Aug 06 2008

Tobacco – why we are still suffering

Category: GeneralDave @ 21:19

The anti-cancer campaign in the UK has had quite a bit of success in their campaign against tobacco advertising. True, it almost killed Formula 1 car racing but that has a limited shelf life anyway – it can’t last much longer in its current form (but that’s another story…). However, the latest thrust is to reduce the insidious advertising directed straight at young people, including those too young to buy tobacco yet. This focusses on point-of-sale issues such as posters in shops, especially small tobacconists, and the attractiveness of the pack which can carry images designed to attract younger purchasers. The anti-cancer people want to have the posters banned and the packs made plain black-and-white with no attractive images, etc. All very well and good and I for one have signed the petition to the UK government to further these aims.

However, I would prefer to see a swift move towards the total banning of all tobacco products and their classification as a class A drug. Tobacco kills and maims and does at least as much total damage to the population as cocaine. And yet it’s still legal to sell the stuff. It’s obvious why: the tobacco companies would go bust, at least in the UK, sending shocks through the stock markets; the government would lose massive tax income. In short, those results would send the UK economy into a tailspin. As an aside,it’s already almost in one so this would be a really bad time to push it even harder in that direction.

I understand the economic reasons why tobacco has not been banned in the past and totally disagree with them. I regard this a classic case of “big business” being given priority over the general populace: the government knows how bad tobacco is but it’s inconvenient for them to do anything about it. As long as the tax collected on tobacco products exceeds the cost to the NHS of tobacco-related illness they won’t disturb the status quo. I doubt they take into account, however, the additional cost to the economy of all the tobacco-related illness sick days taken. I suspect the Civil Service has a hand in this – senior civil servants would have a very rough ride if the government of the day really tried to put an end to tobacco.

So, to me, this issue is a prime example of why, in general, government cannot be trusted.

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