Personal freedom, or the nanny state? The ability to choose your pleasures – and poisons – or, instead, taking the advice and orders of those whose job it is to keep people healthy?
Today we report again on the rate of smoking in Portsmouth, and it’s disappointing to learn that it remains higher than the national average.
It’s also surprising, given that we have had almost a decade of the indoor smoking ban, and more and more legislation such as banning smoking in cars, so learn that almost one in five people in Portsmouth still smoke.
That seems a lot, but the disappointment comes with the surprise because, when it comes down to it, smoking remains a very dangerous habit.
Most doctors will tell you that the single most beneficial thing you can do to improve your health is to give up smoking. It’s not a wild claim to say that were tobacco discovered today, it would not be passed for general sale.
And that’s where the issue of personal freedom comes in. There will be some who proclaim their right to ingest what they want, when they want.
That’s a valid point of view, but when the effect of this can be as horrific as smoking-related illnesses can be, it’s equally valid to say in this case that that view is wrong.
There’s also the cost to the NHS of caring for those who may contract such diseases – a cost that is borne by everyone.
But more pressingly, in a city and region that does not score highly on health measurements, such as obesity, we do not want the smoking rate to be an additional factor weighing down on our population.
It’s glib to say that people should give up smoking as a new year resolution, as if saying this airily is the same as doing it. But it is also true that there is help available, and a lot of it is free.
The nickname the ‘nanny state’ is often used in a pejorative way, but nannies look out for you – that’s their job. And it would be great to see smoking rates continue to drop in our city –we want to see people be as healthy as they can be.