The Brits are no quitters

Ok, a word of warning. This is going to be a somewhat controversial blog post. It is going to step well outside of my usual happy shiny comfort zone and possibly insult some people, possibly even people I love. My disclaimer is that if we’re going to give people the right to damage themselves in a way that costs the state to correct, it can be no great leap to acknowledge my right to freedom of speech. If you’re gonna kill yourself, I’m gonna complain about it. That’s my prerogative.

I have never been a smoker. I have smoked, yes, I have accepted cigarettes when offered in social situations. Almost exclusively (with the exception of a particularly stressful morning at university with the girls) after drinking. The last time I smoked was some years ago now – the smell and taste make me feel particularly sick so I don’t do it.The last time I was out in the company of smokers, I ended up giving in and getting up at 3am to wash my hair, because the smell was bothering me too much to sleep. It makes me feel horribly ill.

Because I’ve never been a smoker I accept that I don’t understand the pull of cigarettes. I accept that I don’t have an addictive personality and so cannot comprehend the difficulty quitting can pose. A smoking friend of mine recently informed me that it is more difficult to wean yourself off fags than off heroin – having no experience of either I can’t comment.

The BBC today are reporting on the life expectancy gap between the UK average and those in poorer communities. Apparently this gap is widening despite efforts to close it, and part of the problem has been identified as related to smoking. Smoking and poor diet are not being tackled readily enough by GPs, and the National Audit Office has recommended the government double the capacity of services to help people quit. GPs, the report says, should be encouraged to focus more attention on needier groups, where current quitting programmes are proving unsuccessful. The report appears to read in an almost accusatory manner, that the GPs are failing in their duty to save smokers from themselves. There is little or no blame apportioned to the choices individuals make.

Now, I’m all for educating the masses on the importance of diet and general good health. I recognise that, in the long run, teaching people how to look after themselves should save the country money. But I also accept that, even with education, many people choose not to treat their bodies with the respect they deserve. And as we extend our life expectancy, nature will continue to find new ways to kill us off. I don’t believe that cancer is any more common now than, say, a century ago, just that these days we live long enough and cure enough other formerly fatal diseases that it’s all that’s left! If we live long enough, cancer becomes inevitable.

I personally abuse my own body like you wouldn’t believe: I eat wheat although I know I’m intolerant to it, eat cake and chocolate although I know that they have no health benefits whatsoever and drink alcohol because I like the taste of wine and gin. (Not together, mind!) And I don’t get nearly enough exercise. I am overweight and frequently over-tired. It’s fair to say my body is no temple, and yes, that does make me a hypocrite!

Yet I have little sympathy for people who spend a minimum of £5 a week on cigarettes then claim that they can’t afford fresh fruit or veg for the kids. I could not afford to smoke, even if I wanted to, and it riles me that my tax pennies should be spent on those who spend their own money so freely!

*ASIDE: this probably grates a little more just now because I don’t quite see why my NHS money should be spent on those who choose to damage their health, while to keep my teeth healthy should cost me so much. Especially not when the dentist tells me that neglecting my gums now could cause heart problems later. So the end result is pretty similar.

**ASIDE 2: I also have huge problems with the obliviousness of some smokers with regards to where their smoke is going. I cannot count the number of times I’ve been walking down the street only to be hit in the face with the stuff as the person walking in front of me lights up. It makes me want to vomit, it makes my hair smell, and above all it draws attention to the complete lack of awareness all too often exhibited by modern society. It’s the last that make me really angry.


14 thoughts on “The Brits are no quitters

  1. Well said! I find smoking a hugely selfish activity for all the reasons you mentioned. Many smokers have no regard at all for non-smokers and pay no attention to where their smoke is going. The smoking ban has made a huge difference to me, I am far happier out in pubs etc now that there is no smoke. What bugs me now though is that smokers will go outside for a cig and not bother to ensure they have closed the door properly behind them, especially in the dead of winter. Again – selfishness.

    • The smoking ban came in just as I was planning my wedding, and all three of my bridesmaids were smokers. I can remember getting really wound up on occassion as we would be in a bar and they’d go out for a cigarrette leaving me to guard the drinks, seats and table. It was beyond infuriating at times, but because I adore my girls I would never say anything.

      I think that annoys me about it too – the fact that to say anything about someone smoking is confrontational and bad manners, yet to smoke is perfectly acceptable. Like it’s some sort of horrific disease that we should politely never mention…

  2. Like you I just do not know how people afford to smoke, I work full time and could not spare the money it costs to inhale those damn awful things. Another thing that grates on me about it isn’t so much the smoke but when you are walking down a high street and someone is carrying a fag at such a way that you have to dodge it so as not to end up with a cigarette hole in your frock.

    Good post… not insulting at all… but then i’m not a smoker. 🙂

    • Oh yes – I have been burned by smokers in the street, in bars and clubs (obv before the ban), both my hand and arm AND my clothes. I had many a pair of fairy wings destroyed by cigarrettes during my youth – I’m just glad I didn’t develop a taste for vintage until recently! Can you imagine the horror of a cigarrette burn in a lovingly preserved vintage dress?!

  3. Great post! In fact, I feel a rant coming on…

    As another non-smoker, I’m sure it’s not a surprise that I completely agree with you. I hate it when you’re left at a dinner table whilst everyone goes out for a ciggie. I hate smoke in my face when I’m out shopping. When I worked in an office, I hated the way some workers get so many more breaks because they smoke. Many acted like it was their right to have extra breaks as they’re addicted to nicotine.

    Overall though, I think there’s a really culture of blaming the government for all of our addictions and illnesses. Whether it’s obesity, drink, drugs or smoking, we all seem to feel the government and NHS should do everything possible to stop us. Shouldn’t the responsibility to stop these unhealthy habits be solely ours, rather than blaming external factors? I’d rather the money spent on these campaigns was spent on investing on medical research or the appalling elderly care system our country has.

    And yes, I’m a total hypocrite too as I’m carrying more weight then I should. But that’s my fault, not the fault of the government or society 🙂

    *end of rant* 😀

    • Agree entirely! And when people complain about their addiction (like Carrie in SATC) it REALLY annoys me. Because heroin addicts are addicted too – but I can’t see the boss letting them shoot up once an hour… 😀

  4. Amen! I detest smoking and I refuse to hire anyone at my office who smokes. I don’t want to have to smell it or let them take 600 smoke breaks a day. Thankfully, smoking is banned in all public buildings in my state. Unfortunately, it is not this way in all states, so I get quite confused when on vacation and asked whether I’d like to sit in a smoking or non-smoking section. I really just don’t have any sympathy for smokers, and if that makes me an insensitive bitch, well, so be it.

    • Oooh, see I don’t think you could get away with discriminating against smokers in the UK. As for the smoking vs non-smking sections – I’ve never understood that! It’s smoke – you can’t contain it to one bit of air! I used to hate in restaurants when seated near the smoking zone – it could very easily ruin a meal. 😦

  5. I fully agree with you my dear. I hate smoking and have never seen the appeal, and the antismoking campaigns annoy me too. There can’t be a single smoker left who isn’t aware of the damage it does to them and to the people around them. And you’re entirely right that addicts to something else wouldn’t get frequent breaks in the work day to indulge their habit! It’s a thoroughly selfish activity and it annoys me that I never feel able to tell smokers not to smoke around me.

  6. Good post – I am in complete agreement with you. What annoys me is the people who say ”For some people it’s the only pleasure they have” Get a life! if you stop smoking you might have spare cash to do something else more interesting and there are loads of free ‘pleasures’ in life.

  7. Hmm. I do agree with what’s been said here, however my thoughts are more complex. I used to smoke, and many of my family still do. So I do see both sides of the coin.

    I confess, I don’t think it’s necessarily a fair argument when everyone posting either doesn’t smoke or has never smoked – this is nobody’s fault I hasten to add, but it would be like me trying to back up a rant on being a cocaine addict. I can have all the opinions in the world, but none of them will be based on my own knowledge or experience….I hope you see my point?!

    Don’t get me wrong, the smoking ban is brilliant. I’m also glad I stopped smoking. I appreciate it’s only smoking that can actively harm someone’s health (ie passive smoking) but, well, I suppose I don’t think it’s for anyone to say what people can and can’t do. In the street? Fair enough, I can hold my breath for long enough. Your own home? Of course you can. However, shared public spaces are another matter, and it’s fine that it’s been banned in my book.

    I suppose I just think I do enough to my body, it’s not for me to say “how COULD you?!” to anyone else. Tax wise…well, we all fund some questionable/hateful things, and programmes helping people to quit smoking seem low on the list.

    I think I’m feeling too zen after my holiday!

    • This is why I put in the disclaimer – never have smoked, don’t have addictive personality, etc – because I am unaware of how it feels to be reliant on a substance. I am aware, however, of wanting to do or say things that might prove unpleasant to those around me, and of modifying my behaviour for the sake of others, which is something I don’t often see in those who smoke whose attitude is often “if you don’t like it, tough shit!”.

      I also feel that not having been on the other side of the fence doesn’t detract from the validity of my feelings on the matter. Not having been addictied to cigarrettes doesn’t remove my right to feel irate when smokers have no apparent respect for the non-smokers around, nor does it change the fact that I feel physically ill when in the presence of smoke.

      If people wanna smoke in their own home – absolutely, that’s their right! If they wanna smoke around their kids, I’m not afraid to say I’m going to seriously judge them for it, but again, it’s their right to do so. But some things should be kept behind closed doors – afterall, you can get arrested for having sex or even urinating in the street, and that arguably doesn’t damage anyone else’s (physical) health!

      Tax wise – yes, we do fund some hateful things, and I’m not saying it’s something we should be ignoring. But I do feel slightly annoyed that dental care, for example, costs so very much and has been linked to heart disease, yet anti-smoking programmes are afforded such a large proportion of funding. It is not our job to stop people from doing that damage to our bodies. I don’t see the government following me around slapping my wrist every time I reach for a chocolate bar instead of an apple.

      It’s a complicated topic with all sorts of layers and levels, and to argue it out in full would practically prove a dissertation… And no matter the arguments put forward on the smoker’s side, I’d still feel the same way because, as you say, I have no idea of the other side of the coin.

      See – I said it would be a controversial one! 😛


      • I think that making the decision not to smoke shouldn’t make you exempt from the debate. I have made an informed decision not to be a smoker and, while I will freely admit that I have never been addicted, that doesn’t mean that my opinions are not based on my own experience. They are, and not having been a smoker doesn’t make them any less valid.

        Sure, my tax contribution funds lots of hateful things. I’m not happy that my money is paying for an illegal war but that is a separate issue and a different debate. I agree with Caroline in that I’m not entirely happy that so much money is being devoted to helping people to stop smoking when this is something that is their responsibility. There is no government sponsored programme to help me stop drinking so much caffeine, and nor would I expect there to be. I know what’s going into my body and I don’t think it’s anyone else’s responsibility to save me from that.

  8. Hmm. I may have to leave this one I think – everything being said on all sides is perfectly valid, but I don’t want to end up being the “I smoked, I feel the pain!” side of the argument – ’tis a difficult one to balance in my book.

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