Although I haven’t broadcasted it on here before, around two months ago I belatedly bowed to financial pressures and switched from smoking to vaping. My opinions on the rights of, and discrimination against, smokers haven’t altered; the decision wasn’t anything to do with me meekly surrendering to the fanatical anti-tobacco lobby, an admission that they were right and I was wrong all along; the simple fact is I couldn’t afford it anymore. The rising cost of a packet of fags – £10.50 for 20, last time I looked – hasn’t been in line with the price of everything else for a long time. The fact that, depending in which supermarket you shop, you can buy three bottles of wine for the same price as 20 cigarettes will cost you speaks volumes; and the drain on my finances was too much to sustain, so I stubbed out my final fag in August.
It helped that I instantly liked vaping and, as if to emphasise this, I still have a packet of Superkings containing four remaining fags that hasn’t been touched since the day I received my first e-cigarette; after almost 30 years of smoking between 30-40 cigs a day, I suppose that’s not bad going, and I can honestly say I don’t miss it at all. If the buzz from the drag is the key hook of the smoking process, I can get just the same nicotine hit from vaping and replicate the former gesture at a fraction of the cost. The vapours don’t linger in the room, they don’t discolour the fixtures and fittings, they don’t coat my clothes in a permanent odour, and they don’t dissuade non-smoking visitors anymore.
Immunity to the smell of cigarettes was a consequence of smoking them; only since I stopped have I become aware of it. It’s still entombed in my wardrobe because there are a lot of items on the coat-hangers there that haven’t been washed or worn since I ceased; but it’s amazing how strong the smell is on others now. When out and about, I can detect a cig from quite a distance, long before I see someone smoking it; and it’s remarkable how everyone I see with a fag hanging out of their mouth seems to be the most slovenly, scruffy slob imaginable; the archaic images of Marlene Dietrich or Lauren Bacall using cigarettes as a crucial element of their effortlessly cool personas aren’t being matched by the smokers I’m seeing. By contrast, the e-cigarette is a rather sexy, stylish object and, frankly, superior in all respects.
Not that the proven health (and financial) benefits of vaping deter the tobacco prohibitionists, who see it not as an escape route from smoking but as a gateway to the practice, the fools; the same limitations on ordinary cigarettes have been unfairly superimposed onto the e-cigarette, and I’m wondering when I’ll encounter opposition to it from the medical profession. I say this because the first time I remember being singled out by a GP for smoking was in the early 90s. I can’t remember the reason for being at the surgery, but I recall the doctor asking me if I smoked; when he received a reply in the affirmative, he placed a little sticker on the front of my file, which he presumably did for all smokers. Perhaps afterwards my file was slotted in a drawer along with the rest of his smoking patients, segregated from the non-smokers and downgraded in the case of an emergency when a choice might have to be made between the two groups.
Back then, it felt like a bit of an intrusion into my privacy, though smoking as heavily as I did was obviously a health risk, and I can understand to an extent that it would probably be in a GP’s remit to hint at what I already knew – i.e. smoking wasn’t good for me. What if it went further than that, though, into private areas that (unless the visit to the surgery was related to one’s ‘rude bits’) have no relation to one’s health in the same way? New NHS guidelines apparently imminent mean that health professionals will now be obliged to ask patients over-16 what their sexual orientation happens to be. It’s both a further extension of the nanny state’s nosy neighbour tendencies and the latest chapter in the ongoing ‘diversity’ agenda that has swept through every public body of late to seemingly appease a very small section of society with a very loud voice.
Doctors and nurses will now be recommended to inquire as to a patient’s sexual orientation at ‘every face-to-face contact with the patient, where no record of this data already exists’; what is horribly referred to as ‘sexual monitoring’ will be mandatory in England and Wales by 2019. Patients will be asked ‘Which of the following options best describes how you think of yourself – straight/gay or lesbian/bisexual/other sexual orientation’; presumably, the ‘other’ is paedophile or zoophile? Might I suggest an additional response on the part of the patient – ‘Mind your own f**king business’.
Thankfully, Dr Peter Swinyard, Chairman of the Family Doctor Association, was not impressed; in his opinion, the new guidelines were ‘potentially intrusive and offensive’, adding ‘Given the precious short amount of time a GP has with a patient, sexuality is not relevant’, rightly pointing out that sexual choice affected ‘relatively few medical conditions’. On the other hand, Paul Martin, chief executive of Manchester’s LGBT Foundation, says he is ‘so proud’ of the intrusion into patient’s private lives. His organisation has pushed for ‘sexual monitoring’, as it views the change as some kind of step forward to address perceived medical inequalities for those happy to be defined by the LGBT pigeonhole. Those patients who don’t want to disclose their sexual preferences – and why indeed should they? – will be placed in the ‘not stated’ category.
This compliance with the Equality Act 2010 by the medical profession is allegedly intended to ensure no patient is discriminated against; but if someone’s sexuality isn’t advertised on their file, no rush to judgement based upon it by a doctor who might hold prejudicial views can then be made – and doesn’t that make all patients equal? A doctor’s role is to treat whatever is wrong with the patient; a doctor doesn’t need further unnecessary data that bears no relation to the patient’s presence in their surgery – unless the patient smokes or vapes, of course; and then they deserve all the stickers their files can handle.
© The Editor