Smoking’s a fag: they die earlier and draw less in pension


NEWS that a Norfolk council proposes to make staff clock in and out for cigarette breaks and the subsequent furore it’s caused reminds me of a friend who recently moved from London to Madrid who’s also up in arms. Not, you understand, with Madrid, which she loves but, as a non-smoker who’s just become pregnant, with its anti-smoking laws – or, rather, their lack of enforcement.

And her situation isn’t helped by the latest sales figures. Sales of cigarettes have increased in Spain since anti-smoking laws became effective at the beginning of 2006.


Last year saw tobacconists netting sales of €12.5 billion, a growth of 1.4% on the previous year, according to the Ministry of the Economy.

However, it’s also true that anti-smoking laws are applied with considerable variation between regions.

She’s struck unlucky with Madrid, where the right-wing government often objects to any restrictions on individual freedoms, especially when they’re legislated by the socialist central government, and ignores many public health provisions.

In other words, a bit like trying to play croquet on a football pitch! In fact, maybe she’d be advised to move to Barcelona, where there’s a stricter application of this law and where bars and restaurants are designated as smoking/ non-smoking so at least she could choose.

On the whole, I think the anti-smoking laws are generally adhered to quite well in Andalucia. That said, anyone found smoking knowingly next to a pregnant person should, in my opinion, be heavily penalised.

Non-smokers should not be forced to inhale other people’s smoke in public places, although smokers should feel free to slowly kill themselves and their family/ friends in the comfort of their own homes.

Well, let’s face it, on average they die earlier and so draw less in pension.

They die more cheaply, not lingering on in homes with dementia at an estimated current cost to the UK – according to the Alzheimer’s Society – of £20 billion a year.

They pay £9 billion in tobacco tax each year –  almost one tenth of the NHS budget.

They smell like ash trays, have wrinkly skin and look like someone who’s been trapped in a lift for a week with Bruce Forsyth.

Now, I’m old enough to remember the battles in the UK when smokers ‘breathlessly’ explained how they couldn’t possibly get any work done at all unless they were allowed to smoke at their desks, or would go mental if they couldn’t light up in planes or on the Tube.

And has that happened? No!

Alcohol surely kills at least as many innocent victims in road traffic accidents and random, drunken assaults as tobacco does with passive smoking.

That’s why drink-driving is illegal – and so is assault, alcohol-fuelled or not. The tobacco industry has spent a fortune trying to disprove the effects of passive smoking, and convince smokers they’re a put-upon minority.

It preys on the poorest and most vulnerable in society, not just in the West but worldwide, encouraging them to become hooked as young as possible on a drug that’s highly addictive, kills them slowly but surely, but is only mildly euphoric.

That’s a pretty bad trade-off, if you ask me.


Nora Johnson’s novel, The De Clerambault Code ( available at Amazon. Profits to Cudeca



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