I just sat and read 38 pages of a wordy tome emanating from ASH about the "Smoking problem" in Mental Health. Disclaimer: I am, by nature, a libertarian. That, basically, means I don't give a rat's ass what you do to yourself. It's none of my business. It's not that I don't care about you - quite the reverse, I care so much that I acknowledge all of your fundamental freedoms, and I have no intention of trying to take any away from you. Just so you know. I may not agree with what you do to, for, or by yourself, but I'd defend your right to do it. That kind of thing.
SO, yes, anyway, I read this wordy tome. And it during the read-through, all I could see was "actually we really don't like what these patients are doing, and we really think we need to do something, because, well, it's not right, is it? I mean, look, they're doing these things and we reckon it can't be healthy, so, well, basically, we need to harangue these poor buggers and get them to agree that they're being naughty and get them to stop".
But here's the thing. These people, bottom line, want to use nicotine. The feel they get a benefit from so doing. What gets right up the backs of the do-gooders is that they light tobacco to do it. And that, of course, will never do. So they come up with all these ambitions and methods and strategies and other buzzwords to get folks to stop doing it.
I've got a three year old grandson - and a one year old. They both, very often, do things I'm not massively fond of. They're children. It's what they do. So what do I do? I give them something more enjoyable to do. Not because I'm a wonderful and kind grandfather (I am, but that's beside the point), but because I don't want to be annoyed by them annoying me by being bloody annoying, frankly. If I can find something they enjoy more, which doesn't annoy me, then it's a win-win. What I don't do is refer them to an outside agency whose tactics I may not approve of or enjoy, and get them to come in, assess the situation (which will annoy the grandkids and make them act out), and then formulate an ongoing remedial strategy, based on methodologies that have been subject to randomised controlled trials carried out by people who, too, are annoyed by children being, well, children.
No - bugger that. I give the grandkids something they enjoy more to do.
So, here we have it. Folks want to use nicotine. These folks have other, I think more pressing issues. So, can we find other ways for them to use nicotine that won't annoy the do-gooders? See, I think we can, and it doesn't need expensive outside agencies. I feel a list coming on.
Here it is: (just like on Strictly Come Dancing, in no particular order)
Snus - have a quick squint at Sweden. The Swedes seem to like Snus. They've got very low smoking rates. That's one. Nothing annoying about that.
Heat Not Burn tobacco-containing novel tobacco products. They look promising - and, on that sliding scale of risk, a long way closer to the nirvana of "Zero Risk" than what, we are told, the risk from lit tobacco is. (By the way, that "we are told" bit is important. It implies I don't buy it 100%. Just so you know) So, HnB - nothing annoying about that - unless you're tilting at the Tobacco Company windmills, of course. But sensible people have already acknowledged you should look at the product, not the producer.
Ecigs - Well, hell, these things are about the safest widely acceptable (to the user) alternative way to get nicotine there is. Want a cool flavour? Yup! It's there. Want wispy little plumelets of barely noticeable vapour. Yip, you can do that. Want huge billowing clouds of dense, flavourful vaper you can almost chew? Yeah, yeah - no bother. That's there. (Might be a bit annoying for serial whingers, but those folks get annoyed by everything, so they really don't count). Bottom line? Safe as houses, as long as you understand that houses are not 100% safe - otherwise we wouldn't need house and contents insurance, would we?
Other nicotine containing products - there's a fair old selection, really, some of which are so-called "licensed medicines" (they're not really medicines - they don't cure anything, no matter what we've been told) and some of which fly under the radar a bit - like those Nicoccino thingies. They all work to some degree, but you've got to admit, the licensed varieties are, generally speaking, boring, unexciting, and have this horrible habit of making you feel like you're a patient. If you're in the group we're taking about here, you probably don't really want reminding. Or made to feel like a tit. (Disclaimer. I am not a psychiatrist or a psychologist. So that bit about wanting to be reminded might be wrong. Or it might not.)
If, then, those lovely folks in Public Health and the various different alphabet organisations actually sat down and thought about it for a few minutes, and then borrowed some grandkids (if they haven't got their own) , they might work it out. My grandkids don't annoy me much these days. Whenever they arrive (and believe me, they arrive a lot) they look for the more enjoyable stuff I've sorted out for them to do/play with/watch/listen to/dig up/break/sleep on and having found the one they like most (and it's quite often two different things, because they like different things) they do that.
So, all they really need to do is make sure that nothing gets in the way of the things on my list - make them not only available everywhere, but also make sure that they can be used - enjoyed even - in as many places as possible. Make sure nobody makes the mistake of preventing their use, either, cos that would be annoying. And, if it's needed, make sure that folks who might otherwise have a bit of difficulty finding out how to use them have access to someone who can help them find the thing that makes them go "ooh!"
And, you know what, I reckon that would make the world a happier place. And, as a by-product, more productive and more useful. (That's a veiled dig, by the way. Just so you know).
Oh - and a shed load cheaper than funding interminable studies to tell you exactly what I've written here today. Worth noting, I think. Of course, that would mean some folks would be out of a job - but isn't that their ultimate aim anyway? If it's not, it bloody well should be.