News / Opinion / Columns
Smoking: a nasty, dirty, stinking, polluting, disease-causing habit if ever there was one. However, right now I’m ready to fire up the old cowboy killers in solidarity with South African smokers. Don’t get me wrong, I still loathe smoking; I’m still the person who’ll glare if you light up near me, coughing prissily and wafting my hand.
I used to tell my kids if I ever caught them with cigarettes, I’d make them smoke the pack then eat the butts. Happily, they never tested these threats – because those filters that people who “never litter” mindlessly flick to the ground are a cellulose acetate bullet of poison – but making sure my boys didn’t start seemed paramount.
Starting is easy. Stopping is the problem. Smoking is an addiction that is harder to beat, they say, than heroin. And yet now, at a time of global pandemic and unprecedented anxiety, the puffing nation is being expected to go cold turkey.
It’s brutal. We are informed, not wrongly, that it’s because smoking exacerbates the symptoms of Covid-19.
This is hardly a surprise. After all, smoking entails filling your lungs with toxic fumes and is a risk factor in numerous diseases. Smokers know this. It’s not like they’re kidding themselves they’re sucking on cancer sticks for the health kick; it’s not like they don’t know they’re dicing with death.
So why would adding Covid-19 to the list of 99 Reasons Why Smoking Is Stupid convince a smoker to quit – if lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, erectile dysfunction and any number of other horrible conditions won’t?
Obesity is also high risk for many diseases, including Covid-19, but no one is banning cake. That is why I’m questioning this logic on behalf of all smokers, and people I love, who are climbing their nicotine-stained walls.
I’m asking for all those – and they are legion – reduced to buying dodgy fags from dodgier people, taking even greater gambles with their health in the black market, spending even more money, consorting with gangsters, becoming accidental criminals – anything to get their fix.
What we need instead is a committed programme to help smokers quit, possibly funded by all the sin tax the government is losing.
What we need is to make sure no one starts again. What we need is a helping hand, not a fist.
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