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Our health is all about our lifestyle choices

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We all make choices – some of them good, others possibly not so good. Smoking is one that is not so good, and unfortunately one that traps so many, even those who want to give it up.

We all make choices – some of them good, others possibly not so good. Smoking is one that is not so good, and unfortunately one that traps so many, even those who want to give it up.

Whenever lists of great Irish sporting icons are drawn up, Henry Shefflin’s name will always be among them.

Whenever lists of great Irish sporting icons are drawn up, Henry Shefflin’s name will always be among them.

SPORTSFILE

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We all make choices – some of them good, others possibly not so good. Smoking is one that is not so good, and unfortunately one that traps so many, even those who want to give it up.

By saying that smokers could pay for private health insurance by giving up a 20-a-day cigarette habit, our Health Minister, Leo Varadkar, has left himself open to accusations of being a smug, well-heeled, healthy male who does not understand the working-class addiction to cigarettes.

But surely Mr Varadkar was talking about choices, not about the addictive nature of cigarettes, which his Government has done much to warn us about.

We all make choices - some of them good, others possibly not so good. Smoking is one that is not so good, and unfortunately one that traps so many, even those who want to give it up. Added to that, a 20-a-day cigarette habit - modest for some people - costs an estimated €3,650 per year. It is a considerable sum of money and one that would certainly buy any recipient health insurance for the best private clinic in the country.

The fact is that private health insurance does not discriminate against smokers, in that because of 'community rating' - which requires health insurance providers to offer policies within a given territory at the same price to all - a person applying for health insurance does not have to declare whether they smoke or not. On the other hand, if someone wants to buy private life insurance they will certainly be asked to pay a much higher premium if they are a smoker, and most insurance companies will not give people life insurance without testing a prospective applicant for smoking.

But in some ways this is irrelevant. As Health Minister, Mr Varadkar is charged with providing an efficient public health service for everybody, regardless of their addictions, be it smoking, alcohol or drugs. If we had such a service it wouldn't matter. The fact is, we don't, not at the moment. That is why people buy private healthcare. It is reasonable to argue that forgoing 20 cigarettes a day, or a couple of bets, or even a foreign holiday, would indeed leave a person with the cash to buy private healthcare if they so wish.

But it all comes down to choices, and possibly if Mr Varadkar succeeds in Fine Gael's promise to introduce universal health insurance, such choices may become irrelevant. But we won't hold our breath on that one.

Farewell to King Henry, a true hurling legend

Whenever lists of great Irish sporting icons are drawn up, Henry Shefflin's name will always be among them.

While his was a sport that didn't allow him to showcase his stunning range of talents on an international stage, his achievements are no less spectacular for that. Ever since Shefflin - who confirmed his intercounty retirement yesterday - first appeared in a Kilkenny senior jersey as a 20-year-old in 1999, he has performed at a level that makes him a genuine contender to be regarded as the best hurler of all time.

The range of successes enjoyed by Kilkenny since 2000 has taken them into a magical orbit, never previously experienced by any other county. Many elements combined to make that happen. Ultimately, though, it was the players, and Shefflin was a giant among them, who carried the main responsibility.

Shefflin played a huge role as a leader, motivator and organiser, all done with a spirit of selflessness that made him the ultimate team player, not just with Kilkenny but also with his club, Ballyhale Shamrocks, where he has done so much to inspire a new generation.

Irish Independent