LETTER: E-cigarettes - scandalous and unfair

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Making e-cigarettes free on the NHS is both scandalous and unfair.

Out of ignorance, and encouraged by a much older boy I looked-up to, basically telling me cigarettes were good for you and it was okay because grown-ups smoked, I started smoking at age 11 in 1959.

Then, as a teenager, and a keen athlete and cyclist: after studying a friend’s Charles Atlas body builder programme, I saw the light. However, despite many efforts to give-up smoking, I was 26 before I managed it, and not with drugs and e-cigarettes – with willpower; largely helped my determination to be a champion cyclist. Although I didn’t quite manage it, I’m certainly a champion in the eyes of my children and grandchildren.

But come four years ago, despite my best efforts to stay fit and healthy, I was diagnosed with dermatitis herpetphormis, a very itchy, and debilititating blistering of the skin caused by gluten intolerance, which caused me many sleepless nights, and because I couldn’t eat anything with wheat in it, my cycling fitness/power was drastically reduced.

Initially, gluten-free bread was available on prescription, and because I was a keen cyclist, my dermatologist prescribed a higher than standard amount for me. Then in January 2017, to save money, gluten-free products where scrapped.

Now, I have to pay £3 for a terrible tasting loaf of bread, which lasts two days, and which I take with me on bike rides, for when I make café stops to refuel, for chance the café doesn’t have gluten free bread.

Accordingly, if a person that has given their best to stay fit and healthy can’t have free gluten-free bread – the staff of life: considered as one of the most important foods we eat – why should weak-minded smokers have free e-cigarettes?

To make matters worse: as a cyclist, despite not contributing to the UKs congestion problem, costing our economy £40 billion a year, a study has shown, I have next to no right on the road, i.e. smokers in motor vehicles, are allowed to exceed speed limits by 10 per cent plus 2mph, even in treacherous driving conditions, and where the highway code advises drivers to allow 1.5 metres, (5ft), when passing cyclists, it’s only advisory. In reality, it means drivers can drive as close to cyclists as they see fit; which could mean a smoker – maybe puffing on an e-cigarette – in an HGV, can get as close as 12 inches to a cyclist; while driving at more than 50mph; even in treacherous driving conditions. In short: the price I’ve paid for doing my best to stay fit and healthy, is having been knocked-off my bike 12 times; suffering a traumatic brain injury at the hands of a negligent driver; losing five cycling pals to driver error, (more than 100 cyclists are killed each year), and having to tolerate no end of intimidation and abuse, e.g. “You’ve no right being on the road, you don’t pay road tax.” While the government has said a record £23bn is being invested to ease congestion; Inrix chief economist Dr Graham Cookson has called for innovative approaches to deal with the “astonishing” cost of congestion that takes “billions out of the economy”.What Public Health England should be doing, is calling for zero tolerance of both smoking whilst driving, and speeding, and for Bikeability – cycling proficiency for the 21st Century – to be made an integral part of the driving test. NOT make E-cigarettes free on the NHS. For no matter how much cycle training you give a child, they can never be safe/healthy cyclists – pollution doesn’t help – and therefore grow into healthy adults, as long as we have weak-willed and lawless drivers on our roads!

Allan Ramsay

By email