Our health secretary John Reid has got himself in trouble for suggesting that, for single mums on council sink estates, smoking might be their only pleasure. Not the wisest thing for him to say, but only because it brings out the worst in our national trait that says ‘the poor must change because it’s good for them’ which liberal attitude has failed for more than a century.
What I think he was driving at is this: think of an unmarried mother in her twenties; she has several children, possibly/probably by different fathers; they live in poor housing, damp, poor sanitation; the area has high level of crime, vandalism and drug use; she has benefits, but no employment, save the black economy; education is poor; she comes from a home where she was conditioned to smoke from birth; there is nowhere for the kids to play. And the great priority in her life is to stop smoking? Yeah, right.
I don’t think he was saying that we should stop trying to help people stop, but we have to be realistic. There are parts of the country where no amount of government targets are going to make a ha’porth of difference because until you address the underlying issues, kicking the weed comes way down the list.
Which reminds me that I think there is some research that says that our ability to conquer problems and addictions is governed by the health of the hypothalmus which shrinks as we circle into depression. It is made healthy again by taking us out our normal environment and being given one-to-one attention.
And that means maybe taking these sink estate mums somewhere for a break; away from their children and the shackles of real life; pamper them, show them other ways to live and you might, just might see a difference. But wouldn’t the Daily Mail love that story?