temperatures of fifteen degrees below, doubtless 'enjoying' their fix.

didaxis said...

I am not considered to be a smoker and many of my friends are surprised when I occasionally enjoy half a cigar with a brandy after a good meal. Is this simple pleasure to be taken away from me?

For many people smoking is an addiction but for others it is merely a habit and for a few, the moderate, occasional smoker it is a lifestyle choice.

Be that as it may, there neednt be a total ban on smoking in indoor public places for an individual to enjoy a night out away from cigarette fumes and the ash tray smell. You choose your venue, thats all. Supply and demand is a very strong motivator. Venues that are licensed for smoking, perhaps, should have stringent regulations regarding air conditioning and air cycling times. ok rather more expensive to the premises owner than a ban, but actually more effective as a public health measure.

What I object to is the all too heavy handed proscription of what is basically a recreation. Siilarly people choose to drink alcohol, and that is undoubtedly harmful in excess. There are laws that define where and by whom this may take place and thats fair enough. You may say that drinking doesnt affect the people around the drinker to the same extent that smokers do, but where excessive use of alcohol occurs there are often pools of vomit or urine and violent incidents in the streets from alcohol misuse, so in my view drinking is a good analogy with smoking.

As the grumpy goat says what are they going to ban next? Smokers are just the fashionable whipping boy at the moment. Someone the government can have a go at to pretend they care about the well-being of the populace without actually addressing any of the more serious, and yet less easy to address issues of public health.

Far more lives could be saved each year with a proper prostate cancer screeing programme than by banning smoking, but that just doesnt have the right image for the government to want to do anything about it

I am fed up with the nanny state telling me what I can and cannot do and punishing me, a law abiding citizen, for the wrongdoing of others. Because other people smoke to excess I cant enjoy a cigar after a meal occasionally. Because some people couldnt control their dogs everyone who owned a particular breed had to have them put down regardless of the beasts actual nature, because of some nutter shooting up a school the sport of target pistol shooting was outlawed, because of press paranoia about 'imitation weapons' the sport of airsoft is about to be banned in the Uk. Where will it end?

Are Sugar and Caffeine about to be made illegal too? Any dairy produce other than skimmed milk might be banned perhaps. Well there go my coffee and doughnut at lunchtime.

Anyone remember the comic 2000AD and Judge Dredd?



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