Misunderstanding the Smoking Problem

The current woeful state of understanding of the smoking problem is shown in the online Daily News (10 March 2020) of the UK charity, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).

According to this, Mr Ciaran Osborne, who as ASH’s director of policy and communications ought to know what he is talking about, apparently thinks that what smokers need is inspiration. And if they can be inspired, it is not as if they will forthwith quit smoking; they may merely ‘give quitting a chance’.

But then grammar and clarity of expression are not Mr Osborne’s strong points. He declares, ‘There are a bunch of ways that people can help themselves be successful if they try to quit…’

You can say a bunch of flowers or bananas, or a lovely bunch of coconuts, but a bunch of ways? In any case, he’s using a singular noun with a plural verb. He should say: ‘There is a bunch of ways that people…’ Perhaps he intended to say, ‘There are several ways in which people can succeed in quitting smoking.’

The sentence about the bunch continues: ‘…that people can help themselves be successful if they try to quit.’ Alas, how can ASH’s director of policy and communications have so little understanding of the nature of smoking? The notion of ‘trying to quit’ is meaningless: you either smoke or you don’t.

Mr Osborne also pronounces on e-cigarettes: ‘They are a kind of nicotine delivery method, so people who are addicted to nicotine can use them to manage their nicotine cravings.’

All smokers, by definition, are addicted to nicotine. But Mr Osborne’s remarks could be taken to imply there are two kinds of smokers: those who are addicted to nicotine and those who aren’t. Then he seems to believe that smokers, at any rate the nicotine-addicted kind, will have ‘cravings’ that will need to be ‘managed’.

In AHS’s Daily News of 13 March 2020 we have a comment from a Dr Punam Krishan, who seems to be a locum GP in Glasgow, which similarly displays ignorance of the smoking problem, not to say a questionable understanding of epidemiology: ‘One of the risk factors that increases your chances of getting lung infections like pneumonia, flu and now coronavirus is smoking.’ Presumably what she is trying to say is: Smoking increases your chances of getting pneumonia from flu and coronavirus infection.

She goes on: ‘In light of the rapidly spreading cases of coronavirus which targets (sic) the lungs, if ever there was an incentive to try quit, now was it!’ The last three words should be recast to read, ‘it is now!’

What dear Dr Krishan likewise appears not to understand is that the reason smokers smoke is not because they lack incentives to quit: it is because of drug (nicotine) addiction.

She concludes, not exactly helpfully, with: ‘For anyone who is reading this and is a smoker, I urge you to seek help and push yourself to try and quit. It is not easy…’

In similar vein, we can find a publication of an organisation called the Smokfree Action Coalition (which, they say, is ‘facilitated’ by ASH) called  ‘Roadmap to a Smokefree 2030’. I’m always sceptical of anything that charactises itself in this way, like a Roadmap to peace in the middle east; it means there is no peace.

By smokefree (a neologism) they don’t mean smoke-free; they mean a smoking prevalence in Britain by 2030 of 5 per cent. There are 54.5 million people in the UK aged 15 and upwards, so if the 5 per cent target is reached in ten years’ time, there will still be 2.8 million smokers—hardly a smoke-free country with one in twenty people smoking.

The document says the target will be ‘extremely challenging’. Why not just say it will be challenging, or that is will be difficult to achieve?

One bright idea is put forth as a cliché: they want one of the options to be considered for revenue raising to be the ‘polluter pays’ approach. By this they don’t mean forcing Big Tobacco to pay for the costs of picking up discarded cigarette butts and reversing, as far as possible, related environment damage, though this wouldn’t be a bad idea; they want Big Tobacco to ‘be forced to pay the price to end the smoking epidemic.’ Do they mean they want Big Tobacco to pay to put itself out of business? Then why don’t they say so?

How can the smoking epidemic be ended while cigarettes remain legally on sale in every corner shop and supermarket?

The only way to ‘make smoking history’ is to ban the sale of tobacco.

Text © Gabriel Symonds

Gabriel Symonds

Dr Gabriel Symonds is a British doctor living in Japan who is interested in helping smokers quit. He has developed a unique simple method without nicotine, drugs, hypnosis or gimmicks that he has used successfully with hundreds of smokers. Further information can be found at www.nicotinemonkey.com

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