Saturday, 27 September 2008

A Picture Of Health

Cigarette packets have long carried health warnings along the lines of "SMOKING KILLS" and other such dire doom-sayings designed to make us kick the habit. I've always thought they were fairly pointless, in that most smokers know exactly what they're doing, and have no intention of stopping, thank you very much.

On the other hand, they're relatively unobtrusive and might be a handy hint for the terminally clueless, 90,000 of whom have apparently called the NHS Smoking Helpline as a result. Good for them! If that's what they want to do, I'm really happy for them, though I don't see why they should need a health warning on the damn packet to motivate them.

But, like all do-gooding dimwits, the Department of Health can't be happy with this "success". Oh no, they have to go further. And so, according to the Sun, cigarette packets will soon be adorned with charming pictures of dead people and rotting lungs and other, equally pleasant images.

If ordinary people chose to thrust pictures of blood-and-guts surgery, or the occupants of mortuary slabs or similarly gory imagery onto their neighbours, questions would be asked about their mental wellbeing. Relatively healthy, not to say attractive bodies are consigned to the top shelf and hidden under plain wrappings lest Joe and Josephine Public should be led astray by the sight of boobs and biceps. But it's OK for the Department of Health to show us all these horrible pictures "for our own good" to "educate" us into giving up something that smokers enjoy and VOLUNTARILY choose to do, in full knowledge of the risks.

This constant interference with freedom of choice is not acceptable. Under New Labour, standards of education have declined to the extent that many people now cannot read, and this may go some way towards explaining the need for these pictures, but government - and medical - intervention in every aspect of our daily lives cannot be allowed to continue. Anyone with an ounce of common sense knows what is, and is not good for them, what they should, and should not do. We are capable of making our own choices, and do not need the nanny state to impose its own choices upon us.

Sadly, even the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, is in on the act. He says, "I welcome the introduction of picture warnings on tobacco product packaging, which show smokers the grim reality of the effects smoking can have on their health. " Good GOD, we already KNOW you foolish little man!

Unfortunately, the CMO still seems to be under the mistaken belief that doctors must be taken seriously because they (think) they know what's good for the rest of us. And maybe (they're not smart enough to be more certain than "maybe") they do, on a technical level. But it is not their job to preach that knowledge to those who don't give a bugger. Their job - for which the taxpayer pays them rather more than they're worth - is simply to fix the resulting problems with speed and competence. Perhaps, if a few more of them got down off their soapboxes and back to work, they might be able to do that more effectively.

Billy Seggars.

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