Thinking About: Smoking
There are many, many things I do not understand. What women think, why women cry, why people keep voting against their own interests and why, oh why do apparently otherwise intelligent people smoke?
Luckily I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life. I sometimes wonder if this was despite or because of the fact that both of my parents smoked for the first 20 or so years of my life – and in the house too! Neither my brother or sister smoke so I’m guessing that we were all put off the habit by watching our parents light-up and drag noxious substances into their lungs (and force us to breath the effluent) throughout our formative years. There’s still a joke in our house that when my mother gave up smoking after a prolonged stay in hospital, and then forced my father to give up so she wouldn’t be tempted back, that not only did they both have far more disposable income but that all of our house plants started crazy growth spurts, the dog became far more active and the household decorating bill dropped off dramatically, and that’s before you take any health benefits into consideration.
Despite decades of propaganda from the tobacco manufacturers it’s pretty well recognised that smoking cigarettes causes all kinds of health issues and is a major contributor to a whole host of cancers. People know this stuff and, these days, it’s hardly even disputed anymore. Yet people persist in buying and smoking the very thing that they know is in effect killing them. OK, I understand that nicotine is addictive. I get that. But people do give up even if the craving goes on far longer than most people expect. Addiction can be fought and fought successfully. Merely being addicted to a substance is no excuse to simply accept the fact and help it along in the digging of an early grave. I know people personally who have witnessed friends and family develop cancer, have life threatening operations and sometimes die because of smoking. Did that even give them pause in their personal smoking habits? Apparently not. My brother told me some years ago that when he was a taxi driver one of the other guys had to give up his job after developing lung cancer which eventually killed him. When his family came to visit him practically on his death bed some of them were smoking at the time! I still find that quite incredible. It certainly shows the power of denial present within the human mind. The belief that, all evidence to the contrary, continuing in a behaviour that has led to the death of countless adherents will not result in the same outcome. If that’s not a pretty good definition of insanity I don’t know what is.
I do struggle with the idea that rational or intelligent people can smoke. When I see them do so I have to question either their intelligence, their rationality or both. To be honest it makes me sad that people I like and respect continually and wilfully put their health in danger. It’d be like me playing Russian-roulette every morning, trying to justify it to other people and being surprised that my friends and family wanted to take the gun off me – or at the very least get me to stop putting it against my temple every morning. Personally I don’t think that the half-assed attempts by the government to get people to stop smoking go anywhere near far enough. Banning smoking in public places was a huge step forward but we need to go further. Smoking should be banned in all buildings and vehicles no matter if they’re public or private. Smoking should be banned within 5 metres of any child under 16. Cigarettes should have a price increase of at least 5% above the rate of inflation per year. This price increase (backdated at least 10 years) should be skimmed off the top and paid directly to the National Health Service to cope with smoking related diseases. Cigarette advertising should be banned in its entirety – which includes the irony of sports sponsorship. In effect smoking should be seen as socially unacceptable and personally irresponsible. Maybe one day it will be just that.