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Good Intentions

Opinion: Why Cigarette Packets Should be Plain.

I’m going to take a chance and write this now and pray that my mother never reads this blog: I was one of the suckers who used to buy cigarettes based on how they looked.

In university a pack of 20 Silk Cut Silvers would last me about 3 weeks (though this would diminish to a week during exams and essay writing). They somehow seemed more ‘elegant’ than, say, Marlboro Lights. I was one step away from heading to Portobello or Brick Lane and finding me a vintage cigarette holder to smoke them through. 

When I moved to New York things got even more ridiculous. Capri Menthol Slims. I didn’t just smoke them because they were, as I described them, ‘lady-like’: I did like the menthol and the difference the slimness made to each drag, but, yes, I did particularly like how ‘lady-like’ they were. Giant sucker.

I was easily influenced by advertising & appearance - and that has turned out to be a good thing. It means I have also been easily influenced by anti-smoking advertising and horrible pictures on packets. I have heeded the horror stories and don’t smoke at all any more. I never smoked a lot and could easily go for days, weeks - at one point months, even - without a cigarette, so giving up was not a problem.

For whatever reason, dedicated smokers do not heed these things. Their continued habits show that they are fairly impervious to the influence of advertising - not that there is any pro-smoking advertising left in the UK. People don’t buy Lambert and Butlers because of the pretty, shininess of the packet or Superkings because the gold packet somehow implicitly suggests wealth. I presume that they buy them because they are the cheapest way of keeping the habit going. 

The business politics and economics of the situation is far beyond my knowledge but surely the most effective way of stopping smoking would be to wap even greater taxes on cigarettes than already exist. Make it so prohibitively expensive that people are forced to choose between food and cigarettes. A roof or cigarettes.

I’m not saying anything new here - this point has no doubt already been debated to death in many meetings between politicos and Big Tobacco - but I just fear that the unquestionable good intentions behind pushing for the packets to be changed will only amount to tilting at windmills.