LETTER OF THE DAY - Moral suasion more potent in smoking fight/war
THE EDITOR, Sir:
The reported data contained in the news item 'Smoking costing Gov't more than it pays - health ministry' (Gleaner, Thursday, October 10, 2013) appear to be so fantastically incredible that it must be the hand of the printer's devil or the result of faulty extrapolation.
According to the report, while rebutting the claim by Carreras, lead marketer and distributor of cigarettes and tobacco-related products in Jamaica, that the industry "contributes $11 billion yearly to the national budget, and 75 per cent of the National Health Fund budget," the health ministry said that (my emphasis) "for every tobacco dollar in taxes, the Government spends between $8 billion and $13 billion dealing with smoking-related illnesses"!
Adrian Booth, the ministry official to whom the information was attributed, reportedly admitted that "while Jamaica has not done any studies in the area, the ministry has extrapolated from research done in the United States, where the cost of tobacco use has been estimated at US$193 billion".
While the data from the research done in the United States (and from other reliable sources) may be factual and reliable and can serve to reinforce the good intentions of the health authorities in curbing the insidious practice of cigarette smoking and its undesirable consequences for those who chose to avoid the health risk, one ought to be careful in crafting messages clearly, truthfully, and dispassionately.
As a smoker of cigarettes, I am grateful to the Ministry of Health for its strident attempt at curbing the practice and advancing the issue as a serious public-health concern. Since the implementation of the policy (smoky as it was), my consumption of the product has decreased dramatically. Already, I am experiencing the benefits, both physically and materially, which can only increase with my complete cure of the dangerous addiction.
However, I must caution that no matter how well-intentioned a course of action, it is not what we do, but how we do it. While the health policy on tobacco smoking is good, let's clear the air as we promulgate measures to curb public smoking, and for heaven's sake, let's put a little bit of moral suasion in the mix. After all, smokers are not mindless, uncaring, selfish and suicidal bastards; we, too, desire a healthy lifestyle and we try harder to achieve this than many people realise.
Spare us a thought!
ALLAN G. BROOKS
EDITOR'S NOTE: There was an error in the Page A3 story 'Smoking costing Gov't more than it pays - health ministry' noted above. The sentence should have read: "for every tobacco dollar in taxes, the Government spends between $8 and $13 dealing with smoking-related illnesses". We apologise for the error.