Monday, 13 June 2011

Dutch cut back on smoking cessation

I have learned over the last few years to become very cautious on the issue of universal health benefits – getting all medication free at point of need. Being congenitally hypothyroid I got everything I needed (for that condition) free even before the Scottish Government made everything free. The point is that I believe everyone should have the right to life-saving drugs – the problem is that when the state provides health care, it also decides what is essential, what you need. That is why it can criminalise somebody for treating themselves with cannabis for multiple sclerosis yet think nothing of prescribing Champix, or ritalin for kids, or countless other pharmaceutical remedies that someone else has decided society 'needs' so much that it should get it without the individual paying for it. The beneficiaries of this arrangement are easily identified and less easily satisfied with their stupendous market share in medicines.

In the Dutch case, they are definitely doing what they should be doing in Scotland, and axing subsidised smoking cessation. Anyone who wants to give up smoking needs a lot of will power.Many people can do it without drugs if they want to do it at all. This is not denying anyone treatment for leprosy, malaria, AIDS, tuberculosis, or any other life-threatening condition. It's withdrawal of health budget money from behavioural change, which is acknowledged by practitioners not to be effective.

The United Kingdom National Smoking Cessation Conference started today, with 603 delegates learning all the tricks of the trade. For example, they plan to teach 'disadvantaged carers' (single parents?) how to exercise TA (temporary abstinence) using NRT (nicotine replacement therapy) so as not to hurt their kids – anti-smokers' peculiar idea of harm reduction (take a pharmaceutically prepared substitute). I have my own feelings about these campaigns to stop people smoking at home. But that aside, the money spent on smoking cessation would be better spent on almost any other aid, not only for disadvantaged carers of children but also of carers of people with dementia, many of whom who are likely to be elderly themselves instead of all these resources invested in stopping people from smoking.

I don't know how far the Dutch cuts go, but insofar as they stop supporting this appalling market in NRT and related medications, I'm with them.

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