Ambition should be made of sterner stuff
In November 2022 the UK government put out a document with the hyphen-challenged title, The Smokefree 2030 ambition for England. The ‘ambition’ is to make England smoke-free by 2030, but they do not mean that after this date no one in England will smoke; they mean the smoking prevalence will be no more than 5 per cent of the adult population. But if this is achieved, there will still be over 2 million smokers in England – hardly smoke-free.
One can see the wrongheadedness of their approach in the four summary points:
- Reducing the uptake of smoking in young people
- Reducing the prevalence of smoking in pregnancy
- Supporting people with mental health conditions to quit smoking
- Supporting evidence-based innovations to help people quit smoking
What’s the good of merely reducing the uptake of smoking in young people and the prevalence of smoking in pregnancy? The uptake of smoking in young people and the prevalence of smoking in pregnancy need to be abolished. And how patronising to single out people with mental health conditions as being in need of ‘support’ to quit smoking as if they’re less intelligent or capable than smokers fortunate enough not to have mental health conditions.
Then we have the idea of ‘supporting evidence-based innovations to help people quit smoking’. This is careless writing. It’s not the evidence-based innovations that need support, but the people who need help to quit smoking. Presumably they’re trying to say, ‘Supporting people to help them quit smoking with evidence-based innovations’. (Sigh.) What innovations are they referring to? They could simply say ‘supporting people to quit smoking’, or ‘helping people to quit smoking’.
Next, they quote from and comment approvingly on the Khan Review – a badly written, over-long, ill thought out, and impractical plan to ‘make smoking obsolete’. Unfortunately, Dr Khan’s ideas will achieve nothing of the sort, as I explain here.
The paper continues with a platitude, reminding us of the unfortunate fact that ‘Smoking is a [sic] leading preventable cause of illness and death.’ Well, if it’s only a leading preventable cause, etc., then what other leading preventable causes, etc., are there? Perhaps they mean that smoking is the leading preventable cause of illness and death. Then why don’t they say so?
In this paper they also refer to a report of the government’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health, published in 2021, in which recommendations on ‘Setting course for a Smokefree 2030’ are repeated; some of these are worthy of comment
1. Legislate to make tobacco manufacturers pay for a Smokefree Fund to bring and end to smoking.
Do they really mean to make tobacco manufacturers pay to put themselves out of business? And about time too. But this seems to be contradicted by what comes next.
2. Take our place on the world stage a global leader in tobacco control.
Now they’re now only talking of tobacco control rather than bringing an end to smoking. (And if it’s the ‘world stage’ they don’t need to say ‘global’ as well.)
4. Deliver anti-smoking behaviour change campaigns targeted at routine and manual and unemployed smokers.
Can’t they think of a better word than ‘deliver’ in this context? That apart, this recommendation is meaningless. What are routine unemployed smokers?
5. Ensure all smokers are advised to quit at least annually and given opt-out referral to Stop Smoking Services.
Advised to quit at least annually or advised at least annually to quit? Either way it’s meaningless. And how are they going to ensure that all smokers are given this advice?
Instead of working towards the one and only sensible solution, banning tobacco sales, or even talking about it, they pussyfoot around the problem by calling for a new Tobacco Control Plan. Tobacco doesn’t need to be controlled: it needs to be abolished.
I am getting tired of repeating myself, but for new readers of my posts I shall do so once more. To talk of tobacco control implies that there are circumstances where tobacco use (smoking) is legitimate or acceptable. And what, pray, are these? Would someone please enlighten me?
Text © Gabriel Symonds
The title is from Julius Caesar