• Question: do you think alcohol and cigarettes should be illegal because they can give you cancer and ruin your liver?

    Asked by 07currant to Alastair, Emma, Hywel, Keith, Vicki on 16 Jun 2010 in Categories: .
    • Photo: Emma Carter

      Emma Carter answered on 16 Jun 2010:

      Cigarettes are extremely bad for you and are also very addictive which makes them very difficult to give up. I have a lot of friends who really want to quit but find it very difficult. The effects of cigarrettes costs the NHS (and therefore the taxpayer) millions every year, so it really is a huge problem. Most people get hooked as teenagers rather than taking it up as adults, so perhaps people like you could make a difference by influencing your friends. Making them illegal may not be as easy as it sounds at the moment, but I think in the future, they probably will be both illegal and morally unacceptable.

      Alcohol’s a bit different because in moderation it isn’t harmful (some medics even recommend the odd glass of red wine with a meal). Alcoholism and binge drinking are a real problem though, not just for the liver of the drinker, but the effect their behaviour can have on other people, especially if they think it’s OK to get behind the wheel of a car. I suppose we need to ask what it is about our society that makes people feel they need to get drunk in order to feel good about themselves. They made alcohol illegal in the USA for a while last century, but people still got drunk in the same way that people still take illegal drugs now in the UK.

    • Photo: Alastair Sloan

      Alastair Sloan answered on 16 Jun 2010:

      Good question. I don’t think they should be illegal because of the damage they do to your body. Just because something is illegal doesn’t mead that people won’t try it so it doesn’t actually solve the problem. It can also actually lead to serious crime linked to the distribution and sale of cigarettes and alcohol. In the 1930s in America alcohol was banned and it created a whole new area of crime with people selling it illegally for lots of money and associated with that was alot of gang violence. The decided after a few years that it wasn’t working and made it legal again and the crime wave linked to it disappeared.

      Knowing and understanding what alcohol and cigarettes do to your body is the best way deciding not to smoke or to drink carefully.

    • Photo: Keith Brain

      Keith Brain answered on 16 Jun 2010:

      That is a very difficult, and very important, question. My own thoughts are that people should be able to make their own decision about how they wish to live their lives. What is necessary, though, is to ensure that:
      – other people aren’t harmed (hence bans on smoking in enclosed public spaces because of passive smoking, and laws on drink-driving)
      – that associated health costs are covered by those people choosing to inflict harm upon themselves (hence the taxes on cigarettes and alcohol; and why people continuing to drink aren’t given liver transplants when their liver fails);
      – that there are good public education campaigns, and targets interventions by GPs, to ensure that people know what effects these drugs have on their bodies.

      It is a question of autonomy (independence) versus state control (benign paternalism). Someone in the middle seems to be the right place, but finding the middle is difficult.