Stub out the fags, pour away the booze. Britain has succumbed to the nanny state

The nanny state has spoken and we, the people, have listened. Worse still, we’ve obeyed. Figures released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that spending on alcohol and tobacco has fallen to its lowest level since records began. The average household’s expenditure on tobacco, alcohol and recreational drugs has fallen to £11.40 a week, a 41 per cent decrease on the same figure in 2001-2002.

This seems more remarkable when one considers the sharp spike in the cost of cigarettes, now valued at similar prices to those of saffron or gold. The price tag could be a deterrent, but this seems unlikely — a smoker is a drug addict and will pay for his or her fags no matter how much the price increases on a packet.

Adding further shock to the news was the revelation that the younger generation is leading the way on matters of sobriety and non-smoking. According to the ONS, one quarter of under-25s are now teetotal. This I find mightily surprising.

The government’s campaign against smoking has been carried out with great ardour. It has been entirely unavoidable. In 1971, all cigarettes were issued with warnings that ‘smoking can damage your health.’ Three decades later, this evolved to ‘smoking kills’ and ‘smoking seriously harms you and others around you.’ Today, health warnings must cover 30 per cent of a cigarette packet, alongside a truly grotesque pictorial warning on packets that are increasingly unbranded. In 2007, smoking was banned in enclosed public spaces.

And, despite my protestations to the contrary, it is obviously a good thing that we try not to smoke — it’s dangerous, it’s expensive, it smells bad and, of course, it is completely pointless. But the world would be a more pleasant place if we worked out these glaringly obvious facts for ourselves, without them being rammed down our throats at every turn.

It goes without saying that smoking is foolish. We know it is responsible for a quarter of deaths from cancer, that it costs the National Health Service nearly £2 billion a year and that over 80 per cent of deaths from lung cancer, bronchitis and emphysema are caused by smoking. All of this is true, and all of it is frightening. Clearly we, the British nation, are duly scared.

Finally, after years of being bamboozled into spirals of hypochondria, fear and loathing, we are stubbing out the fags and rejecting the beers, wines and spirits. The nanny state reigns supreme and we are showing our captors what good little citizens we can be. It’s enough to make me dive for the Marlboro Reds. But that would be cutting off my lungs to spite my chest.


  • davidofkent

    Nobody takes the slightest notice of nanny state utterances. This is a change in attitude after three decades of very high alcohol consumption amongst the middle classes.

    • Flintshire Ian

      I haven’t noticed any change around here amongst the mainly retired or middle aged professionals who drink far too much. There aren’t any young adults in our village outside of university vacations so it’s hard to tell if its a generational thing

      • Father Todd Unctious

        Instead of buying six pints at the pub (costing about £20) students buy a bottle of vodka from Lidl for £7.50. The unit cost is 80% less.

        • Flintshire Ian

          One of the big differences between when I was a teenager and then a student (78-82) and now is that by and large we only drank beer, and it wasn’t terribly strong by modern standards. Which is probably why most of us are still alive and kicking. You can only drink so much beer in one session before the volume does for you, even when you are young, and you tend not to get completely paralytic, ambulance job drunk.

          Pub beer is relatively expensive nowadays as you say, and they are not always attractive places to spend your money. Noisier, younger people especially in groups are often not made to feel very welcome so they spend their money elsewhere, often on spirits. The consequences of this will sadly become clear when they are middle aged.

          • Father Todd Unctious

            It is sad. The fine British tradition of social drinking has been undermined by cheap supermatket booze and ruddy facebook narcissism. My old grandad drank 5 pints a day from the age of 17 and lived to be 82. But he never smoked.

  • nearhorburian

    ” We know it is responsible for a quarter of deaths from cancer, that it costs the National Health Service nearly £2 billion a year”

    So the same as African immigrants with AIDS, then.

    African immigrants with AIDS who, unlike smokers, don’t pay extra taxes that more than cover their extra costs.

    African immigrants with AIDS who strangely don’t get demonised for having inflicted the illness on themselves.

    • Father Todd Unctious

      African immigrants do not cause cancer.

      • EastCheamBridge

        They do cause AIDS though. Didn’t you see the opening scenes of that movie Philadelphia with Tom Hanks showing how it all started, with a flyover of the African jungle, zooming in on a bloke pounding away at a monkey? Or was that Beaches?

        • Father Todd Unctious

          That was Donald Trump, before he met that wierd Bangkok Ladyboy.

  • mountolive

    “According to the ONS, one quarter of under-25s are now teetotal. This I find mightily surprising.” Well, I don’t. The same ONS has declared that, within the conurbations, the under sixteen years of age muslim population now exceeds that of the non-muslim.

    • Father Todd Unctious

      72% of under 25s are under 18 and cannot purchase alcohol.
      21% of adults are teetotal but then our 3 million Muslims do not drink.

      • Matthew

        3 million my harris!

        • Father Todd Unctious

          Do you not believe me. There are now 3 million Muslims in the UK. When counted in 2011 it was already 2.7 million.

          • Matthew

            I think 3 million is a gross underestimate.

          • Father Todd Unctious

            You may think that, but you’d be wrong. We have 3,062,000 Muslims. Fewer than we have Welsh.

  • rbw152

    Oh I just don’t bloody care.

    Worrying about all this stuff is unhealthy in itself.

    I’m not a smoker but I don’t give a damn about other people doing it. Without laws I am certain we would have ended up with pubs that allowed smoking, some that did not and those which allowed both, because increasing health awareness, through mere education, would have driven the market that way – and everyone would have been catered for.

    As for drinking, yeah I know, drinking too much is bad but as far as i’m concerned so is drinking too little. Alcohol’s role in being both a social glue and lubricant over the years should not be dismissed so lightly.

    Typical nanny state stuff though. Happy to hector us all, not so keen on letting us enjoy ourselves.

    • Father Todd Unctious

      I agree. I have not smoked for 32 years but smoking does not bother me. I used to get on thectrain and not notice I was in the smoking carriage ( remember them!) until I was halfway to London. It is patheyic that venues cannot opt to allow smoking. People can opt not to go there.

  • sir_graphus

    I’ve got kids around at the moment who take up a lot of my time, but they’ll be gone soon and I planning to drink a lot more.

    • Father Todd Unctious

      Keep a bottle of sherry in the shed.

  • sir_graphus

    I am worried that they’ll force us all to be teetotal by changing the drink driving limits so we can only have a couple the night before if driving in the morning.

  • Father Todd Unctious

    In the UK cigarettes cost $20 per ounce. Gold is $1,200, saffron is $225 per ounce.
    I think the shift in spending is due to more drinking in restaurants and alcohol purchased from supermarkets.
    Pubs and clubs are being killed by greedy brewers, rent, rates and Wetherspoons.
    Pub and club sales of alcohol have fallen by 40% since 2001, but domestic consumption increased by 7%.
    Overall per head alcohol is only down by 12%.

  • hedgemagnet

    I had the disapproving look from my new dentist the other day, after she asked in a round about way how many units of alcohol I drank. The figure I came up with was slightly greater than the last time I was put on the spot (and until the day comes when I’m actually strapped to the chair and injected with sodium thiopental to make me reveal the truth, I’ll continue to make up a lowish number anyway). Then there was the slightly patronising lecture about cancers and stuff which I’m well aware of because I’ve looked at the graphs of increased cancer risk vs units drunk. But my dentist ffs . . .Is there no escape from this nannying?

    • Flintshire Ian

      Never, ever tell the doctor the truth. (maybe not as important with a dentist). They double the number (on the basis that they are being lied to) and write it down on your record. Really helpful when an insurance company asks for a medical report.

    • itdarestospeak

      I used to get this from my dentist as well, until during one lecturing session I took out that mouth pipe thing, looked her squarely in the eye and said
      “I think you misunderstand our relationship ; you fix my teeth, and I pay you lots of money. That is all.”
      Didn’t get it after that

  • ThatOneChap

    According to what I tell my doctor, as a man in his mid 20s, I only drink six units a week and don’t smoke. In reality, it’s a fair bit more than that and I like a pipe on the weekends.

  • This article is about smoking — in particular, smoking cigarettes. How does drink come into it? It’s an insult to drinkers to ball their habits and likes up in the same category as ‘tobacco’ (which presumably includes cigar and pipe smoking as well — or does it?). I don’t much care to be lumped together with ‘recreational’ drug-users, either. As far as I’m concerned, the temperance totalitarians can go to h=ll.