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Gerry's smoking regrets should be a wake-up call to the Government

It is hard not to be affected by the two TV ads running this week that feature Gerry Collins in the HSE's latest anti-smoking campaign.

The former heavy-smoker first lent his name to the Quit campaign in 2011. When terminal cancer set in last year, he did a new set of advertisements.

Gerry (inset) passed away last Sunday, and his family agreed to the broadcast of the latest ads this week.

Perhaps the most poignant thing about them is that, far from the usual campaigns which show the gruesome physical effects of smoking, Gerry seems very healthy, playing with his children, enjoying himself at a bowling alley and looking remarkably fit for a 57-year-old man.


They show Gerry talking about his children and how he would miss them.

Meanwhile, the Government sits fidd-ling while cigarettes burn. Its latest limp-wristed incentive, announced this week, involves pharmacists around the country being able to give advice to people about kicking the habit.

It's as if no one in Ireland knows that smoking is bad for you, and will only seek help when someone in a white coat advises them to do so.

The Government complains about the fact that making cigarettes prohibitively expensive simply encourages cross-border smuggling, but this is just an excuse for inactivity.

So too is the refusal to deal with the problems of alcohol abuse by banging on about the jobs created by the drinks business in Ireland.

The majority of smokers want to give up, and the vast majority don't want to buy their daily fix from an illegal street vendor.

They simply want a properly compelling reason to stop, and in fairness to Health Minister James Reilly, he targeted one reason - the cost.

Eighteen months ago, Reilly said that he wanted to put €6 on the price of a pack over the next six years, a claim which he submitted to the Minister for Finance. But nothing was done.

The HSE bill for treating cancer patients is more than €1bn a year, while alcohol abuse costs even more in terms of health care, crime and other social ills. Aside from the drain on the Exchequer, however, it is the human cost that should hurt most.

Have a look at Gerry Collins and the regret that he had for having smoked all these years, and see if you don't agree.