Wednesday, June 06, 2007

I don't like cigarettes, but the smoking ban stinks

There is less than a month to go before the smoking ban, and there is talk of free medication on the NHS to help people quit smoking. In liberal circles, cigarettes have become the new social menace, but the whole thing leaves a nasty taste in my mouth.

Yes, smoking is a dirty habit and kills thousands of people each year, and yes, many are also killed by secondary smoke, but why not just set aside designated areas for smokers?

I've heard all the nanny-state arguments before. That we want to protect smokers from themselves, that it will save the NHS billions of pounds, but it all smacks of hypocrisy.

All the while that we are banishing smokers outdoors, we are letting the country drink itself to death. Britain is currently suffering from an epedemic of alcohol addiction and little is being done to stop it. The government have offered little more than improved labelling of alcohol products.

There is a deep rooted culture of binge drinking that cannot be easily changed (how do you hear the expression on British soaps: "Lets get hammered"). Whether Britons are in the mood for celebration, or whether they want to drown their sorrows, the solution is always the bottle, and it is going to cost the health service billions of pounds. Then there is the cost to the economy in general through days lost to sick leave, and the social cost of reduced life expectancy.

There are of course things that can be done such as curbs on advertising and heavy taxation of alcohol, but that is something politicians wouldn't dare to do. Just as the Americans have their right to bear arms, the bottle has become Britain's second ammendment. No one would dare to take it away from them.

There is now talk of denying certain treatments on the NHS to smokers. When thousands of Britons start suffering from liver failure as a result of binge drinking, will the NHS deny them treatment too?