Friday 25 May 2018

When it comes to smoking, everyone loves a quitter

Giving up the fags can save you €3,000, says Damian Corless

Library image
Library image

Damian Corless

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the day chosen by countless Irish smokers to kick the foul habit, not just for Lent but for life. For those needing any extra encouragement, apart from the immediate health benefits, it came with the news the average 20-a-day smoker can save a breath-taking €3,100 this year.

The information, released by the Health Service Executive, was timed to strengthen the resolve of those determined to quit, and is yet another sign that the world's more enlightened governments are fighting the war on tobacco with serious intent, encouraging smokers to quit by application of the stick and the carrot.

A glance around the globe reveals that some states reach more readily for the stick, while others prefer the carrot.

The British government's plan to turn the 2012 London Olympics into an anti-smoking showcase is a carrot-led strategy, and underlines the generational shift since the Leeds United side of Johnny Giles and Jack Charlton were snapped in the Wembley team bath after lifting the 1972 FA Cup, and a cigarette or cigar hung from almost every player's lips.

When New York imposed a public building smoking ban in 2003, two-thirds of residents were deeply hostile. Seven years on, the ban has found such widespread acceptance that it's credited with reducing the smoking population from 21.5pc to 15.8pc.

The Big Apple's health commissioner has now proposed to outlaw smoking in 1,700 parks and on seven beaches.

Belmont City Council in California last year banned homeowners from smoking inside their own apartments to protect neighbours from second-hand smoke.

Police stressed they wouldn't be peeking in windows, but they would respond to complaints.

In France, smoking motorists have accused the police of taking the law into their own hands. Last year a Paris driver, stopped for breaking a red light, accused the police of "an abuse of power" after he was slapped with two €22 fines -- one for breaking the light, one for unsafe driving caused by having a cigarette in one hand and a lighter in the other.

A Bordeaux woman handed the same fine for smoking at the wheel won her case that the penalty had no legal basis, leading to calls that the law be tightened.

While the French authorities have been deemed overzealous, their Albanian counterparts have been branded worse then useless. In 2008 Albania introduced a strict workplace smoking ban and 200 state inspectors were recruited to enforce the ban in pubs, restaurants and public buildings.

One reporter recently wrote that the public response has been to brazenly flout the law with impunity, with staff in hospitals and clinics the worst offenders.

If the Albanians have been cast as soft on lawbreaking, members of Liverpool's City Council have been derided as soft in the head.

A proposal reportedly "under consideration" by the council would involve barring under-18s from films that depict characters smoking. Britain's local councils have the power to re-classify films, leading to a situation where classics featuring everyone from Bogart to John Wayne, could be given an X-Cert.

Syria recently joined the list of countries to ban smoking in public places, with offenders facing a possible jail spell. Smokers of the traditional hookah have protested to no effect. The United Arab Emirates last year introduced a comprehensive set of restrictions, including a six-month jail term for anyone even speaking in favour of tobacco.

Arguably the most imaginative anti-smoking measure is now before the Philippines parliament.

The Anti-Violence Against Women Act would make it a crime for a husband to subject his wife to second-hand smoke against her will, defining this as an act of violence. Section 8 of the Act allows women to apply for a barring order against smoking in the presence of them or their children.

Ireland has led the fight against tobacco since Michael Martin's 2004 workplace ban.

The next curb, which the Department of Health says is "currently being drafted", involves making cigarette packets less decorative, and enlarging the pictorial and written warnings they must carry.

When it comes to smoking, everyone loves a quitter.

Irish Independent

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