The rising cost of Smoking

An anti-smoking message painted on a pedestria...

An anti-smoking message painted on a pedestrian crossing in the Orchard Road area in . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The price of cigarettes is set to rise again, and while I support anti-smoking and awareness campaigns, I remain dubious that the prices will really put that many people off. This has been tried before and an addiction is an addiction whatever the price. Smokers already accumulate huge annual spending on their habit, yet this is not usually a sole reason for quitting, and one must want to quit to have the endurance to do so successfully.

My main concern is that smoking has been largely associated with poverty or low-income areas, where countless studies have shown that there are higher rates of smoking and obesity, and has been attributed to the fact junk food is generally cheaper than healthy foods, and a lack of sufficient education/awareness surrounding smoking and nutrition. This is despite research showing there are more smoking support facilities in lower-income areas, perhaps more to suit demand than strategically placed as a preventative measure. Will getting these people to spend more really help them? Would they be discouraged from smoking? Or merely encouraged to spend more on their addiction, and less on something more beneficial such as a decent meal.

Something I feel would have been more beneficial than hiking up the prices is the idea of having more graphic images on the packets. The proposed images include that of a smoker’s corpse in the morgue, which is of course extreme and controversial, hence this idea was rejected by the court as a violation of the consumer’s rights. But I happen to think that it is a consumer’s rights to know and see fully the reality of what they are buying into, doing to themselves, and what effect it will undoubtedly (not “maybe”) have on their body, it is not a lucky dip with which smoker doesn’t develop cancer, because regardless of cancer, all smokers will detriment and reduce their health and breathing capacity significantly. And rather than the packets saying “Smoking can kill you”, a more accurate summary would be “Smoking will kill you, sooner or later*” with the small-print “*Unless you get hit by a bus first”.

I’m also in full support of the idea discussed a while back in a BMJ article that postmortem/autopsy certificates should have a cause of death label ‘Smoking’, rather than just merely ‘lung cancer’ or similar, as some people develop these with no self-induced cause. It is already undeniable that smoking is the top cause of preventable death. So I leave you with that theme: prevention.

Smoking is preventable, as is the burden it has on the NHS, and the unavoidable health detriments it has on every smoker. Prevention is always better than cure, so I am not against the rising prices, but I am dubious as to its effectiveness on the socioeconomic groups they should be helping the most.

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Smoking around your children is a form of abuse

If this subject offends you, feel free to ignore. But regardless of passive smoking, children’s attitudes to their parents smoking exist and shouldn’t be ignored, a good article I read in December 2011 is here. Attitudes to smoking are changing, let’s hope this continues. The way I see it is simple; if one person in a room has a drink it does not get everyone else in the room drunk, but if a smoker lights up a cigarette everyone in that room is forced to smoke it. And for those who argue ‘they are free to leave the room,’ what if it is a child in their own home? A seven year old child can’t very well pack their bags and leave home to avoid it, in fact they would have built up some unknowing level of addiction themselves from inhaling multiple packs per year. Second hand smoke in a room can contain enough toxic chemicals to equate to 10 cigarettes.

Yet there’s this attitude some smokers have: “I’m not addicted I can quit anytime I want” or “passive smoking can’t be that harmful or they wouldn’t survive past 50 or 60” or even “It won’t happen to me, I won’t get the big C word,” the ‘C’ being Cancer of course, and a level of naivety suggesting that some believe the only risk of smoking is lung cancer or dying young. It is true that not every smoker will develop cancer or die young, but every smoker will develop nicotine addiction and detriment their health, there are no exceptions. The only variable is to what extent their health will suffer, and when. You can always tell a long-term smoker from a non-smoker, the coughing, or the way they get out of breath going up stairs, the way it limits them whether they deny it or not. Even an unfit, obese non-smoker who gets out of breath the same way does not have that phlegm-filled rattling breathing of a long-term heavy smoker, though obesity is just as big a problem, and has caused controversy of its own when morbidly obese children overfed by their parents have been temporarily taken into care, returned when a healthy eating plan has been put into place (I am not advocating this, just mentioning its relevance.)

We can no longer claim complete ignorance; images of blackened lungs adorn our cigarette packets, and we are not sold the supposition that ‘smoking is good for your health’, you will have whiter teeth, be more sexy or sophisticated, this type of advertisement was abolished, and goes beyond the irony of the Marlboro man dying from lung cancer.

But I’m getting ahead of myself; this post is not to preach anti-smoking, just anti-smoking around your children. I know many smokers who have the decency and sense to smoke outside so that their children or partners are not forced to inhale it, and especially not in an enclosed space like a car. Yet in the area I live in I am confronted by all sorts of shocking images: pregnant mothers-to-be walking down the street casually smoking, fathers walking with their young children shrouded in a cloud of their smoke, and parents kneeling to check on their infant in the pram, exhaling their cigarette smoke right in their child’s face. This sickens me beyond words.

Smoke as much as you want, it’s a free world, but don’t subject your child to it before they’re old enough to decide to avoid it or take it up themselves. In other words, when your ‘human rights’ impede on your child’s in a way that damages their physical wellbeing it is simply wrong. It is not just your own health you are risking, it is theirs, and there is no ‘maybe’ or ‘but…’ about it, this is not some debateable philosophical question, it is the cold hard facts of scientific research into smoking which we are privileged to be in possession of. My sympathy is with the people of the past who were lied to by advertisements, tricked into smoking without the health facts and unable to make an informed choice, and with the children of our current generation still forced to be non-consensual smokers.

Even if your non-consensual (passive) smoker child does not develop a life threatening or long-term condition such as cancer, bronchitis, asthma, or infection, they will develop some level of addiction and a higher risk of taking up smoking later in life, and why risk it? As parent or guardian to your child these are the type of the risks and dangers your child deserves to be protected from, not have inflicted upon them.

It is not debateable or deniable that smoking harms your health (to whatever extent), it is therefore not deniable that smoking around your children is an abusive risk to their health undertaken by an adult responsible for protecting their children from harm.

This is not meant to be an eloquent, witty or controversial piece of writing, it is a rant. Rant over.