'War on smoking' will achieve same result as war on drugs

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 February, 2014, 2:52am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 February, 2014, 2:52am

I am a smoker and an ordinary old man. I have lived for 70 years and spent much of my youthful time on the mainland during the Cultural Revolution.

Ms Lisa Lau, chair of the Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health, resembles the admirable and well-intentioned revolutionaries of my time. She wrote pleading for public support to save my life by increasing tobacco tax ("Raising tobacco tax is a guaranteed measure to save more lives, February 19).

Thank you, Ms Lau. I cannot commend your cause more. However, as a smoker for nearly half a century, I have come to the conclusion that it is my choice to be a smoker and it is my life that is at stake. Would you mind leaving me alone? I am old and my life might not be worth your effort saving.

We should, however, do whatever it takes to make sure that kids don't smoke. Every time I see underage students smoking, I question how they got their cigarettes. Isn't it a no-brainer that cheaper illicit cigarettes encourage youth smoking?

Ms Lau, you have a comprehensive plan to fight smoking, haven't you? Why don't we simply ban smoking right away? Let's look at how much the war on drugs has achieved. Drugs are illegal, hence none are on display or put up for public sale.

Everyone knows drugs cause irreparable damage to the brain. The government spends billions every year in law enforcement and public education. Yet, kids still do drugs. Can we confidently say that law enforcement and education alone will eradicate all the sins in your eyes? My revolution-minded compatriots back in the good old days wanted to save the world from evil capitalists and imperialists.

History nevertheless teaches us good intention is not enough to change the world. Smoking damages health. But this premise alone does not justify policies that create perverse results. I do not want to see young people smoke, or lured into becoming one of the gangsters to profit from illicit cigarette sales. The gist of the matter is not about us fighting any evil enemies but how we encourage young people to cherish life and establish a positive outlook in life.

I plead guilty for being a smoker but I hope my two cents can save not only lives but also a few souls.

Lee Lung-wing, Tseung Kwan O