In 1971 an interdepartmental Whitehall committee compiled a secret report
on smoking and health. Almost ten years later it was leaked to the press.
Its conclusions made depressing reading. A reduction in smoking would
certainly lead to a parallel drop in invalidism and premature deaths but,
the committee reasoned, such an improvement in the health of the nation would
be undesirable. If two out of every five smokers kicked the habit, we
should have to face the problem of caring for an extra 100,000 old people every year. Any savings in the costs of treating the victims of tobacco
poisoning would be more than offset by the extra retirement pensions that the state would have to pay to the survivors. Moreover, the report went on, if people stopped spending so much of their income on a heavily taxed commodity like tobacco, they would have more money to buy other goods such as imported washing machines, video recorders and cars. Over a five year period, a 20 per cent fall in cigarette consumption would produce a nasty deficit on the balance of payments. Therefore, on balance, the report argued that it would be better for the economy if people were left to smoke themselves into an early grave
(Booth, Tim (1988) Developing Policy Research, Aldershot: Avebury. p.52).
And on that note I am going for a smoke you all a higher pension. I will be back soon.