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Opinion: Secret Thinker urges government to fast-track ban on smoking

Should the Government be allowed to decide how we live our lives?

If Rishi’s latest wheeze goes ahead, smoking will be banned and anyone aged 14 or younger will never legally buy cigarettes.

There are plans to gradually outlaw smoking. Picture: istock/Zang Rhong
There are plans to gradually outlaw smoking. Picture: istock/Zang Rhong

But is this going too far? Even if it’s damaging to our health, should we be free to make decisions for ourselves? What’s next, a ban on alcohol? America tried that in the 1920s and look how that went. Gambling is another vice which ruins lives – should that also be outlawed?

There’s a whole list of drugs which have been made illegal in an effort to protect us from ourselves but, as we all know, drug abuse is on the rise.

Some laws passed for our own good have been accepted reasonably well and quickly achieved a positive outcome. Very few people would climb into a car today without putting on a seatbelt but, believe it or not, when it was made law in 1983 some foolish folk felt it was an affront to their liberty and refused to comply. Fortunately such views died out swiftly and thousands of lives have been saved as a result.

Drink-driving, introduced in 1962, took much longer to catch on but today the majority of people see the sense of the law and now comply.

When you think about it sensibly, the position is simple – Government should only step in and ban us from doing something which will reduce our expected lifespan or impact upon our quality of life ahead of this date.

The government is planning a crackdown on smoking. Stock image.
The government is planning a crackdown on smoking. Stock image.

Smoking is the single leading preventable cause of mortality, leading to 64,000 deaths in England every year. Up to two-thirds of smokers die of smoking and those who start young lose an average of 10 years of life expectancy.

So, as a result, I’d argue the Government’s plans to reduce smoking don’t go anywhere near far enough.

Even putting aside the incredible strain it places upon the NHS, smoking should be banned for the undeniable damage it does to anyone who partakes. But, if the law is introduced as suggested, with the age of sale rising from 18 to 19 in 2027 and then by one year every year after that, it’ll be decades before it takes effect.

Currently there are 6.4 million smokers in the UK and even the Government best estimate is its new law will result in 1.7 million fewer people smoking in more than 50 years’ time! That’s a ridiculous timescale – we’ll have found many other ways to kill ourselves by 2075.

If we can set a future date to ban petrol and diesel cars to avoid them polluting the planet then surely we can set a date for smokers to stop polluting themselves. If we said 2030, that gives them seven years to get used to the idea and give up.

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