Smoke On The Water

Things are too serious not to be taken lightly 😀

I stayed out the anti-smoking legislation debate, mostly because I have a rather ambivalent attitude towards the issue. As you know I smoke, but I understand that people who don’t would like to come home from a bar not smelling like an ashtray. On the other hand, I also hate the idea of being forced into the street from a bar if I wanted to enjoy a fag with my Guiness.

Numerous bloggers already posted on the issue, so I’ll refrain from repeating what was said already. But a thought occured to me while reading these two posts (via Jonas Ž.). How much did I spend endangering my life?

Let’s compare things: Smoking is not unlike driving. It’s a calculated risk, taken by an individual. When I light a cigarette, I am endangering myself and those who happen to be around me. But when I drive a car, I am also endangering myself and those around me. So isn’t banning just smoking a bit hypocritical, if what the Minister says is true and he’s really concerned about the health of his fellow citizens? And aren’t people who claim to have saved a fortune by quitting smoking just slightly off the mark?

Below are two calculations (not exactly precise, but close enough):


I smoke for four years now (give or take a few months). I estimate that I smoked three packs of cigarettes per week on average. I started with half a pack a week to about four a week now (at least a third of that during my Saturday night gig at Cutty Sark). I also estimate that an average price of a pack in this four-year period is abot € 2. Both estimates are a bit exaggerated, just to be on the safe side


So, I spent on average € 318 yearly endangering myself and those around me, or a total of € 1272 in the past four years. Not exactly cheap, but not utterly pocket-cripling either. To put in economic terms, I spend a little less than a basic Slovene sallary.


I’ve had this particular ride for eight years now. I also made a couple of assumptions, especially the one about price of fuel. A litre of 95-octane gas is priced at € 0.95 now, and I have no idea what the price was in 1998. Also, I think that the amount of € 300 for maintainence is just about right, when you think that you have to do a major check-up every now and then, occasionally buy a new set of tires, change the lightbulbs, wiper-blades, etc.


As you can see, I spend almost six times more endangering myself and people around me by driving a car than by smoking. Add to that the fact that I’ve crashed the car three times in those eight years, causing more than € 6000 of damage in total, and it becomes obvious that driving a car is much more costly.

Given the numbers I think that there is little financial benefit to an individual when this law will come into effect. Also, given the fact that every fatal car crash costs the government circa € 750.000 (I kid you not), perhaps the government should also start considering a ban on using motor vehicles in public areas.

Granted, it’s safer if you don’t smoke (and I’m not encouraging anyone to start). But it’s also safer not to drive a car or cross a street for that matter. It’s also safer not to bungee jump, go rafting, ride a bike or go mountaneering. But people do it anyway.

As I said – it’s a calculated risk. But it’s a risk I’m willing to take. For now, at least.

I have no illusions as to the fate of anti-smoking legislation. It will be passed and (in the beginning at least) vigorously enforced. I understand that.

But that don’t mean I gotta like it…

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.

26 thoughts on “Smoke On The Water”

  1. yes, some good points indeed. I’ve been smoking for 11 years now (jesus..), yes from the last grade of elementary, I usualy smoke a box per day, 1 box during my 5 hour gig in cutty, so I did spend a bit more than you, not calculating in all the cigaretes bought abroad, in NYC Marlboro lights were about 5.5 usd, and a box of lucky strike light during my year in Dublin was 7.2 eur, but I still smoke. Yes, the prices never stopped me, I just to walk thru 4 terminals to get to a smoking area on the big international airport, so that didn’t stop me as well. And this law will not stop me as well, so…..

    but I do respect the right of every slovenian, who, as you said, doesn’t want to smell like an ashtray when he leaves the nightclub/bar/pub.

    the sloution? There is no solution, banning was never a solution, please tell me who stopped drinking because of the Keber’s law?!

    All the bars should either decide if they want to have a smoking or non smoking bar, or have two different rooms for that purpose. Rooms, not just one side of the bar with ashtrays and the other without.

    The only thing that can make me stop smoking is myself, and I’m planning to do that in the near future, but until then, please…

  2. Oh and: anyone earning their money with a little help from their friends, the vocal chords, should maybe include the income loss to a some degree, which results from not being able to talk anymore, because the vocal chords say Hasta la vista, baby, one day. Been there, done that.

    But I don’t think 4 years, 3 packages a week is a reason to worry… 🙂

  3. @rollo: Indeed… While I recognize that a certain element of enforcement must be present if the government wants to do something about it quickly, I agree with your point completely

    @Burja: ROTFL! Good one! 😀 😀

    @abaris: I don’t think it makes a difference if one does something out of pleasure or necesity. Point is, that is it hazardous to one’s health. So the gov’t could at least be candid about its motives and stop snowing the people with b.s. rhetoric.

    @alcessa: If I counted just last year, the pack-per-week ratio would be closer to four-and-a-half. But it’s steadying now, so I don’t think I’ll go above that. And in any case I’m gearing myself up to quit. But I’d like to do it on my own terms.

  4. I see your point somewhat but I wouldn’t totally agree. Whereas your car is going to be more expensive to maintain, I could say people are more likely to be endangered smoking than driving. Yes there are bad drivers out there, but driving skills can be improved. On the other hand there is no way to smoke safely! At any rate I always like to think of smoking this way (which is why I never understood why people smoke in the first place) you are basically paying a company to kill yourself slowly. But in the end I’m not the type to force people to stop smoking, as long as it’s not family I could care less. It’s each persons own choice to smoke.

  5. To an extent I’d agree, had this been a perfect world. But we both know that driving a car is dangerous, and if something happens, you’ve more chances to get killed than by smoking cigarettes. Yes, by smoking you pay a company to kill yourself slowly. But by buying a car you’re paying several companies to play Russian roulette, and I didn’t even mention the enviromental hazards…

    Don’t get me wrong: I’m not disputing the fact that smoking is hazardous. I’m just trying to say that it’s hypocritical that gov’t and anti-smoking die-hards tend to single out the financial benefits to an individual of quitting smoking (like “a person I know saved thousands of €€€ by quitting” or “I could’ve bought this-or-that if I hadn’t smoked”).

  6. Well, look, there IS a perspective from which our government is acting, well, “honestly”: it came out last year that German goverment offices theoretically in charge of anti-smoking campaigns and similar were under a very strong influence of the tobacco lobby. Meaning they did not really bother to spread information on damages involved and many other things…

  7. Ok. I get your point. I would agree that using financial benefits as the main reason to stop smoking is a bad PR move.

    Although, I would have to disagree about more chances to get killed by cars than cigarettes. If you live long enough (i.e. don’t die of something else first) eventually the cigarettes will kill you 100% of the time (That’s assuming you’re a regular smoker for at least a couple of years). Over in the U.S. they’ve had tons of studies (too many in my opinion) showing how smoking contributes to heart disease, cancer, and on and on. Also if you’ve ever seen pictures of lungs from cadavers of a non-smoker, and a smoker; you can see how the smoker’s lung is all black on the inside. Eventually that will all turn to cancerous cells.

    Lastly from what I’ve seen in Europe they don’t seem to harp on the medical aspects of smoking, which is a mistake IMO. Also I would think that this fact alone -> (smoking actually ages your skin, and makes is wrinkly, leathery looking) would cause many women to quit smoking. I guess that last point could be perceived a somewhat sexist.

  8. @alcessa: In all fairness, that could be said about all governments. In the end, most politicians succumb to greed, and roll-over for some lobby, whether is tobocco or something else.

    @pengovsky: Oh had one comment I forgot in the last post. When you breathe in Hydrogen Cyanide (byproduct of cigarette smoke) all your life it’s bound to kill you eventually.

    Oh and some irony,back in the 60’s or 70’s the Tobacco’s Companies solution to cut back on the harmful effects of cigarettes years ago was the “filter”. Of course it’s placement on the cigarette is right where you grip it, thus negating it’s filtering effect. Nice touch, huh?

  9. @Michael N: I see many reasons for banning smoking. Mainly because of the benefitial spill-over effect of a relatively healthy population. But the benefits to the population are indirect – less money spent on treating smoking related illnesses means (in theory at least) more money for other diseases. But those who benefit directly are health insurance companies, who will still charge us the same amount (adjusted for inflation and operating costs, of course), thus making hefiter profits.

    And I agree that there are many much more persuasive methods to make people quit smoking than just banning it.

    As far as driving vs. smoking is concerned. Perhaps I overstated the comparison. I was just trying to say that we voluntarily endanger our lived daily – and are willing to pay for it. A lot.

  10. Michael, about women: quite a few of them use cigarettes as a form of weight control (ladies, you may yell at me if I’m lying, but I think I’m not)…

  11. @alcessa: Just like Michael N. said – I second that

    @MN: I don’t want this to sound populistic, but what about car exhausts and carbon-monoxide?

    And I’m not saying tobacco companies should not be held responsible for some of the most massive spin-jobs ever recorded. I think they’re right up there with car manufacturers and their reluctance to introduce electric cars.

  12. @alcesaa: this is one of the few moments I regret that this blog is in English… Had it been in Slovene I could’ve made some dirty parallels between smoking (pušenje) and weight control 😉

  13. Well yes, there are many other health-endangering aspects of our modern, industrialized world. Like fabric dyes, many kinds of (mass produced) food etc. etc. We can only hope they will get enough attention one day – and we should also hope they don’t get the attention after something really bad has happened or for irrelevant reasons etc. On the whole, the world is getting more “poisonous”, at the same time, the medicine is improving, too.

  14. 😀 OK, I’m off now to Cutty Sark, upping my average of smoked cigarettes 🙂

    Pengovsky will return tommorow, contuning the debate 😉

  15. @alcessa: yep, it does hold off weight-gain. So I know that’s a plus for some women. But if I’m not mistaken isn’t that from the nicotine? If that’s the case just slap on a bunch of nicotine patches. Problem solved. 😛 j/k

    @pengovsky: hehe I was wondering when you were going to mention car emissions. At some point I knew it would be brought up. Yes they are harmful, but at least that has a lot more “air” to be diluted in. As long as your not sucking on a tailpipe!! 🙂 Still hopefully that to will be fixed.

    I agree on the Health Insurance. Now there is a true case of russian roulette. Either way though you’re screwed. If you luck out and live a full life without ever needed medical help, you payed for insurance your whole life..for nothing. And well if you get sick, well that’s bad already, and like in the U.S. even if you have insurance, that doesn’t pay the whole bill…but that’s Capitalism for ya.

    And it can also be said for many other industries as well, things change but you still pay the same price or more…like prices in Slovenian rising after the monetary changeover.

  16. @pengovsky: One last thing I missed. One problem though is a lot of the people want these better, safer items…UNTIL they see what it costs.

    At least that’s what I see from Americans. IMO they’re the biggest hypocrites in the world. A lot of advocates for cleaner cars, if you check what they drive is a big gas-guzzling vehicle.

    I kind of laugh at the news over here, it’s like jackals running in circles. What can we say that will make an uproar today, but that nobody has any intention of fixing in the long run.

    This is U.S. Politics:
    Liberals – raise taxes (i.e. raise taxes/throw money at the problem – unfortunately all this does is allow more money to be skimmed by crooks) Our govt. here is like a sieve leaking money fast.

    Conservatives – cut taxes (one good point less money to be wasted/more money in my pocket) Of course they too don’t try to fix any problems.

    So screwed either way. 😉 I guess there is one thing I have to give to U.S. politicians, how they can lie, lie, and lie some more but still get people to believe them.

  17. since I’m still learning slovenian, I’d be quite interested in that parallel between smoking and weight control 😉

  18. Well, it’s not actually Slovenian, but it entered Slovene language as a coloquialism. “Pušenje” (Croatian for smoking) is also used as an euphmism for felatio (or blow job) – thus suggesting that smoking (“pušenje” in coloquial Slovene) is good for keeping a girl’s weight down can have a not-so-discreet sexual connotiation 🙂

  19. Hmm, those are that important things, Slovene teachers usually don’t tell 😉

    You know what I’m wondering? What would happen, if a girl in a Slovenian pub asked you for fire and you showed her your brand new Croatian lighter and all she can read is: “samo vi….” hehehehe

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