Costs. Smoking vs Alcohol

Yesterday, I saw that the latest protection and prevention measures from the anti-smoking lobby was that not only is smoking to be banned in cars, but also there will be plain packaging on cartons of cigarettes. Someone quoted thousands of deaths and billions per year can still be attributed to smoking, and that these measures will stop young people starting.

Smoking has now become, unfashionable, unacceptable, harmful and very non PC. Drinking, however, and generally more than the safe guidelines, seems to have gone in reverse, most especially wine. It is fashionable, acceptable, normal, and everywhere. As a long term non-drinker, I feel more and more stigmatised for not being on the sauce than I do for once drinking too much of it.
But I am at a loss to understand why there is not more comparison between the costs to both the NHS and productivity, let alone the emotional cost caused by alcohol misuse? I know that cigarettes and tobacco wreak havoc, and that one cigarette can be potentially harmful, but so can one glass of wine for many millions too, because it rarely stops there.

There are plenty of statistics which if they are to be believed, show that alcohol harms, to oneself and others is dramatically more costly.

For example, the BMA quote that smoking costs the NHS 2.7 billion, and 2.5 billion to the wider economy, sick leave and lost productivity. There are no quotes for any crime costs because you are highly unlikely smash someone’s face in after smoking 20 Silk Cut.

Alcohol Concern quote that alcohol costs the NHS 3.5 billion, crime 11 billion, lost productivity, 10 billion. These I know are under estimated, because the majority of women that I see have never been seen by a GP as a direct result of their drinking, only the symptoms of it, for they are too frightened to tell the real facts about their drinking habits. 90% of these women are Mothers, wives, partners, professionals, and all admit to me in some way being irresponsible because of their previous routines with the ugly juice. 27% of them came from the health sector last year.
I loathe the nanny state, love the idea of all of us being able to make our own choices, but when there is so much skewed propaganda there is a real sense of unfairness to me. I think it would be madness to un brand cigarettes, a step way too far, but by the same token there are so few steps being taken to address the way we use alcohol, or at least the potential harms that are hidden in the cheeky little numbers so adeptly lined up in big supermarkets or casually placed on counter tops of virtually every corner shop or garage. There is no listing of ingredients, no warnings of big ugly diseased livers, cancerous breasts, not a hint of harm.
If I was unable to care for myself, I would far rather trust a smoker than a drinker to look after me, and that goes for my loved ones too.

To add to the madness, all smokers who quit are congratulated, and giving a huge pat on the back, whereas for most of us who call time on wine o’clock, are accused of being dull, boring, and weak willed, just because we have decided that alcohol doesn’t suit us anymore.
No matter how defensive of, or in love with alcohol this country may be, surely this must be the time to strike a fair balance.

Author: Sarah Turner

Founder of the Harrogate Sanctuary.

2 thoughts on “Costs. Smoking vs Alcohol”

  1. Excellent article Sarah. As a new “non drinker” I am amazed at how uncomfortable other people are with it generally. Somewhere along the line it has become an integral part of most people’s lives and bizarrely, in reference to females, part of the “sisterhood” connection. I have left the club, thankgoodness, but what are best ways to make drinking non pc and perhaps most importantly, unfashionable?

    1. Thank you. We have to be far less shy of saying that we just don’t use booze, and without becoming too evangelical about it, leading by example. The old ways of being tee total seem very labelled to me. That we all have to be very boring and dull, when the reverse is true. We are engaged, feisty, outspoken, should be much more of that, and honest. I know for many women it’s difficult to say why they are alcohol free, but why should they have to explain or be pious about it? Women especially are very visual creatures, and if you look good, feel good, are comfortable and chilled then that is enough. Numbers will change this, more and more women are becoming very concerned about the marketing and way this drug is peddled, and it will be a very fashionable force indeed from what I see from my work, and none of my clients could ever be called shrinking violets!

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