Thursday, 16 September 2010

Of Scotland, Jamaica and health inequalities

Scotland saw a rash of stories today following this press release from ASH Scotland. The Courier warns starkly that 'anti-smoking targets will not be met'. The Scotsman says, Fear of Scots health divide as war on smoking fails poorest. (Did anyone really think a smoking ban would close the health inequalities gap? If there are more smokers at the bottom of the income scale, there will be more people suffering social disruption from those sections of society. The wealthy, even those who smoke, are relatively little inconvenienced by smoking bans if they have room to entertain at home. Being effectively marginalised from mainstream society does affect health: physical, mental and emotional.)

I enjoyed the take of Planet Politics on this situation. It confirmed my suspicion that all the smoking ban has managed to do was to 'rearrange the smoking deckchairs' (i.e. get people smoking at home instead of persuade them to stop smoking), rather than make any difference in anyone's health.

Indeed the ASH Scotland press release speaks of an 'increasing health inequalities gap'. That wasn't meant to happen, was it? Oh dear, the anti-smoking groups have been going on about health inequalities for years, but they just seem to be making things worse. Health inequalities are getting wider, not narrowing. I have to say that the idea that smoking causes health inequalities is somewhat blinkered, but that is what professional tobacco control advocates believe.

Meanwhile, Jamaica does not have a smoking ban yet and does not seem to have even announced one. But the Director of the Heart Foundation of Jamaica is clearly gunning for one. No apprehensions whatever about any adverse consequences. These words express plenty about the importance of narrowing health inequalities in the minds of ban advocates:
Those who continue smoking because of their addiction to the drug nicotine, an ingredient in cigarettes, will continue to do so in their homes, to the possible detriment of the health of those who live with them. But for non-smokers who enjoy the freedom of clean air and the health benefits of unpolluted lungs, smoking bans reduce exposure to second-hand smoke.  [my emphasis]
The bans effectively divide the interests of one section of the population from the rest. Non-smokers are more equal than everyone else.

1 comment:

Michael J. McFadden said...

So the Jamaica Director says, "But for non-smokers who enjoy the freedom of clean air and the health benefits of unpolluted lungs, smoking bans reduce exposure to second-hand smoke."

Really? I'd say it's the opposite. Those who "truly enjoy the benefits of clean air" would have been patronizing or working in smoking banned venues to begin with and would have had very few encounters with smoke. But after a ban they'll find themselves assaulted with smoke along every town sidewalk and probably even around the doorways and in the bathrooms of the now universal "smoke-free" businesses.

I have long argued that those who feel they are TRULY seriously affected by wisps of smoke should be fighting tooth and nail against smoking bans.

Michael J. McFadden
Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains"