Big tobacco: wanting more profit from bad habits

I’ve just commented on LBC’s Iain Dale show about the report in today’s Guardian on Big Tobacco pushing for e-cigarettes to be prescribed on the NHS. The immorality of their position is staggering: the very companies who woo us to part with hard earned cash for their addictive highs are now after our tax money to maintain our addiction, via the NHS medicines budget! Have they no shame?

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is already available on the NHS, though research shows that simply prescribing NRT (such as the gum or patches) without any formalised withdrawal programme or psychological support has a measly 5% success rate. There is no indication that Big Tobacco wants anything to do with helping people kick the habit. This is only about exploitation and profits, no altruistic concern with harm reduction.

Should e-cigarettes get approval, the article indicates that it will be down to local commissioners to decide whether they are available in your area. We can be certain that Big Tobacco will be doing what they can to persuade doctors to prescribe. Yet the bigger questions remain. Harm reduction is a controversial approach for any risky behaviour. Critics say that it implies that you can carry on with certain activities in a safer way, when the reality is people take more risks because they think perceive what they are doing to be less harmful. Of course, with e-cigarettes you cut out the health risks of inhaling smoke, but nicotine remains a highly addictive, mood altering drug that can cause blood clots, raised blood pressure, increased heart rate, muscular tremor and breathing difficulties. The push is to make smoking acceptable, even glamorous again, with it’s new ‘safe’ form. Harm reduction however doesn’t address the underlying issues: why you need a high in the first place?

And secondly, we cannot go on talking about paying for new NHS services without a fundamental review of what the NHS is for, on which I have written previously. Decisions about funding e-cigarettes should not be being taken in isolation: we desperately need a review of what the NHS can and should provide. I have no problem with people moving to e-cigarettes from the traditional tobacco variety, they will save themselves a lot of money, but it should not be at our cost and without a wider debate.


About Julia Manning

Julia Manning is a social entrepreneur, writer, campaigner and commentator. She is based in London and is the founder and Chief Executive of 2020health, an independent, social enterprise Think Tank whose aim is to Make Health Personal. Through networking, technology, research, relationships and campaigning 2020health has influenced opinion and action in fields as diverse as bioethics, alcohol, emerging technologies, fraud, education, consumer technology and vaccination. Julia studied visual science at City University and became a member of the College of Optometrists in 1991. Her career has included being a visiting lecturer at City University, a visiting clinician at the Royal Free Hospital, working with south London Primary Care Trusts and as a Director of the UK Institute of Optometry. She specialised in diabetes (University of Warwick Certificate in Diabetic Care) and founded Julia Manning Eyecare in 2004, a home and prison visiting practice for people with mental and physical disabilities using the latest digital technology, which she sold to Healthcall (now part of Specsavers) in 2009. Experiences of working in the NHS, contributing to policy development, raising two children in the inner-city and standing in the General Election in Bristol in 2005 led to Julia forming 2020health at the end of 2006. Julia is a regular guest on TV and radio shows such as BBC News, ITV’s Daybreak/ GMB, Channel 5 News, BBC 1′s The Big Questions, BBC Radio, LBC and has taken part in debates and contributed to BBC’s Newsnight, Panorama, You and Yours and ITV’s The Week. She is mum to a rugby-mad son, a daughter passionate about Shakespeare, and wife of a comprehensive school assistant head-teacher. She loves gardening, ballet, Zimbabwe, her Westies Skye and Angus, is an honorary research associate at UCL and a Fellow of the RSA.
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One Response to Big tobacco: wanting more profit from bad habits

  1. randy cox says:

    Upto my knowledge, electronic cigarette has found best aid for Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) successfully.

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