Costs of Alcohol vs Tobacco

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, coupled with age, the over 45s, as the young are drinking far less. It is fashionable, acceptable, normal for this age group, 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. Now cigarettes are un-branded and black, 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.