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Smokers, the virtue signallers and the NHS – some inconvenient truths

Tom Winnifrith
Sunday 31 October 2021

As Angela Rayner has discovered, being a smoker in 2021 marks you out as something of a pariah among the liberal elites.  It is a sin. I write as a man who used to chuff my way through 20 a day so I am an ex sinner. But the facts are often forgotten as our betters try to stamp out this evil habit.  There was, this week, a suggestion that Nanny state should charge wicked smokers a levy to deal with the inevitable healthcare issues that their habit will cause.

Smoking tends to be more prevalent among lower socio-economic groups so any such levy would be a tax on the poor, a regressive measure. But I guess we have to fund an army of £75,000 a year NHS diversity and inclusion directors somehow.  But the real elephant in the room is that smokers already pay for their care via the tax on a packet of fags.  After the budget 20 Marlboro Light ( my preferred cancer stick in days gone by) costs a whopping £12.55 or 63p per fag.

I really cannot see how anybody can afford to smoke these days. Around two thirds of the price a smoker pay goes in specific tobacco taxes or VAT. In other words there is already a highly regressive tax system in place for this “sin good”. In the 20/21 financial year there was £9.9 billion collected in tobacco duty and VAT on fags would add another £4 billion to that. So smokers were generously handing over c£14 billion to the Government.

The cost of treating smoking related diseases to the NHS is £2.5 billion, plus another £1.4 billion for social care needs. Putting that in context, treating diseases caused by obesity costs £6 billion.  So smokers are already paying for themselves, and for the fatties and for c £4 billion of diviersity and inclusivity initiatives and officers and chipping in for inflation busting pay rises for the bone idle GPs now on an average screw of £100,000 a year.

Those are the facts. The real drain on the NHS are the health Nazis who pay few sin taxes as they do not drink or smoke and go on to live to 95 racking up vast fees as they are cared for in the final Alzheimers ridden years.  Maybe there should be a virtue tax on lettuce or tofu?

Meanwhile the lifetime cost of treating someone with HIV or Aids is astronomical – £400,000. The reality is that HIV is not a death sentence any more but something that, at vast cost, can be managed.  Most folks with HIV caught the disease by having unprotected sex. Is that so different from catching an illness from smoking. You know the risks but you did it anyway.  Where are the demands for a Bathhouse tax or a tinder/grindr tax?

According to the Terence Higgins Trust Of the 4,139 people diagnosed with HIV in the UK in 2019, 41% were gay or bisexual men. Of the 1,559 heterosexual people diagnosed with HIV in 2019, 37% were black African men and women. I know: how about a levy on gay men not in a monogamous relationship to pay for all Aids treatments? Of course that would be unfair and ludicrous but is a levy on all smokers who, let’s remember, already pay for their own cost of care, that much fairer or less ludicrous?

The other proposal this week was that the NHS pay for folks to vape or use e-cigarettes to wean them off the filthy cancer sticks.  The reality is that if you can afford £12.55 a day you can surely also afford to pay for vaping instead.  But as NHS managers are not spending their own money but merely the billions and billions the Government chucks down the bottomless pit, nobody seemed to think of that. Who cares? It is other folks cash after all.

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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