Monday, November 01, 2010

Lancet: study on harm from drugs

Given the results of this study we should be taking significant action to tackle legal drugs eg alcohol and tobacco, as well as illegal drugs. Surely there is a strong case for increasing the price of both very significantly through higher taxation? The higher the price the more use is discouraged. We are after all cutting housing benefit, child benefit etc at the moment and the more tax we raise on undesirables like alcohol and tobacco the smaller any cuts would need to be.

BBC News - Alcohol 'more harmful than heroin' says Prof David Nutt

Alcohol is more harmful than heroin or crack, according to a study published in medical journal the Lancet.
The report is co-authored by Professor David Nutt, the former UK chief drugs adviser who was sacked by the government in October 2009.

It ranks 20 drugs on 16 measures of harm to users and to wider society.
Tobacco and cocaine are judged to be equally harmful, while ecstasy and LSD are among the least damaging...


  1. I don't know if you've noticed, but alcohol and tobacco have been the Chancellor's favourite tax raising scheme since, well, since tax was invented.

    It is the irresponsible use of these substances that causes the problems, not the substance itself. It is the same with cars. Far more people die on the roads than die of alcohol or tobacco related conditions.

    I am still alive.

  2. Weggis, you are wrong and ill-informed. There is plenty of scope to tax alchol and tobacco more - and in a variety of ways. Perhaps you have not noticed the dirt cheap alcohol on sale in supermarkets or the two for one offers common in many clubs? Clearly you are still alive but you are most unlikely to be as healthy if you are a user of alcohol and tobacco - perhaps consuming these poisons has clouded your judgement and grasp of the facts (take a look at the figures below comparing deaths from alcohol use and tobacco use with road use)?

    Raise prices and you cut average consumption. Cut average consumption and you cut average harm to to individuals and society. Extra tax revenue could and should be spent on health education and encouraging responsible attitudes.

    Your assertion that more people die on the roads than due to alcohol and tobacco related conditions is...well...complete rubbish.
    Take alcohol: the Office for National Statistics say 'The number of alcohol-related deaths in the United Kingdom has consistently increased since the early 1990s, rising from the lowest figure of 4,023 (6.7 per 100,000) in 1992 to the highest of 9,031 (13.6 per 100,000) in 2008..' whereas on road deaths it says 'The total number of deaths in road accidents...2,946 in 2007 [and] 3,172 in 2006'. So alcohol kills three times more people per yr than the roads do - and some of the road deaths will be alcohol-related! Note the rapid rise in deaths also.

    On tobacco the contrast is even more stark. Patient UK state 'Cigarette smoking is the greatest single cause of illness and premature death in the UK...About 106,000 people in the UK die each year due to smoking. Smoking-related deaths are mainly due to cancers, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and heart disease. About half of all smokers die from smoking-related diseases. If you are a long-term smoker, on average, your life expectancy is about 10 years less than a non-smoker. Put another way, in the UK about 8 in 10 non-smokers live past the age of 70, but only about half of long-term smokers live past 70.'

  3. OK Glenn there’s no need to say it 3 times.

    Hands up, I’m a bit off with my sums…..BUT!

    Roads deaths have reduced due to safety measures for those inside the vehicle. The people who are still dying from road accidents are mostly pedestrians and cyclists.

    Those who die because their lungs or liver is shot are NOT killing someone else.
    It is their [my] choice.
    Whether I die, and I am going to die, through alcohol or tobacco, or live to get dementia, the NHS is still going to pick up the tab, and I will have paid more than my fair share into the pot.

    On stats: if my liver or lungs are shot and I get knocked down and killed by a vehicle doing 70mph in a 20mph zone by a driver who is pissed and using a hand held mobile phone, how is my death recorded?

    Not to mention cholesterol and obesity:

    Let’s tax butter, eh? And cheese, burgers, takeaways, pizzas, chocolate, sugar, sweets, biscuits……….
    People pig out on this stuff and die, it’s disgusting, something must be done!

    And what about tea, coffee……let’s tax them too?

    People are getting hyper-active on this stuff and when it wears off they fall into a depression and kill themselves. I don’t know what the world’s coming to I really don’t. Why can’t people just be sensible and stay in bed all day. Oh that kills you too!

    Or better still, just let’s ban personal freedom because a few toss-pots vomit on the pavement outside the local night club and nice people don’t like to see that on their way to work in the morning?

    On the other hand, you and I are both on the same side, and we both know that these problems are social rather than specific to the indulgence. Or do we?

  4. Weggis - 'a bit off' with your sums? More like seriously lacking in awareness of the facts. You are orders of magnitude out and therefore just not recognising the scale, seriousness and scope of alcohol and tobacco use problems (you repeat this in your second response with your use of ridiculous exaggeration on a range of substances in an attempt to make a point).

    You are wrong about road deaths again - they have remained on or around 3000 for the last 10 yrs or so, having fallen before that. You ought to check out the ONS website! I'd say your comparison of alchol and tobacco with various foods is pretty wayward because there is no such thing as an unhealthy food but there are unhealthy diets because they lack balance - and obviously you cant tax that!!

    Dont forget my original blog post and the research findings published in a highly reputable medical journal that ranked alchol top of the 'total harm' league having looked at a wide range of physical, social, economic and environmental factors - we'eve been debating using just numbers of deaths caused and your position is already very weak! You talk as if there are only individual and no wider social, economic and environmental consequences - where's the joined up [systems] thinking you are supposed to be using as a green?? Because of the very wide range of impacts of alcohol and tobacco I dont think you as a user have paid enough in taxes eg for your NHS use etc.

    On whether alcohol and tobacco abuse are social problems or not...I'd say there are many dimensions to the issue, including social, and that individuals have to take their fair share of personal responsibility for their choices (you are the one emphasising individual choice and 'freedom' Weggis). What is the state of freedom in society if there is no/low responsibility at individual, community and society levels?


Genuine, open, reasonable debate is most welcome. Comments that meet this test will always be published.