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Health Hell in a handcart

Hey! Let’s talk about smoking! Again!

Hardly unpredictable I know, but the Scottish parliament plans to ban the display of cigarettes in shops in order to – yes! – protect the kiddies. The next step, apparently, is to legislate so cigarettes are sold in plain packaging. As ever, the online comments are lovely: this lot is from the Scotsman.

Dacinda72 hasn’t read the article, or possibly any newspaper since 2006, because she doesn’t realise the smoking ban is already in place or that cigarettes are taxed quite a lot.

Smoke all you want. Just don’t do it around me. And don’t expect me to pay your medical bills.

The Geniune Mario Antionette, a champion speller, adds:

All licensed & age related products should be banned from the main consumer checkout areas. There should be a seperate till for these. Scotmid stores are the worst. People with their essential food/grocery items can’t get out the store because the smokers, boozers & gamblers clog up the checkouts, where these items are kept.

Which is amusing, as I get annoyed when it takes ages to buy my cigs because fat bastards are buying chocolate.

Alternative High Octane Fuelhead invokes the Nazis, and therefore loses.

Subrosa smokes, but it’s society’s fault.

We should go far further than this. Only have tobacco licenced outlets as in Spain. I speak as a life long smoker now suffering from COPD and chronic bronchitis who’s health is permanently damaged by cigarettes.

God, I love online debate. It’s so illuminating.

Anyway, back to the actual news story. What’s annoying about it is that none of our elected representatives are being honest here. If they were to say “We don’t like smoking, and we want smoking to be as much of a pain in the arse as possible” then at least they’d deserve some respect. But suggesting that putting cigs under the counter – legal ones, that is, not the growing numbers of smuggled cigs that are already available from under counters – to protect kiddies shows a major misunderstanding of how and why teenagers smoke, not least because the move doesn’t do anything to curb the evil trade in OPs.

You won’t see OPs advertised anywhere. They don’t have distinctive packaging. But they’re the favourite brand of apprentice smokers. They’re Other People’s cigarettes. They’re the cigarettes offered by someone else, the cigarettes you sneak from jackets, purses or kitchen worktops, the cigarettes you buy for 10p (well, it was a long time ago) on the bus, the cigarettes you smoke at parties even though you’re not a smoker and won’t get addicted.

Unless you’re very mature-looking for your age, or live in a certain Ayrshire town in the 1980s where one local chippy famously sold single fags to anybody older than a foetus, OPs will be your brand until you’re properly hooked and ready to buy your own cigarettes. But even then you don’t march into a shop, peruse the display and decide on a particular brand because of its sexy packaging. Nope, you give too much money to someone’s big brother, they go to the shop and return with something made from factory floor sweepings, ear wax and paint.

In support of the plan, it’s been suggested that kids of smokers are more likely to smoke than children of non-smokers. Which is absolutely true, but it’s not because of the packaging (and I fail to see how plain packaging will make any difference anyway. Unless maybe the plan is also to make cigarettes look like something else, like big purple dildos, or inflatable elephants or something? Otherwise once the packet is opened, the kids might well spot that hey! Their parents are smoking cigarettes!) It’s because it’s one of the best ways to annoy your parents and demonstrate how cool and clever you are, and it’s particularly great if they’re smokers, because you can expose their hypocrisy and, like, how it’s so unfair. Nothing says “I’m smarter than my folks” than committing yourself to thousands upon thousands of pounds in unnecessary expenditure, ruining your fitness and embracing the distinct possibility of a very painful death.

The Scottish government’s plans won’t do anything to address that. Instead, they’re just the latest bit of evidence that there truly is an international campaign to piss me off. And come to think of it, given the laws on health warnings, cigarette counters at present are a wall of black and white type proclaiming the dire consequences of smoking. Surely putting ’em under the counter removes that oh so important health message?

It’s very simple. If you smoke, you’re an idiot. If you don’t smoke and you start, you’re an idiot. If you’re linking to this blog – hello again! – to back up some pro-smoking agenda from a magical world where cigarettes are good for your health, you’re delusional. And if you think that making cigarettes more like drugs or pornography, adding a frisson of “The Man doesn’t want me to smoke” attitude to a packet of Bensons, is going to make smoking less attractive to teenagers then you’re so stupid you’re probably a member of the Scottish Parliament.

As the Flying Rodent puts it:

Me, I’d really appreciate a bit of honesty here. Cut the pointless, grandstanding bullshit – if politicians are serious about stopping us smoking, then just go ahead and ban tobacco entirely and sacrifice the five-quid-a-day tax from every one of us. Anything else is just scribbling in the margins.

Elsewhere, the FAA has banned pilots and air traffic controllers from taking the anti-smoking drug Chantix (Champix in the UK) on the grounds that they might flip out and kill lots of people in a kind of passive anti-smoking massacre. Somewhere, Bill Hicks is giggling.