Okay, confession time - yes, I smoke; no, I’m not proud of it; yes, I know I shouldn’t; no, I don’t feel guilty. Another admission - I really enjoy smoking. There, I’ve said it.
Actually, the moment I start feeling guilty about smoking is probably the moment I'll suddenly go downhill and die from a smoking related illness. Otherwise statistics say I have a fifty-fifty chance of surviving smoking. Which is not to say I'm blind to the risks.
It’s just I’m not going to entertain the idea of dying nor stress-out over it. I figure I’ve gotta die of something. Or as Kinky Friedman says, ‘Find your poison and let it kill you’.
Last night I hit the supermarket for my regular carton of fags. Instead of the relatively discreet packaged carton this is what the checkout chick presented me with. ‘No, you’ve got the wrong brand’, I said, not recognising my usual carton. She waved it in my face and sneered, ‘This is it - they’re now in a new carton’. How embarrassment.
Sure enough, the six-pack of cigarettes was wrapped in clear cellophane to reveal gruesome images of deformed teeth, clogged arteries and pock-marked lungs. All thanks to the new health legislation on cigarette labelling.
Now I’ve smoked for some thirty four years, and have no previous smoking related illnesses. Indeed, I’ve always considered smoking had protected me from a myriad of colds and flu viruses others contact with regularity. Whilst I won’t deny a possible smoking related condition nothing so far has manifested, or caused me any problems.
Nonetheless these new cigarette pack images depicting smoking diseases are grossly unfair and patently duplicitous. In particular the image of rotting teeth and mouth cancer has me wondering at what stage that particular case was recorded. After thirty four years of smoking my teeth and mouth by comparison look fine, once 52 years of wear and tear are factored in. (images enlarge)
Sure, my arteries and lungs would present a different picture but I’m not going there, nor need to. I undergo regular check-ups; I don’t have circulatory issues; my lung capacity is okay; why should I stress over their condition ? Do drinkers get hit with disgusting images of cirrhosis of the liver ? Are heavy meat eaters assailed with images of bowel cancer ? Why single out smokers ?
Undoubtedly smoking is potentially a serious health risk and I for one intend to quit one day. But the point I’m making is how can the Government, who share a mutual addiction to cigarettes (via taxes), conduct such a vicious campaign against smokers ?
For the record : Revenue attributable to tobacco products collected by the Australian Tax Offices (ATOs) Excise Business Line (EBL) in 2000/2001 totalled A$4.8 billion, ($5.09 billion estimated for 2003-04) which accounted for 24 per cent of total excise collections in that year.
In 2002 (NSW) more than $152m pa spent on treating tobacco-related illness.
Furthermore, a seventy percent tax on cigarettes contributes to health, transport and welfare services, etc, so the argument smokers drain health services is surely specious.
Another thing. In recent times the anti-smoking lobby has become so hysterical it now decrees against smoking outdoors !? Which demonstrates their campaign is not only personal but an urban middle-class attack on the working poor, rural folk, young blue-collar men, unemployed people, lone parents, Indigenous people and men from Asian, Mediterranean and Baltic countries. Those who represent the largest sector of smokers.
For many smokers life is an absolute bitch as they struggle with everyday burdens and pressures in order to maintain control. I'd suggest if it wasn’t for cigarettes there would be more people losing it and flooding our health and welfare services, to name but two.
If cigarettes are a legal method used by people to cope with daily life, then smokers deserve not to be absolutely pilloried and made to feel like pariahs. As with these appalling images. Indeed, self-obsessed junkies receive more government empathy than smokers, who pay large taxes to smoke. In fact heroin addiction may well be easier to defeat than tobacco.
Either the authorities make tobacco illegal and forego the huge excise revenue they rely upon, or cut the discrimmination and allow us to reform without the guilt trip. They can’t have it both ways. At the same time, they can apply the same criteria to alcohol and gambling, just to be consistent.
Feel free to convince me otherwise...I'm open to alternative viewpoints on the issue.