Last week’s news unpacked 1

A fatal information asymmetry
When one party makes a decision based on better information than the other – an information asymmetry occurs.  The mighty beast that is the tobacco industry knows that its product is deadly, yet for over fifty years has engineered cigarettes to increase their addictiveness and attractiveness.  Why?  Because it wants to make money at the expense of other people’s lives.  Cigarettes kill half of lifelong regular smokers so the tobacco industry needs to recruit what it terms ‘replacement smokers’.  When a child takes up smoking does he or she realise that they are being ruthlessly exploited by a duplicitous industry which prioritises profit at the expense of human lives?  Probably not, so a classic information asymmetry occurs.

According to new research, every day 570 children in the UK are lighting up and becoming smokers for the first time.  This means that 207,000 children aged 11-15 start smoking every year.   We know that smoking is an addiction of childhood rather than an adult choice because almost no one starts smoking after the age of 25 but what can we do to stop young people from starting to smoke?  ASH Scotland is currently campaigning for the introduction of plain packaging. Plain packaging would deprive tobacco companies of their last, very powerful, marketing tool to promote their products.  This won’t go all the way to addressing a very real information asymmetry but at least it will reduce the attractiveness of this deadly product to our children.

Social smoking
The health hazards associated with light and intermittent smoking include:  heart disease due to high blood pressure and cholesterol-clogged arteries; weakened aorta (an aortic aneurysm); premature death from cardiovascular disease;  lung, oesophageal, stomach, and pancreatic cancer;  respiratory tract infections;  delayed conception in women and poorer sperm function in men; slower recovery from torn cartilage and other injuries; cataracts; increased frailty in older men and women; and  poorer health-related quality of life.  Not really a laughing matter but we also noted this video from the Ontario Ministry of Health which targets social smokers by comparing social smoking to social farting – should get discussion going anyway.  Warning – contains graphic farting content (as well as an important message about social smoking):


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