Cancer Research UK Wants Only to Reduce Smoking
Cancer is a serious problem and a tragedy for those suffering from it and for their loved ones. Many cases are due to smoking which has rightly been called the biggest single preventable cause of death and disease. Therefore, it is pertinent to ask, what should the government do about it?
I am getting tired of repeatedly pointing out the obvious: the government should enact legislation to ban smoking.
Now, in March this year, three ‘Campaigns Ambassadors’ of the venerable Cancer Research UK organisation made an emotional appeal in the form of an open letter to the UK Health Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and asked members of the public to have their names included.
The letter is badly written and confused in its aims. Instead of the conventional opening, ‘Dear Messrs Barclay and Hunt’, they write ‘Dear Mr. Steve Barclay & Mr. Jeremy Hunt’ and end without any closing phrase such as ‘Yours sincerely’. Also, the way they put their names makes it look as if the letter comes from a firm of stockbrokers: Lynne, Kathy & Gower [sic].
Here are two representative quotes:
Two out of three people who smoke will die from smoking…we urge you to do more to protect friends, loved ones and the most vulnerable members of our society…Decisive Government action on tobacco is needed now to prevent more cancers…the Government has a huge responsibility to protect people who are at higher risk of tobacco-related harm.
We are particularly worried that as of the start of 2023 England does not have a Tobacco Control Plan…The UK Government has a duty to act to prevent young people from starting to smoke and fund stop smoking services to help people quit…it is not fair that while families have to suffer through painful cancer diagnoses and a cost-of-living crisis, the four largest tobacco manufacturers make around £900 million of profits in the UK each year.
Interspersed in the text are personal accounts of how some family members of the writers have suffered through cancer. This is a deplorable situation and the government should indeed take decisive action to stop it. But what is the letter’s bottom line, in both senses? It is this: ‘Together we can reduce smoking rates and beat cancer.’ Apart from the fact that even if no one smoked anymore, this would not of itself beat cancer, since many cancers occur in non-smokers including about one fifth of lung cancers.
But – and this is the point I have made repeatedly but no one seems to listen – what is the good of merely reducing smoking rates when smoking could be abolished?
Our good letter writers are asking for a new tobacco control plan. But, as I have also repeatedly asked without getting any reply, if tobacco is merely to be controlled, this implies there are some circumstances where smoking is legitimate or acceptable. And what, pray, are these?
Lynne, Kathy & Gower sound as if they are blaming the government for the harm people suffer through smoking. In a sense this is correct: the government is to blame for allowing such a dangerous and useless product as cigarettes to be on open sale in the first place.
Furthermore, it is all very well calling for more government help for smokers to quit, but by then it may be too late. Typically, smokers poison themselves with tobacco fumes for years or decades before they even think of ‘trying’, that is, failing, to quit. And what about the hundreds of thousands of young people who start smoking every year? Why do they do that? Because, again, cigarettes are everywhere on open sale. This is a scandal. The manufacture and sale of cigarettes should be abolished. Smoking is not a normal human activity with certain benefits and risks, like riding bicycles or rock climbing: it is legalised drug (nicotine) addiction.
Once again, I call on the UK government to abolish smoking by banning the manufacture and sale of tobacco products.
Text © Gabriel Symonds
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