What’s up with ASH?
Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) in their 2008 report draw attention to a well-known but nonetheless shocking fact:
Products which are known to kill one in every two of their life-long users are available for sale in shops throughout the land.
What to do about this scandalous situation? The obvious thing they dismiss:
As banning tobacco products is not an option, the very best that tobacco control can do is to reduce the harm that tobacco inflicts on smokers…
Why is banning tobacco products not an option?
I wrote and asked them and got a reply from their Information Manager. The gist of it was that since currently (June 2016) about nine million people in the UK smoke, ‘It would therefore be extremely problematic to ban a substance that is used by so many people.’
It seems to me, that difficult though it might be, the fact that so many people in the UK smoke, is a reason for banning tobacco products, not a reason for not banning them.
Nonetheless, she puts forward another reason to try to justify not banning tobacco: the apparent success of other anti-smoking measures (high taxation, bans on smoking in public places, health education campaigns, discouraging children from smoking, etc.), which they believe has resulted in only 4% of children aged 11 to 15 in the UK now being regular smokers. But it should not be forgotten that the reason for this is because about 207,000 children start smoking every year in the UK. So that’s all right then.
Let’s look at this problem from the perspective of an editorial in The British Medical Journal (4 June 2016) titled ‘What comes after standardised packaging for tobacco?’ One of the main reasons for standardised packaging was protect children from starting to smoke.
This measure was enforced in Australia in 2012, since when smoking prevalence has fallen from 19.4% to 17.2%, but we are told standardised packaging may be responsible for only about 0.6% of this fall. We are also reminded that in the UK, ‘Although the prevalence of smoking has been falling by nearly 0.7 percentage points a year and is now under 19%, there are still nine million smokers in the UK’, as ASH acknowledges.
If this rate of reduction of smoking prevalence is sustained, it will take over twenty-seven years until there are no smokers left in the UK. And how many people will smoking kill in the meantime?
I submit we cannot not wait that long. Further, in my view it is immoral to let Big Tobacco carry on selling a poisonous – often lethal – product and do nothing to try and close down the tobacco factories.
Why is it that the tobacco controllers, including ASH, apparently regard tobacco as here to stay? Do they think there will be riots in the streets if there were moves to ban it? Are they afraid this would drive tobacco underground? And would it matter if it did? The only result would be a huge reduction in the number of smokers. As for those who might feel unable to cope with enforced withdrawal, salvation is at hand in e-cigarettes!
© Gabriel Symonds