Unnoticed injustice being visited on the UK’s smokers

AS a fully paid up member of an exclusive club in the UK, I would like to raise a tentative hand in protest about an obvious but unnoticed injustice being visited on our group. We are the UK’s smokers and, if I may, would like to point out a few simple facts to support my assertion. My data comes from the Office of National Statistics and, I presume, is reliable.

* Approximately 15 per cent of the adult population are smokers

* Smoking-related diseases will cost the NHS an estimated £2.4 billion next year

* Smokers will contribute, through an exclusive smoking tax, an estimated £10.4 billion to the exchequer next year

* Simple maths concludes that smokers pay four times as much as they cost the NHS

* 26 per cent of the population of the UK are officially obese

* Obesity-related diseases will cost the NHS an estimated £6.5 billion next year

* There is no special or exclusive tax on ‘obese-causing’ food products

* Obesity is almost three times more costly to the NHS than smoking

On top of the above facts I would venture a couple of observations viz:

Smoking is a drug-like addiction not unlike alcoholism – almost impossible to stop. Smokers, in recent years, have adhered to society’s new rules and norms by excluding themselves from public places, pubs and many other locations that were once regarded as inclusive of them. By and large smokers agree with these limitations and adhere to them quite strictly. They agree that they should no longer impose their contamination on the rest of the public’s fresh air. Accumulation of diesel vehicles in towns, car parks etc ensures also that the air we all breathe is far from pristine. A recent test/study found that diesel-contaminated air was seven times more carcinogenic than a smoke-filled room. My cry of mild protest is based on fairness. What exactly is fair about the above facts?

Something that also went unnoticed by everyone, except smokers, was a 17.4 per cent increase on the tax on rolling tobacco. I’ve not seen one adverse comment in the media. This new tax level includes the ‘2 per cent above RPI’ levy introduced by the Tories in 2011. On an apparent whim, the chancellor decided to put an extra 10 per tax on rolling tobacco, over and above the 8 per cent on cigarettes.

With the statistics saying that deprived populations are three times more likely to smoke, the inference is obvious in terms of government policy. Keep the poor even poorer and, of course, the rich even moreso.

Kieran McMullan

Randalstown Co Antrim

Time to take your seats ladies and gentlemen

WITH the Tories in total disarray and an election looming, perhaps it is now time for Sinn Féin elected representatives to consider taking their seats in the House of Commons. For too long nationalists who have staunchly supported the party down thorough the years have been deprived of a voice in parliament.

Naturally there will be much gnashing of teeth and wailing of tongues at the mere thought of nationalist politicians pleading allegiance to an English monarch but the world has moved on and perhaps it is time to follow in the path of the inimitable Bernadette Devlin.

The former Member of Parliament for Mid-Ulster had no qualms about mumbling a few inaudible words in front of the Speaker when she took her seat and in no time at all demonstrated how constructive a politician she was for her constituents, with or without the ceremonial mace.

Instead of languishing in their cosy offices or making occasional appearances on Facebook or some other soundbite, might MPs be of greater use to their constituents if they actually took their seats in the House of Commons and addressed the pressing issues of the day.

Are we not fed up listening to the likes of finger-wagging Sammy, Carla and Jeffrey, blethering away with not a single Sinn Féin representative to challenge them? Please take your seats, ladies and gentlemen.

Sean Sheridan

Omagh. Co Tyrone

Inhumane terminology

HOW often have we heard the great and the good calling for a “humanitarian pause” in the war in Gaza. I actually find that terminology inhumane and totally repugnant.

The Israelis have brazenly ignored so many UN resolutions that one loses count after a while. So should we be surprised at the genocidal campaign being waged against the Palestinian nation when the UN have failed to take punitive measures?

That supremacy displayed by Israelis is further boosted when – and by the way you just couldn’t make this up – those UN members that were ignored by Israel are traipsing over one by one to the Knesset.

Our prayers are for all the Palestinians living or deceased. Sleep well Messrs Netanyahu, Sunak and Biden.

Larry Mc Dermott

Belfast BT11

Human shields part and parcel of warfare

ISRAEL and the EU have accused Hamas of using civilians as human shields (Irish News, November 14).

Human shields are part and parcel of warfare. German troops tied hostages to troop trucks in occupied countries during the Second World War. The Black and Tans did the same when travelling around Ireland. RUC and British army vehicles used tailgate school buses when on patrol back in the day. VCPs would be set up close to schools.

“Soldier of the Queen” describes how squaddies would always bring a large packet of sweets to keep a gaggle of kids close to them when on foot patrol in hostile areas of Belfast and Derry.

Michael O Flynn

Cork City