The worst habit

I know from last time that a post like this may set the cat among the pigeons, so I was going to spend a bit more time refining this. But I haven’t had time, so what the hell.

Heath Robinson cartoonSmoking would have to be the worst habit anybody could have, ever, wouldn’t it?

Millions are addicted. Poor souls.

It kills, with over 15,000 Australians per year dying from tobacco smoke.

Those that it doesn’t kill, are unhealthy.

It’s about as antisocial as you can get. Even the considerate smokers find their smoke floating away and being breathed in by other people, passing the health risk onto them. In places like public footpaths, this is probably worse than ever now that smoking has (quite rightly) been banned from most indoors areas. Maybe we need enclosed smoking rooms to be set up, so that others don’t have to breathe in smokers’ pollution.

It pollutes not just the air, but also the ground – it’s unparalleled in the world of litter.

It costs. Taxes (quite rightly) raise about $5 billion per year from smokers, and account for over 60% of the retail price. But those taxes don’t even come close to covering the $31 billion in tobacco-related costs to society.

Even now there are proposals to increase it further. Fine by me. Sting them for as much as you can, I reckon. The more people you can put off it, the better.

Really, is there any habit that could be worse?

(On the bright side, apparently the ban on smoking in bars is having a positive effect.)

PS. The commenters have successfully argued that it’s not quite the worst habit. Not even perhaps the worst legal habit, though it’s still up there in the top of the ladder.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

23 replies on “The worst habit”

I’m with you on all your points: tobacco smoking is overwhelmingly bad, and those who peddle it are unmitigated evil.

However, perhaps a refinement of this post could consider that indeed there are many habits that are worse, and that’s an easy attack to make on this article. No need to claim it’s *the* worst; all your points still stand without that trivially-false hyperbole.

I will admit I have smoked on a few occassions but I do not buy smokes because I do not want to kick up a habit.

Unfortunately as with all indirect taxes, the people who pay the most are those who can least afford it. The people who are right at the bottom of the heap. Having been a smoker, I understand what its like to be addicted to it. From that side of the fence, it can seem that giving up smoking would take away part of the reason for living. If your quality of life is poor already, and you have limited funds, putting the price up just makes it that much harder to survive. The choice then is between smoking and eating. I think that getting drunk and beating people up is probably a bit more antisocial. Alcohol is the most evil drug of all, and more energy should be directed towards this problem.

See, I knew I should have done one more pass of the entry before posting it. “Worst habit” should have been qualified as “Worst legal habit”. Though it doesn’t scan as well.

Yes, the addiction must make it hell to give up.

As a non-smoker I love this country’s anti-smoking laws (NSW hurry up and catch up with Qld, not sure what VIC restrictions are). But as someone who doesn’t like our government dictating to us on a LEGAL activity I’m against all the bans and restrictions. Once smoking is gone then lets start harassing all the fat people, from what I hear obesity is a major health cost to our country. How dare those fat people use up my taxes. This is a (slightly) tongue in cheek rant, in case some people miss my sarcasm. Now back to my fish and chips for lunch.

I’m a smoker and I’ve tried many times to quit, sometimes successfully for several years, but stress is a bitch.
I don’t drink, I don’t drive, I don’t take any drugs (of any description) so I’ve go to have at least 1 vice :P

The legality of smoking has nothing to do with whether smoking bans are just. We have other activities that are restricted to certain places and times. For example, the use of vacuum cleaners and loud stereos is perfectly legal, but we’re not allowed to use them at night if they can be heard by neighbours. These rules exist for the benefit of the community, just as the anti-smoking rules do.

So, (some) people at the ‘bottom of the heap’ are spending too much money (including the increasing taxes) on smoking and/or drinking and/or food (maybe low quality food at that).

These not only take money out of their pockets which they can ill afford, the habit(s) is building up personal health problems for the future and possibly social problems in the present.

Then the health (and other) services expend resources on treating the problems that occur. Familes may also suffer.

Sure sounds like more work needs to be done to help improve on that chain of events. Education? Legislation? More taxation?

*sigh* Something needs to be done about Smokers Lane aka Customs House Lane just off Flinders. Seriously, you can’t SEE for all the smoking going on there. The inconsiderate dipshits line up against the walls so all the smoke goes into the cafes and eateries there. Sucks. This coming from an ex-smoker too. (It’s not THAT hard to quit, I don’t care what anyone says.)

Agree with Konrad.

It’s possible to be the most odious person in the world without breaking a single law.

Smoking is a relatively minor vice compared to most others. It’s more self-harm than harm to others. Assuming none of your family or loved ones smoke, about its only direct harm are somewhat higher taxes and the chance of missing out on a hospital bed if the others are taken up by wheezing addicts.

The level of annoyance or harm done by a law-abiding smoker must surely be less than that done by, to select some random examples: (i) someone who clips their nails on the train, (ii) one who cheats/deceives on their partner, (iii) the evangelising mormon at the door, (iv) the parent who stuffs their child with junk food, (v) schools who encourage their kids to beg the streets to raise money for school camps, etc, (vi) people who are bad role-models for children, or (vii) criminals of all types who require us to pay for armed police forces, private security guards, security, jails, courts, laws, security for our elected servants and other things that reflect reduced trust between people.

Smoking’s penalty is supreme, but it is voluntarily avoidable (at least by those who do not become addicted). Other human imperfections are both less voluntary and more insidious in their harm.

As my future husband said to me when we started dating and he found out I smoked “Makes about as much sense as going into a burning house, and standing there, taking deep breaths of the toxic smoke and fumes. Hmm, maybe that’d do the job faster? Killing you, that is”. He was trying to get home the point “SMOKING IS DUMB/STUPID and something idiots do”. It worked. I’d quit within a few months, and have never smoked since.

It’s even annoying when the neighbour next door, who smokes outside. All the smoke drifts into our house thru the open windows, spring, summer and fall. :P Ugh

Worst legal habit…

Where’s the campaign to get all the smoking drivers off the road?

How many women got pregnant because they had a few too many cigarettes?

When did you last see the child welfare people take a woman’s children away because her smoking was out of hand?

Which is involved in more domestic violence reports, alcohol or nicotine?

The only place where smoking is worse than drinking is that it’s possible to drink safely, but not to smoke safely.

But when it comes to those who abuse a substance, alcohol abusers do more damage to themselves and others in shorter order than nicotine abusers.

If I had to chose between being a smoker and a drunk, I’d choose smoking any day of the week.

Daniel, I am so sick of people slagging off at me for being a smoker. I don’t encourage anybody else to do it with me – it’s my vice and my vice alone. I respect other peoples’ right not to participate in my smoking with me and obey all rules in relation to where I am permitted to smoke. I don’t litter my butts and generally when a receptacle is not provided for disposing of the butts I will ensure that I take the butt with me for later disposal.

If I could go back and not have that first cigarette would I choose not to have lit up – hell yeah.

I lived with an abusive person for too many years to count and let me tell you it wasn’t smoking which triggered their anger.

Also, it is so easy to lay the blame for everything at smokers’ feet. When a doctor tells me that I caught an ear infection because I smoke, well it’s time to get myself another doctor.

I am not a second class citizen simply because I smoke.

I think it’s too easy to play the blame game with smoking, humans are prone to addiction by nature, no one forces primative cultures to chew bettlenuts or co coa leaves.

There’s not a lot more satisfying than feeding an addiction, and yes I smoke.

I agree with Phil’s comment for many people smoking is one of the few guilty pleasures life has to offer.

A friend just returned from Shanghi China where breathing the air each day is equivelant to several packets of cigarettes.

The argument that smoking harms nobody but the smoker is fallacious. They are a burden on society as the tax payers inevitably have to pay for their welfare.

I am not saying that other habits (eg alcohol) do not have the same impact, but smokers seem to always retort with this one…

Another interesting cost-to-the-health-system is bicycle helmets… I has been argued that the introduction of the mandatory wearing of helmets has has a huge impact on the general health of the population. There are a couple of issues – namely that there is no statistical correlation that “helmets save lives”, that the introduction of the law has introduced a perception that cycling is dangerous so parents do not encourage their children to use cycling as a means of transport, and that having to wear a helmet is generally a barrier to participation (stigma or whatever…)

Don’t get me started on bicycle helmets. When I used to ride my old racing bike years ago every second I could spare (up early in the morning, out late at night, sometimes snuck out in the middle of the day, all weekend, etc) I recall:

1. An accident where I took a chunk out of my helmet from a crash that slammed my head ACROSS the corner of a gutter

2. An accident where I literally snapped a helmet in two (not quite half) from a crash that slammed my head DIRECTLY into the CORNER EDGING of a gutter (I was knocked unconscious from that one)

3. Numerous accidents where the helmet was simply a write off from the impact it took – even though no obvious damage they took quite heavy blows

I am alive today BECAUSE of bike helmet laws – I never wore helmets prior to it becoming mandatory. Okay off topic a little, but hell I couldn’t speak higher of them becoming mandatory (approximately 20 years ago in SA, unsure of other states or whether it was a national thing).

Apart from Brian, does no one see the hypocrisy of the whole picture, where on one hand various government agencies exhort us (via expensive media ads and various ‘quit’ programs) to *not* smoke because it is dangerous, unhealthy and often fatal., yet on the other hand governments do not ban or severely restrict sales of such an obviously dangerous product.

Having lived in countries where spitting and blowing one nose in public are accepted (sputum and snot everywhere) I’d rather have smoke in the air than snot on my boots. Sorry to be so graphic but that’s the way it is.

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