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Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Downside of Anti-Smoking: Why we Shouldn't Stigmatise Cigarettes

Inspired by the April tax-hike on tobacco, I decided to weigh in on the issue itself.

How far we have come in the 21st century in the realm of Western politics. We have a center-right political party making decisions based on "encouraging good habits". Inherently, this is nanny state social policy wrapped in a sandwich of thin-crusted,  pseudo-fiscal conservatism.

As a former smoker, I have a certain amount of comradeship with those wheezing bastards. And one thing you can't help but notice, is a relentless campaign of demonising smokers disproportionately in society. Indeed, I would not be surprised to see an advert cursing the evils of smoking, followed a few adverts later glorifying the taste of Steinlager.

Probable hyperbole aside, I have found a lot of shared attributes of the most vocal and ardent non-smokers, for instance, a strong desire to be "healthy", with the over-inflated, media-enforced, alleged serious negative effects of second-hand smoke, and usually possessing an overweight or underweight build, unhealthy drinking habits, or some kind of psychological chip-on-the-shoulder, or a state-sponsored smug sense of moral-superiority, transmitted by socially sponsored anti-smoker sentiment.

Many anti-smokers will decry the costs that smokers inflict on society with their self-inflicted diseases, and that the public shouldn't have to foot the bill. After all, they're smokers.

But what benefit does the government derive from dissuading people from smoking? Obviously less tax revenue from cigarette sales, is an obvious one. One might argue, "But that is dismal compared to the cost smokers cost our health system!" Not so. Another issue few factor in, when balancing the costs and benefits of smoking, is the fact we have an aging population. This aging population, currently sitting at around 78 for men, and 82 for women as seen below, is a massive drain on the economy via pensions, especially consider that women nowadays aren't having enough kids to replace our own population and the coming pensioner-ship Baby Boom exasperating the issue further. 

Source: Statistics New Zealand:
According to mainstream medical numbers, smokers die 10 years earlier, which, if this is the case, will cause a windfall for society via dying earlier, as the Czechs have found. A morbid benefit from a bad habit? Maybe. But statistics don't lie. Not to mention the fact that tobacco smoking is non intoxicating substance, making it suitable for smokers to work and function as a normal, productive member of society, at least in the vast majority of cases.

The Myth of Life Eternal:

Anti-Smoker's attitude: "People don't even want to smoke, because of seeing all of the terrible things and diseases that happen to smokers. People have become more health conscious and aware of what can harm them, and they want to avoid being old and decrepit."

I'll let Bill Hicks answer that.

"...I'm gonna tell you non-smokers right now, that I know for a fact that you don't know. And I delight in telling my brothers things they don't know, particularity when they're true... Which this is. Ready? Drum roll......
Non-smokers die.. Every day. Sleep tight!
You see I know you entertain some type of eternal life fantasy because you choose not to smoke, let me be the first to POP that bubble, and send you hurdling back to reality... You're dead too..."


Pat Hannagan said...

Ha, good one Johnny. I should declare now...I'm a smoker!

When Rudd raised the tax, I broke into a cold sweat, hoarded and then, luckily, Coles started improting German "no name" style cigarettes that still cost me $11.45 a pack. They're called "Deal". Deal or no deal.

I think the smoking population is down to 20%, the bulk of them working class or low class unemployed types. With the always rising tax on beer, and the "inevitable" carbon tax, one would think that the ALP hates, absolutely hates, its traditional voters.

And the Libs are too stupid to pick up on that fact.

My understanding is that the govt recoups way more in tax than it expends on health services for smokers. Yet the anti-smokers still complain. It is, as you said, a moral issue for them.

I've given up 3 times, the first for a week and the two other times for a year to two years. Those times after reading Allen Carr's "Easy Way". I'm about to read it again. They key is to hypnotise yourself into loving the idea of quitting. That what defeats the quitter is the idea that a) he's not quitting ut becoming finally free and b) each time the pang comes on to, celebrate the fact that you are now free. To say and feel to yourself "Yippee, I'm a non smoker!"

It works, but, in my case, not forever. How did you give up? I started smoking when I was in 4th grade, on and off till I hit it full time at about the age of 18.

I've heard good things about Bill Hicks and will try him again on your recommendation.

Here's a song totally in concert with your theme:

JD said...

The best tactic is none of this spiritual mumbo jumbo, its about decreasing the amount you smoke slowly, setting limits, putting barriers around smoking, like, I'd put my gear in different rooms (papers, tobacco, filters, lighter), or not take cigarettes with me when I went out. It's only been a month, but the odd thing is, I rarely, if ever, think about smoking now. Maybe when I drink about. You unfortunately have to learn to hate it, in a way. I just associate it with a bad taste in my mouth, now.

Having said that, I was down to about 2 a day before I quit for about 2 months. If you can do that, you know you're ready. Its different to when I "gave up" before, I've only been at it for 4-5 years or so.

Pat Hannagan said...

I tried to limit myself but it doesn't work for me. I'm an all or nothing fella.

Fear of not smoking is my greatest fear. Gotta conquer that by embracing it, and celebrating it. I know that works for me. it.

JD said...

Btw, Bill Hicks has some laugh-worthy stuff, but be warned: Bit of a leftist comedian.

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