Fiddling the Figures

There's and article that appears in all the local newspapers about once a year. It's not really an article, more of a press release
This press release is from the Tobacco Control Industry and its purpose is to pretend that smokers are a huge drain on society; that we cost all the non-smokers a lot of money every year
The only reason for this can be to set non-smokers against smokers, turning people who are simply non-smokers, into smoker hating anti-smokers

We all know it's not about health, it's about hatred of people who choose pleasures that other people disapprove of

Smokers costing everyone else money is something the Whack-A-Moles in the Tobacco Control Industry cling on to as a weapon in their arsenal, but the trouble is, it's complete bollocks, so they have to fiddle the figures. And they don't just do it once. The story appears in each regional newspaper in turn, tailored to the readers from that area, and when it's done the full rounds, it starts again from the beginning

It never ends and none of the newspapers that publish it, ever question the figures. I even questioned a reporter on it once, and he said,
“A lot of guesswork in the figures, but smoking is costly and ruins a lot of lives”
The figures can be rubbish, you see, it’s all for the greater good

This version of the article appeared in the Oxford Herald. It's just as rubbish as all its antecedents. You already know why, but why don't we fisk it anyway?
Let's take a look through the round window

Efforts to stub out smoking over £150m cost to Oxfordshire

£150 million? That's a nice, high, scary number. So what's it made up of. We have a helpful little graph

For this fisking, I'll start with the smaller numbers first, and leave the good stuff until last

Passive smoking: £1.05m
It doesn't actually say how passive smoking costs us money, but as the cost of 'Smoking Related Disease' has it's own category, I can only assume it's not about treating the thousands of people who apparently die every year from smelling a bit of other peoples burning leaf
Whatever else it can be is beyond me

Even if it is about treating smoking diseases in non-smokers, there aren't any. Nobody has ever become ill or died because of passive smoking. This myth is just another weapon to make non-smokers fear and hate us rather than get along with us like they used to do

I know there are plenty of 'studies' that say passive smoking is more deadly than hollow point bullets, but without exception, they're all junk
Frank recently blogged about a book by Christopher Booker and Richard North called, 'Scared to Death'. This book quotes a number of studies on passive smoking, done before the recent hysteria, that prove it is the closest thing to harmless
All the modern studies funded by Tobacco Control and ASH, the people behind this press release, are just junk studies created only to justify smoking bans

We can safely say the cost to society from passive smoking is £0

Smoking Related Fires £3.13m
Ok, so people occasionally set fire to things with cigarettes, but is this really a problem with a cost to society? Maybe
Folk should know better than to smoke in bed and such, but one thing that is normal in life, is that quite often, folk don't know better. And it's not just smoking

People cause fires by putting the chip pan on and going to sleep, leaving their hair straighteners on a surface or overloading a socket
This is not a reason to 'stub out smoking', any more than it's a reason to ban electricity and chips or force everyone to have curly hair

I think £3.13m is a very high cost to attribute to fires caused by smoking in one English county, but as I don't have access to the stats, I'll have to give them that one. Although as a cost to society, I think it can safely by ignored

Why? What happens when you set fire to your property with a cigarette? The fire brigade put it out and the insurance company (if you have insurance. Yourself if not) pays for the damage
We have our own contracts with the Fire Brigade and our insurance company and both services are paid for by us, not society

So I think we can safely say the cost of smoking related fires is £0

Lost Productivity – Sick Days £10.26m
This is a good one. Hands up anyone who has ever rung in sick due to smoking? It's not like having a hangover, is it? You don't feel rough the after if you smoked a few extra tabs the night before
Maybe they mean long term sickness due to smoking related illness? Like cancer or something?

Assuming a long-term illness that keeps you off work can actually be directly attributed to smoking, which it can't, who does it cost? Employers have to put up with long-term sickness all the time and they are fully prepared for it. Any cost to bear is borne by the employer alone and in reality, it doesn't cost a great deal. Sick pay is usually part of the general wage bill and is planned for

For there to be a cost, the employer would need to bring in another person to do the work, which often doesn't happen as the other employees just take it on. There is only a cost when another wage needs to be paid for a time
As with people who are off with back pain or on maternity leave.

No, the only cost is to the employer and any one worth their salt would bear it without a problem. There is certainly no cost to anyone else

So I think we can safely say, the cost to society from sick days is £0

Smoking related Social Care £15.55m
This is a new addition. I've not seen this one in these press releases before. A cynical man might say it has something to do with councils now being allowed to add extra to Council Tax bills to cover the cost of social care. People are actually paying more for social care and they can see it on their bills, so pretending this is the fault of smokers is really a bit cheeky

The real cost of social care comes from people living longer than they ever have before. Don't the Tobacco Control Industry always tell us that smokers die younger, thereby reducing the cost of social care?

Tobacco Control can't have it both ways. Either we die younger, or we cost money in social care, as does anyone who lives for a bit and doesn't have a support system in place for old age
This figure is not just a lie, it's a very underhanded one

I think we can safely say the cost of smoking related social care is £0

Smoking Related Disease £17.46m
This is one of my favourite 'costs'. If smoking causes diseases, then these diseases need to be treated and treatment costs money, right?
Wrong. At least in this context

In the UK we have the NHS and we have to pay for it. I mean we HAVE to pay for it. If we refuse, people kick in our doors and send us to prison.
If we have to pay for our healthcare, then by rights, when we need to use that healthcare, we should be able to, no questions asked, just like we are not allowed to question the payments we have to make for it

The cost to the NHS is one of the biggest arguments for lifestyle interventions in this country. The NHS is always just a few days from collapse and never has enough money, even though it swallows one hundred billion pounds of taxpayers cash every year

But the money troubles are not down to people with diseases. The NHS is poorly managed from top to bottom, from Diversity Co-Ordinators on six figure salaries to chavs being allowed to use A&E as a pharmacy. The NHS is in serious need of reform, yet they won't get their house in order and they absolutely won't get us opt out of the system and choose our own private healthcare provider

The NHS has become a religion and my words are blasphemy.

So yes, treating smoking related diseases costs money, just like treating any disease does, but it doesn't cost the good people of Oxfordshire £17.46m per year, because smokers and everyone else have already paid for their treatment

And on another point, these diseases are only smoking 'related'. What does that mean? Well, if you get cancer or some such, the doctors can't actually determine the cause, they can only speculate that it's smoking related if you're a current or ex-smoker
The cost of smoking related disease is not calculated by counting the number of diseases that were caused by smoking and adding up the treatment cost, it's calculated by adding up the number of diseases that are attributed to smoking and then having a guess at how many of them actually were caused by smoking
And understanding the Tobacco Control Industry, the guess is probably far higher than anything that looks like reality

So I think we can safely say the cost of smoking related disease is £0

Lost Productivity – Early Deaths £42.33m
Read that again - 'Lost productivity – Early deaths'
What does that mean? It means we have a responsibility to live as long as we possibly can in order to keep producing
Just how long we are supposed to live for and how much we are supposed to produce, they never say, but they must have target figures in mind, or else they wouldn't be able to make up calculate this cost

The Tobacco Control Industry believes people should quit smoking so we can live longer and produce more. If we die early, that is a cost to society. We are cash cows to them
Of course this takes us right back to the cost of social care in later life. Dying early is by no means a cost to society in any monetary sense, it's actually a long-term saving
And why would there be any lost productivity anyway? If I died tomorrow, someone else would just take over my job and carry on. Productivity would continue as it always has

Let me make this quite clear to anyone from Tobacco Control who might be reading this – Human beings are not cash cows and we have no responsibility to 'produce'

So I think we can safely say the cost to society from early deaths is £0

Lost Productivity – Smoking Breaks £57.44m
This is the largest figure and also the biggest lie
Where I work, some of what we do is pack things into boxes and send them out. Lost productivity due to smoking breaks assumes that if we had no employees who were smokers, we would pack more things into more boxes. This couldn't be further from the truth

We get a break in the morning, a lunch break and a break in the afternoon. People choose what they do on their breaks and some choose to smoke. It doesn't affect productivity one little bit

Most companies are as rigid as ours when it comes to breaks, but some are not. Maybe smokers cost these companies more? In my position I do have the option to take my allocated breaks when I please. I find that when I've been working on something complicated or boring on my computer, I can suffer after a while from a bit of brain freeze. Going out for a smoke allows me to get back to the job with a clear head, which helps my productivity

Often people discuss work in the smoking shelter as we're colleagues, not friends, so have little lese to talk about. I've often found that many decisions and solutions to problems happen during a smoking break. We're still 'producing', even though we're out of the office having a smoke

Obviously there will be people who do abuse the system from time to time, but this is an employer / employee issue alone. Any employer worth their salt will see to it that the staff don't take the piss and when it happens, nip it in the bud. If they don't do so, that's their own fault and their own burden to bear. It isn't a cost to society

I remember working as assistant manager at a pub in my hometown. The staff had a 20 minute break in each shift, but we allowed smokers to nip for a quick ciggy if the pub was quiet. Some non-smokers complained that the smokers were getting more breaks and it should be stopped. I went the opposite way and said anyone, smoker or non-smoker, can take five minutes when the pub is quiet provided they didn't take the piss, smoker or not.

Some of the non-smokers tried this for a month or so and gave it up as being too pointless and boring. The complaining stopped and I never lost a minute of productivity.

Non-Smokers will complain about smokers getting favourable treatment when they read propaganda like these articles, but they need to realise that the grass is not always greener as a smoker. We do the same as they do, just in a different way and 'productivity' is rarely affected

Non-smokers have their own way to waste time too. Making endless cups of coffee or having their breakfast at their desk after the working day has started, to name a couple
If anyone takes the piss, the boss is sure to put a stop to it. There certainly is no loss of productivity
In fact I would argue that there is an increase in productivity when staff are happy in their work and a little flexibility during the working day can go a long way towards making people happy. A happy workforce is a productive one. A workforce under strict top down control is often not

So there is no loss of productivity due to smoking breaks. To append a monetary value of over fifty million per year to the people of Oxfordshire alone is simply batshit crazy

So I think we can safely say the cost of smoking breaks is £0

After all that, what is the real cost of smoking we have arrived at? Let me just go back and add all this up

That's right. The real cost is £0

But before we go, let's hear from a useful idiot in the article

Oxfordshire County Council member for health Hilary Hibbert-Biles said “For me the health impacts are always going to be the most important issue but you can’t ignore the wider cost, particularly to the NHS.”

The cost to the NHS. How many times do we hear that one? I've spoke about the NHS enough in this post, so I'll say just one more thing

The cost to the NHS of treating smoking related diseases is said to be around £3 billion per year, although this is just an estimate as figures vary. It's also an estimate on the high side, as it will include smoking 'related' diseases that were not caused by smoking
Smokers paid about nine billion in tobacco duty in the last fiscal year and this does not include other taxes and the tax contribution from the tobacco companies themselves

If we remember that the NHS costs 100 billion per year, smokers pay roughly 10% of that. And that's on top of their own national Insurance contributions which are supposed to pay for healthcare

So no, smokers do not cost the NHS money. In fact, smokers should be demanding a rebate

She said: tackling the habit was a major priority, but getting the message through to the minority who choose to smoke - despite already being aware of the health impacts - was becoming more difficult.

And that just sums up Tobacco Control Whack-A-Moles in one sentence

We know the risks. We choose to smoke. Yet still they must do all they can to stop us from making our own informed choices

People like Oxfordshire County Council member for health Hilary Hibbert-Biles, make me vomit


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