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Smoke on the daughter
Here is a new and exciting fact which I have just discovered: smoking is bad for you! It makes you ill and, later, dead! I was so astonished when I read this very new information for the first time ever that I dropped my cigarette and burned down my flat, which is another way cigarettes are bad: they are literally made of fire! I've been an habitual smoker for five years and it turns out all that stuff I was inhaling? Not unicorn breath after all! It's smoke!
I am a smoker. I smoke cigarettes, roll-ups, cigars and - a recent discovery prompted entirely by filthy peer pressure - cigarillos. I do not smoke because I think the packaging is pretty, or because I am somehow ignorant of its heath risks, or because - as one awful 'brand consultant' suggested in the Graun last week - cigarette packs match my handbag. I smoke because I like the taste, I like the way it makes me feel (in the 'reduced stress' sense, rather than the 'cool and popular' sense); because it alleviates my constant rage; because I work for minimum wage getting shouted and/or leered at by drunks who irritate and/or terrify me. Wow, this piece got dark fast.
The point to which I was trying to get before I got sidetracked with oversharing was this: cigarette packaging had no bearing on my decision to begin smoking. It has no bearing on my decision to continue smoking (although when they first started putting those grim pictures of rotted lungs and teeth on packets I did briefly start collecting them in hopes of sending them off and winning a T-shirt or something). If you decide to begin a lifelong habit which is expensive, life-threatening and involves a lot of time standing in the rain because you think Marlboro are pretty, you're probably the kind of toolbag who sends nasty letters to the actors who play soap villains because you think they're like that in real life and there is no hope for you.
Nonetheless, this is the new anti-smoking thing: plain packaging. Apparently it will stop people smoking, because as everyone knows addiction is powerless against small text in a standard font. Dangerous things should never be colourful, which is why WKD Blue is going to be rebranded as Grey Alcopop No. 4. Young people decide to buy cigarettes because they can see them behind the counter, in the same way that I own 3957 houses because I see a 'FOR SALE' sign as an imperative. And so on.
Here's the thing: I get how you might see the tobacco display in your local newsagent and think 'oo, I could just go for a pack of Marlboro' (/Winstons/Lucky Strike/L&B/B&H/Silk Cut, you pansy/other brands are available) if you were already a smoker. You were going to buy fags anyway, because you're a smoker and that's what we do, and since you're there already this will save you a trip later on when you actually run out and start twitching. What I don't get, possibly because it doesn't happen, is non-smokers seeing the display and thinking 'hey, you know what I could go for? A new smelly addiction. Yum!'
Everyone knows by now that tobacco isn't actually the world's greatest health food. If people want to go ahead and consume it anyway, that's their choice until tobacco-related products are banned outright, which would be a great deal more productive than this 'hide it from the kids, who definitely won't think cigarettes are a secret grown-up toy they want to play with because it's forbidden' business. And that's leaving aside the problems plain packaging causes for retailers: the increased queuing (since my local Tesco started concealing their tobacco display I frequently have to wait around long enough to actually want to buy cigarettes, even if I only went in for a pack of Rizla), the economic implications, the greater ease of sneaking through black market and duty free brands. Do you know what goes into a black market cigar? If you're lucky, it's tea.
If you're eight and you think Marlboro are pretty, you go right ahead and think that, son; but if you're eight and you start smoking because you think Marlboro are pretty, you might want to think about having a helpful neighbour or family friend call social services, because your parents have missed a trick somewhere. If you're fifteen and you start smoking because your friends seem to enjoy it and none of them seem to have died, despite all those heavy-handed SMOKING MAKES YOU DEAD lessons you get at school: fine. It's your pocket money, not mine, and at least it gets you out in the fresh air. Just be prepared for some well-meaning passive aggression from your non-smoking loved ones.
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