I'm a smoker.
(I'll pause sufficiently for you to be outraged and disgusted... Got that out of the way? Good).
Now before you ask; No, I don't burn bibles, watch reality television or club baby seals to death... I simply enjoy a fag. Now, if you can hold your tongue for just five minutes before you start frothing at the mouth and hurling abuse at me, listen to what I have to say because a rather interesting thing has happened here in Australia that may be coming your way.
Today, I bought my first packet of cigarettes under the Australian Federal Government's new Plain Packaging Laws. Without going into detail, as of December, no matter the manufacturer, every brand and every variant must now be sold in identical vomit green/brown packaging, with the full face of the packet carrying a horrific image of a smoking related illness. The only way to tell brands apart is small identical text on each packet naming the product so shopkeepers know what to give you when you ask.
Our Federal Government, void of any imagination or real ideas, decided to implement this strategy as a clever attempt to turn people off smoking. Of course big tobacco fought it and it went all the way to the High Court of Australia (equivalent to the Privy Council) where they argued that it was unconstitutional, obviously, Big Tobacco lost.
The case did however cost Australian tax payers tens of millions of Pounds to make sure that the legislation carried.
But was it money well spent? Well... I bought a packet of cigarettes from my local newsagency this morning, I looked down at the bland, Orwellian packaging, with its full colour, graphic image of a gangrenous foot about to be chopped off and do you know the first thought in my mind was?
"At some stage I've got to go and buy a Sterling Silver Cigarette Case".
That's it. Furthermore, I also bought a packet this afternoon... And I can't even tell you what the image on the front is... My mind is blocking them out already!
For all the pomp this legislation has provided, it will have NO impact whosoever.
For crying out loud! I've persevered after being banned from smoking in the workplace, in pubs, at clubs, at the beach and in Football Stadiums. I continue to smoke even though the Government jacked up the price to £12.00 per packet. They know this won't stop me.
Why do Governments persist in taking these ridiculous half measures trying to stop smokers? If they were Fair Dinkum, they'd just make it illegal altogether. That's the only way I am going to quit. Don't get me wrong, I love smoking, but I am NOT going to chase shady looking characters down dark alleys to 'score' a bag of tobacco that has most likely been cut down with pencil shavings.
Governments around the world LOVE smokers, because we build hospitals, highways, schools, and transport networks... We're their Golden Cash Cows.
They know us better than we know ourselves. They know they can keep scoring cheap political points off us and we'll cop whatever they dish up. They know beating up on us will make them the darlings of the non-smoking majority.
Because when has it ever hurt a Government or Political Party to beat up on a minority that everyone hates? And after all, on this issue, the added bonus is they make a bloody good quid doing it.
I will gladly concede the ground that smokers put a burden on the hospital system. In fact, the figure according to the National Drug Strategy here in Oz places that cost at £394M per year.
However, according to the Medical Journal of Australia, obesity is a much greater burden to the Australian hospital system- Costing roughly £573M per annum.
So why may I ask aren't there graphic labels, images and warnings on cupcakes, deep fried foods, and chocolate bars? How come junk food isn't taxed to oblivion like cigarettes are?
Because it's simple mathematics. Only 14% of the Australian population smoke, whereas according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics- 61% of all Australian adults are overweight or obese... Hmm... What's the bigger (pardon the pun) health crisis? Obesity or Smoking?
But hey! Put health issues aside, we're playing politics here. Why get 61% of voters offside by calling them fat and taxing their favourite foods when you can look even better victimising only 14% of voters?
That's why I am calling 'Shenanigans'! 'Shenanigans, Shenanigans, Shenanigans'!
If Governments around the world were genuinely trying to do a right thing I would congratulate them and I wouldn't call them out... But the hypocrisy is so transparent it makes me sicker that the 25 cigarettes I'm pumping down per day!
Now... I've had my say on the Government and I am turning to you... The righteous, non-smoking public.
Please stop trying to 'save me' and please just please can you leave me be.
I see you all judging me every minute of every day. At the bus stop in the morning, I am looked upon by fellow travellers at best with mild distain... And worst, like I am standing there in an 'SS' Uniform complete with red arm band.
We smokers are seen as the hated instruments of Satan. Sorry, but unlike heroin addicts, I have NEVER broken into your home to steal your laptop, nor smashed your car window to take your GPS for a pouch of tobacco... So please, tell me... What have I ever done to you?
I have had people viciously... I mean really viciously attack me. Even emboldened strangers saying;
"You are disgusting; give me one good reason why you smoke?"
I usually say; "No, I'll give you two... James Dean did it and it makes me look awesome... Now shut up!"
Why should I have to give you a reason? Why does it make you feel better for abusing me for smoking? I am NOT a moron. I know that smoking is bad for my health and it will one day kill me. We've all seen the statistics; we've all read the literature. Why do you come and abuse me on the street for smoking? Do you think you're the first to point out it will kill me? Is it breaking news? Do you think I might not know? "Sorry, my space shuttle just landed from Mars, I have been living there since 1953... Thanks for the tip!"
Every single adult on the planet knows smoking kills. But I was hooked and addicted before I got out of high school thanks largely to profit hungry, irresponsible shopkeepers... If you want to make a difference, stop teenagers smoking- Now teenagers... They ARE morons!
As for yours truly, I'm a man grown. I'm big enough and ugly enough to make my own choices in life. I did quit once, I went cold turkey for 12 months and contrary to popular belief, it was relatively easy (Okay, a girlfriend made me do it!). Then I remembered I honestly love smoking and took it back up... So instead of trying to make me quit. Just quit judging me, quit hassling me, and quit giving me a hard time.
If I may quote a dear friend of mine, Colonel Nathan R Jessup United States Marine Corps; Next time you see me smoking on the street, instead of giving me a death stare, shaking your head, 'tisk-tisking' and feigning a fake cough, "I would rather you just said thank you and went on your way".
Thank me because financially, I contribute more to this country than you do.
Thank me because the Old Age Pension in this country costs taxpayers £25 Billion per year- It's the biggest expense in budget. But according to the Queensland Health Department, smokers die at least a decade before non-smokers, if not more. So when I get older I am saving the country at minimum £131,685.26 in pension payments- Hey I'm happy to do my bit.
Thank me because as mentioned in previous posts; while cigarettes cost £12.00 per packet, £8.50 of that goes straight into Government Coffers. As I buy a pack a day, so I am kicking in an extra £3,102.50 in tax per year then you non smokers do. Is there any more I can pay for you?
When it comes to smoking, I know I am wrong, I know I am stupid, I know I am slowing killing myself, however I am enjoying doing it. These figures are attributable to Australia only, and they'll vary from nation to nation, but the sentiment is the same.
So all in all... Thank Me For Smoking... If you do, I will say "You're Very Welcome". Now I better get back to enjoying sucking back on my favourite brand. Which now has been given the very catchy and very marketable name "LDN 02"!