Monday, September 06, 2004

Acceptable Smokers' Rights: None

Here in Canada, we have a government-funded program called Medicare that, in theory, provides equal access to health care for all Canadians. Although it has been under attack in recent years for its cost, it remains a model for other nations - can you hear me, America? - looking to set up their own system.

To that end, I've long questioned the fairness of smokers placing increased demands on an overburdened public health system. It's one thing to be afflicted with disease over which you have no control. It's quite another to willingly expose yourself to increased risk. Why governments can't look to private insurance - where wacko drivers who rack up tickets and insist on driving sports cars pay significantly higher premiums than the rest of us - and apply a similar ethos in the public sector is rather beyond me.

So I stumbled into this article, Smokers 'should not get NHS care', on the BBC's site earlier today. OK, I lied. My RSS reader delivered it to me. But you don't care about my techie toys...and I'm digressing yet again. Regardless of delivery method, the article summarizes my recent rantings on the topic. Let the debate begin.

Interestingly, I wrote this piece in the Free Press recently that more or less parallels this topic. No, I don't smoke. I'm tired of long waiting periods getting longer because of people who do.


Kate said...

My mother smokes. She has had two heart attacks, probably as a direct result, and has not curbed her habit for any longer than a few months. I still have to remind my mom not to throw cigarettes out the car window, and she is not allowed to smoke in any of her children's homes, but this has not made a difference. I am reminded of a bit from Sex and the City that I saw a few weeks ago, with Sarah Jessica Parker exclaiming, "How dare you want me to quit smoking. Smoking is a part of me, part of my personality." (paraphrased) This seems to be the attitude of many smokers. Sucking on a bunch of burning leaves has been embedded so far into their self-image that they can no longer see themselves without their nasty habit.

xxxx said...

As much as I hate it when people smoke, I don't think it's fair to practice discrimination in health care. If you penalize smokers, you'd have to penalize drinkers, couch potatoes, and fatasses. What about klutzes, nymphos, and thrill junkies? I believe we all engage in at least one behavior that increases our risk for some terrible disease. And the medical community constantly releases new and conflicting information about what is bad for us. For example, alcohol has been linked to breast cancer, but red wine contains antioxidants that appear to reduce one's risk of cancer. So which is it??? And what about people who have lots of kids? It costs a lot of money to monitor a pregnancy, deliver a baby, and provide health care for a child. Should people who choose to have lots of kids have to pay more for health care? I think they should, but that's because I only have one kid...

I believe health care is a fundamental right. I wish people would take better care of themselves, but because I'm a chubby couch potato who drinks a lot of wine, I'm not casting any stones. I think the way to improve people's habits is through education, advertising, and sales tax.