Last week the tobacco control industry celebrated the EU decision to festoon 65 per cent of your cigarette box, front and back, with enlarged health warnings featured grotesque images of 'smoking-related diseases' (most of them very rare).
In Ireland we are told that 5,200 people die every year from smoking. The question is, what do the other 24,000 people die of? We lose 29,000 people each year and if even one of those had died due to something obscure, should that obscurity not be banned or restricted also? At what number of deaths does the principle of 'duty of care' begin and intervention become justified?
Findings from various quarters list fizzy drinks, obesity, stress and even hospitals themselves as being responsible for more deaths than smoking. But even a lesser number of deaths from anything at all deserves to be looked at under the same spotlight as tobacco.
All of the same tobacco arguments can be applied to alcohol, for example. It's utterly unnecessary for life, it's carcinogenic, it's a potential burden on the healthcare system and children should be protected from it. So should the pint be denormalised? Should a bottle of wine feature a diseased liver over 65 per cent of its surface? Would trebling the price lower consumption rates? The theory is that even if only one life is saved, it's worth it.
These arguments can be applied to the humble motor car as well. Diesel fumes are carcinogenic, life existed before the car and would continue without it, and children are killed by cars too. If the speed limit were to be five mph everywhere then lives would definitely be saved. It's nonsense, of course, but relevant in the current debate on smoking.
The over-emphasis on tobacco is skewing the health debate here and while one sixth of deaths are attributed to it, five sixths of all deaths slide under the radar. If government is serious about its duty of care then it has a right and responsibility to intervene in every single aspect of our lives as a matter of priority. The medical profession must be empowered to dictate how we live and any and all instances of sickness must be the subject to a heavy fine for the unfortunate sufferer.
This is the natural extension of the logic currently being applied to smoking. Beware the growing tyranny of health.