Are you a UK resident? You might even be a UK national living as an expat in another country. Even if you are living in another global region, because you are a British citizen, the decisions made by the UK government are relevant to you and your family.
Are you considering whether to quit smoking? Or, have you perhaps tried to quit smoking but cannot due to the side effects of cravingnicotine?
By way of answering these questions, let’s consider the following points.
Why do smokers crave nicotine?
Describing why smokers crave nicotine, especially heavy smokers or people who have smoked for a long time, is a good place to start.
The article titled, “Expert opinion – Constant craving: how can science help smokers to quit,” highlights the reasons why smokers crave nicotine and subsequently find it challenging to quit.
“To the brain, the nicotine found in tobacco products looks a lot like a chemical ‘messenger’ known as acetylcholine, which transmits signals between nerve cells in certain parts of the brain.”
The “most important part of the midbrain is a region known as the ventral tegmental area or VTA… [This area] …is important in controlling behaviour, and it’s packed with nerve cells that respond to acetylcholine.”
When smokers inhale tobacco smoke, the nicotine is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, resulting in a nicotine spike that hits the VTA’s nerve cell receptors. Ergo, the brain thinks something good has happened, and these nerve cells release the feel-good hormone or endorphin known as dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps the brain feel good when smoking. Consequently, every time you are in a similar situation, you will want to smoke another cigarette.
The negative health consequences of tobacco use
Unfortunately, tobacco use has several severe consequences, including lung cancer, Emphysema, and heart disease.
The World Health Organization published a report titled “Tobacco” on 27 May 2020, highlighting the following facts:
- Tobacco kills over 50% of users.
- It also kills over 8.2 million people per annum. Seven million are direct users, and about 1.2 million are non-smokers who have been exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke.
- 2020 statistics report that there are more than 1.3 billion smokers worldwide, and 80% of these people live in low- to middle-income countries.
In summary, “ the tobacco epidemic is one of the world’s biggest public health threats the world has ever faced.” The caveat here is that this statement does not take the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic into account. Currently, the novel coronavirus pandemic has resulted in 42.6 million infections and 1.150 fatalities.
The virus causes a respiratory illness, sometimes as COVID-19 pneumonia, which is made worse by the tar deposits in smokers’ lungs. Therefore, as a smoker, if you contract COVID-19, you run the risk of being seriously ill and even dying.
Quitting smoking and the UK government
No wonder governments like the UK government plan to eradicate smoking. As an aside, the British government is the world’s only government that actively encourages the use ofElectronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) to help smokers quit. In other words, it believes that ENDS help people quit.
The article titled, “England has an ambitious plan to eradicate smoking by 2030,” describes England’s (and by extension the British government’s) plan to emulate Sweden and eradicate tobacco use.
Note: While the Swedish government has implemented smoking restrictions in all public places, it has not entirely eradicated tobacco use. And there is currently a pushback from Stockholm city officials who have said, “they will defy the ban by allowing three popular bars to continue their outdoor smoking areas.”
Secondly, the fundamental difference between the Swedish and UK governments with respect to their individual smoking bans is that the Swedish government has included e-Cigarettes and all vaping devices in its prohibition, and the UK government actively encourages smokers to move from smoking to vaping.
As this article correctly points out, the question that begs is whether the government will achieve this or not. This article’s author, Sabrina Weiss, answers this question in the affirmative. The salient point here is that by deregulating e-cigarettes and actively encouraging smokers to vape instead of smoking, the UK government has a good chance of eradicating tobacco by 2030.
The one point that has not been mentioned is the tobacco industry’s response to the UK government’s plan.
The tobacco industry is robust and tobacco companies “are among the world’s most sophisticated and successful marketers.”
Finally, a considerable part of the world’s governments’ tax revenue comes from taxing cigarette sales. Will the tobacco industry stand by and watch governments like the UK government eradicate smoking? Or will it use its financial power and powerful marketing message to fight any form of restriction on tobacco actively?
Only time will provide the answer to this question.