Smoking has been a public health issue for years and yet it is baffling why so many people choose to pick up a “cancer stick” when all you need are a pair of eyes to see the destruction it causes. Or a blind eye, if you just turn the packaging upside down.
Yet the British government are enforcing new, unbranded cigarette packets which are said to be legislated by vote before the May election. Bizarrely, the Public Health Minister, Jane Ellison, wishes to promote the plain packaging in hope it will discourage young people from beginning the habit in the first place, with doctors similarly believing the new packaging will save thousands of lives.
However, I fail to see how this packaging is any different from the packaging that we already have and, more to the point, I don’t see how the packaging either encourages or discourages young people to start smoking either way. I can hardly imagine a teenager purchasing the new packaging, and let it slip out of their hands in disgust and shock, “oH MY GOD, THE PACKAGE IS BROWN NOW!” At least that yellowy-blackened familiar picture of lungs are still there, phew!
Everybody knows the familiar “SMOKING KILLS” slogan that’s mushed along side pavements and gutters. Everybody has heard the haunting sound of a child, begging their parent to stop smoking in advertisements or watch in horror as the cigarette literally transforms into a tumour at the smoker’s mouth, the voiceover morosely reading, “for every fifteen cigarettes you smoke, you cause a mutation that can become cancer…” Everybody knows the risks. Everybody knows that smoking increases the chances of developing cancer, lung disease, blood clots, hemorrhages, tumours, etc etc, and frankly, like the ‘WAR ON DRUGS,’ it is not working.
Whilst it can be off putting, you remember the advert you just watched while you smoke your next cigarette, consciously thinking about it whilst you deeply inhale and exhale in thought, ‘Is this one cigarette damaging me right now? … I don’t think it is. Too much chocolate can clog my arteries and drinking too much alcohol could give me liver disease. Something is bound to kill me anyway.. so meh,’ you think. Obviously, something isn’t working.
If you really want young people and potentially children to stop smoking, you need to change how people view it. To an extent, over the years it has rapidly degraded to a dirty habit, yet in the process it has also become romanticised. When creating or writing a troubled and interesting character, the chances are they smoke and ponder deep in thought over books and black and white photographs, or take long walks in the moon light that looms over Paris on a summer’s eve… When you think about smoking in real life, it’s the rebellious children that started first. The ones who’s parents let them stay out late and they didn’t really care for anything or anyone. Movie stars and celebrities have this glamorous edge with a cigarette between their fingers and most often than not, working class heroes smoke in a sort of threatening-keep-you-distance but simultaneously resemble a have-a-chat-a-brew-and-a-cig-with-me sort of invitational stance. The person you fancy at the bar also smokes and they can’t hear a damn word you’re saying to them inside, so you have to go outside and smoke, or look like a prude and be left alone with all the drinks. Your choice.
The fact is, as long as smoking is seen as cool by the general public, smoking will always be cool. No matter how bad it is for you, if anything that just makes it the edgier. Putting simplistic packaging delicately around them isn’t going to make a difference whatsoever. A lot of people nowadays just mindlessly buy the packaging and pay no attention to it, desensitised by its ominous warnings of death and cancer over the years.
If you really want to cut down and crack down on smoking, you need to make it uncool, which is probably an impossible task when you’re an MP. However, a start would be perhaps increasing the age limit to buy and smoke cigarettes. I remember in school it was a blurry time, even now I’m not entirely sure what age you have to be to buy and smoke. I think it’s 18 to buy and 16 to smoke, but correct me if I’m wrong. Regardless, this fragile and blurring of ages makes it easier for those underage to get away with it.
This also means that in schools, there is a fine line between those who can buy and smoke cigarettes to those who can’t, and often those who can’t, are aided by the help of friends, siblings, or the local shop owner who has no idea if they’re 16 or 18, or just doesn’t care. Who even has ID anyway at age 16 to carry around with them? So most stores just sell it to you, giving you the benefit of the doubt. Not to mention that most schools have a ‘blind’ area from CCTV cameras anyway. So it’s sort of easy to get around and the laws against it just make it all the cooler to smoke when you know you’re not supposed to. It even seems like they want you to smoke.
Not that I should believe we ought to crack down on smoking anyway. It’s a personal choice and listening to some MP bumble about the damaging affects it has on our health is of no interest to me. We should be allowed to choose and do what we want without being lectured to by (what seems like) an old, boring Granddad. Yeah, it gives us cancer, what else is new?