The government is persecuting smokers
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This time last week, the government (hereafter: Nanny) published its latest ‘Tobacco Control Plan’, absurdly titled Towards a Smokefree [sic] Generation. Yes, the Department of Health has modelled its style guide on a Newspeak dictionary. If further proof is needed, I refer you to point two under the section Our National Ambitions. Every child deserves the best start in life, so we aim, by the end of 2022 to: • Reduce the prevalence of smoking in pregnancy from 10.7% to 6% or less. (Where to begin? The report promises ‘a smoke-free pregnancy for all’, which is biologically impossible. And it defines ‘all’ as anything above 6%, thus rendering up to 6% of mothers – to say nothing of their unborn children – non-people.) The new plan hasn’t dropped the pretence upon which the smoking ban was based. It still speaks of the ‘risks’ of second-hand smoke, though they are virtually non-existent. It still claims that anti-smoking measures have been successful, but offers little by way of proof. (Christopher Snowdon does good work debunking many of these misleading claims.) But it has shifted the emphasis somewhat. It now focuses on ‘costs to society’; a class divide(!) in health and well-being, an overburdened NHS, etc. Let’s unpick one or two of its arguments. If Nanny is concerned about the cost to the NHS of smoking-related illnesses, which she estimates to be around £2.5bn, why doesn’t she put into the NHS £2.5bn of the £12bn direct tax revenue garnered from tobacco by the Treasury every year? Even the plan’s estimate of the ‘wider cost’ of tobacco, £11bn, is offset by the tax take. I’d be quite happy to know that the money I pay on fag duty has been earmarked for the health service. Better that than have it sucked up the trunk of one of Nanny’s white elephants, like HS2 (£55bn+) or Hinkley Point C (£37bn+).
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