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Updated on April 10, 2012


Successive Governments in the United Kingdom have vied with their predecessors to increase measures designed to protect the people from themselves. That most of the more draconian measures have failed bothers them not as they pile on legislation after legislation designed to fit their own interpretation of what will make them more popular and thus re-electable.

The latest offering from the current Coalition Government, keen to show that whatever party or combination of parties are in charge, there are no limits to trendy legislation that grabs headlines and sound bites but does not get to grips with the problem at hand.

Readers of these Hubs will recall that a few weeks ago, I presented arguments for the consideration of legalising drugs and thus bringing them away from the gangsters and into a form of regulated management as decades of banning the things had so clearly failed to stem the tide and the eventual cost not only to our Society but specifically our National Health Service. Now tobacco products have been under such legislation for years but as research has revealed undeniable proof of the harm they do to those using the products and those unfortunate to be consistently near to them over protracted periods, so has Government tinkering with the parameters under which individuals can put themselves into danger whilst swelling Government coffers via the Tax they pay on the things. The "Nanny State" has knickers in a real twist here for on the one hand it needs the tax revenue but on the other appreciates that eventually there will be a price to pay in treating the users.

September 8, 1988, is a date of significance to me for it was the day I accepted a £10 wager from my Doctor that I could never cease smoking. I did. Likewise, January 1 , 1999 has equal significance to my wife who made her own decision after a heavy New Year"s Eve had seen her over indulge. The point I am making here that the motivation in both our cases, though different was not at the intervention of the Nanny State. We both understood the research findings and realised that we would be better off in various ways from not using the things. It was hard to begin with but now we both cannot stand being around the smoke or indeed smokers who retain the smoke on their clothes and in their hair as many do.

Now, after many other measures have failed to stop many smoking, our Government has come up with the bright idea of continuing to allow sales in large shops like supermarkets only if they are not on show but behind blinds or under the counter. The idea is that without visibility, sales will fall and the young less likely to take up the habit. They said the same when they banned TV Advertising and Sport Sponsorship by Tobacco Companies. Those measures have failed and so this new gimmick is to lead us out of the smoke filled wilderness. I think not !

I am totally against Smoking in any form but that is a personal view. Others are as committed to removing Alcohol from our society. Each is entitled to their view from where I stand but Government has to take a broader and more considered view. Putting blinds on stocks in shops will fail as other measures brought in by Government have failed in the past to cure the addiction that Tobacco holds over many. In the same vein, raising the price of Alcohol, as I argued in an earlier Hub will not stop those wishing to over indulge ,so doing. We learn from History that total Prohibition also does not work, but serves only to assist gangsters to flourish and non regulated products harm people more than ever. The so called Nanny State seems only to make things worse for the very ones it seeks to protect against themselves.

The main thrust of Government attitude in the UK seems to be that it must take these measures not only to protect people from themselves but also, and chiefly to protect the Health Service from the enormous sums it has to pay to treat those suffering from self inflicted injuries and disease caused from the protracted use of products based on both Alcohol and Tobacco. There is a huge Anti Smoking/Smoking Cessation campaign on running here that costs millions but to date has scant rewards to show for a lot of effort. Personally, I and my wife also, both believe that to stop smoking requires personal motivation in whatever form suits the individual and that in this case, one "size" does not fit all. Nanny State measures cannot and will not find the solution to the problems.


Let no one be under any illusion, the cost to society in both material and other terms from the use of Tobacco and the abuse of Alcohol are enormous and will continue to rise regardless of the current half baked measures. However, the Health Service protection argument does not hold water for a very simple reason. Above Alcohol and Tobacco related diseases lies the ever bigger and ever increasing costs related to another self inflicted set of problems which, if unchecked, will put the other two well down in the cost league.Whilst some clearly are drinking and smoking themselves to death, far more are simply eating their way to it. However, along the way the costs they impose on the NHS dwarf all the others if allowed to go on unfettered.

For over a quarter of a century I have told anyone who cared to listen, that the Elephant in the Society Room was Obesity. I can recall as a young person being amazed at the Americans of enormous girth literally waddling along and wondered just how anyone could get into such a shape. Then, slowly at first but rapidly increasing, the UK caught up on the obesity waggon to the current shamefully position we now hold.

As a youngster we knew of one "fast food " outlet in the UK. It was called a Fish and Chip Sop ! Nowadays, we have fast food outlets from all over the world and many people now use them, and their heavily saturated fats, as a staple diet. As a result you can walk down any High Street and watch whole families waddling their way down for the next Burger. As with all things {save Tobacco, I think} there is no problem in eating fast foods in moderation but these days for far too may they, along with pre-prepared microwaveable meals, are the basic diet for a section of society that has long ceased to have any form of exercise, save for reaching for the TV remote control !

It is this section of society that will play even greater havoc than they already do with our Health Service in the years ahead unless and until, something positive is done. To me, all Smokers, excessive drinkers and the clinically overweight should be diagnosed at the Primary Care stage. GP"s should be able to institute specific tests and from them prescribe a clear programme to assist the patient in coming to both mental and physical terms with their condition and how to improve it. Then a period of monthly or bi-monthly checks be instituted to monitor progress or lack of it. From the outset, it would be made clear to the patient that failure to be involved and make demonstrable progress would alter and even negate, their right to treatment for diseases or ailments related to their condition. Thus, for example, alcoholics with liver disease, smokers with lung ailments and obese with diabetes etc would have to pay for their treatment until they have reached the requirements of the programme prescribed for them.

Now I see no chance of these measures being introduced simply because they would not be regarded as "vote winners" by the parties. That alone tells us something. Quite simply it is that more people are in these conditions than they would like us to know about.The smokers, the drunks and the obese hold the key to Government for the future in the UK as the natural progression unfolds. Don"t know about you, but it makes me fear fror my grandchildren, unless of course, as it is now, Government is nowhere near as important as it thinks it is.


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