Priorities

So we’re now well beyond the implementation of the smoking ban. Has it been successful? It’s still too early to tell. However, unsatisfied with this major piece of legislation, the powers that be have decided that cramming another marginalising diktat down the throats of smokers is the best course of action.

Advisory board Health England last week proposed the introduction of a ‘smokers permit’ – a card allowing you to purchase tobacco and cigarettes. No card, no smokes. Costing £10 a year, the poor schmucks desperately craving some morsel of enjoyment from this otherwise Orwellian life will be required to fill in a lengthy form EVERY YEAR, the details of which would inevitably be put on a CD and posted to American for processing, never to be seen again. But I digress.

So, very fundamentally – what’s the point? Let’s be honest here – a tenner isn’t much of a disincentive if you’re a regular smoker, and filling in ridiculously complicated forms is something every Briton spends a large portion of their life doing anyway. So the end result? More lovely bags of cash for ministers to give their privately educated, lazy children? Or perhaps to fund firefighters in Falkirk, enabling them to respond to FOUR call outs a week by a grossly overweight man requesting they move him around in bed because he’s so fat that he is unable to move unaided.

Cats up tree jokes aside, this is farcical – but obesity is becoming more and more of a concern, not for health reasons, but for it’s increasing burden on the tax payer. And herein lies my complaint: why are smokers incessantly harangued by the health do-gooders when the morbidly obese are allowed to roam free through the aisles of supermarkets, stuffing fat laden treat after fat laden treat into their baskets?

Tobacco taxation amounts to £10.5 billion a year, whereas NHS spending on tobacco related diseases cost a considerably less £1.7 billion. In fact, over the course of their respective lifetimes, smokers cost the state less than non-smokers, namely because they die earlier. Obesity, however, is anticipated to cost the state £6.5 billion a year by 2050. How will that be paid for? The idea of a ‘fat tax’ has been bandied about, but implementation issues mean it’s something unlikely to ever come to fruition. So surely the only option then is to have the bill footed elsewhere?

Oh, wait…

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One thought on “Priorities

  1. It is all a bit Orwellian, and makes me feel quite uncomfortable, but the main idea seems to be to discourage people from smoking, and that’s got to be a good thing, surely?

    As for it making the government any money, if it only costs £10 a year, I expect that would cover the administration and not much more.

    And RE: healthy people costing the NHS more, the fact is that smokers unnecessarily die long, unpleasant, heavily medicated deaths. Looked after, if they are lucky enough to live in Winchester, by my dad, whose job, as a respiratory consultant, is 95% dealing with smoking related illnesses.

    Charlie Brooker (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/feb/18/guardiancolumnists) and Caitlin Moran (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/caitlin_moran/article3417131.ece) did good columns on the same subject.

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