Chad columnist Roy Bainton: smokers pay the health bill

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I have an admission to make. I’m a smoker.

I joined the Merchant Navy on my 16th birthday in 1959 when 200 duty-free cigarettes cost about 50p.

Just about everybody smoked, and it made me feel ‘grown up’.

In the years since, there have been periods, often lasting weeks or months, where I gave it up.

I even attended Mansfield’s New Leaf Clinic for three months and was presented with a Non-Smoker certificate.

Yet old habits die hard, and to be honest, I have always enjoyed a nice cigar or a roll-up. But now that British pub culture has been killed off, I am tired of standing out in the cold for my pleasure, being made to feel like a leper.

In October the Government’s next big stop smoking drive is upon us. It is called Stoptober and the idea is if you can stop for 28 days, you are five times more likely to stop for good.

So, with the mutual support of my smoking neighbour across the street, we shall give it a try. Maybe this time I might do it.

I have tried the patches. Best thing you can do with them is put them over your eyes so you cannot see where your fags are.

The nicotine gum? That’s addictive too, and expensive. E-cigarettes? I have three. They’re as much use as a chocolate tea-pot. But we all know that tobacco is a ‘bad thing’, and if you contact the Department of Health, they will tell you: “Smoking is the largest single cause of preventable illness and premature death in the UK. It kills 106,000 people every year and costs the British taxpayer more than £1.7billion a year.

“It causes 84 per cent of deaths from lung cancer and 83 per cent of deaths from chronic obstructive lung disease, including bronchitis”

That is bad news. However, my residual affection for tobacco inspires me to make a few points about smokers.

First of all, let us consider the hypocrisy of our politicians. Cannabis is an illegal drug, as are many others. You cannot buy them in shops.

Yet an industry which is proven to cause the death of 106,000 UK residents every year is allowed to function legally.

It has too many investors and shareholders - some of them in Parliament - to suffer any serious legislation.

The total health budget for the NHS in the UK for 2012-13 was around £125 billion.

When anti-smoking zealots trot out their line ‘smokers should not be treated on the NHS’, they forget. Through National Insurance, we, like everyone else, have paid at the door.

Figures from HMRC show that the revenue from tobacco duty for the same period was £12.3 billion.

Subtract the £1.7 billion smoking illness consumes, and it is plain that smokers are annually contributing over £10 billion to the exchequer.

That would pay for the complete NHS bill for Scotland.

It is worth mentioning too that obesity is costing the NHS £6 billion per year, but I do not have to stand outside to eat a sausage roll.