Smoking is cool, well a lot cooler than Kevin
I’m not quite sure if or when I became cool, but if I did, I know for certain smoking had nothing to do with it.
When I was a kid one of my best mates was my next-door neighbour Brett. Brett was a smoker. Brett was always going to be a smoker. His mum smoked, his dad smoked, his older brother smoked – if Brett didn’t smoke he would have almost been betraying the family name. Brett was an honour smoker, and a good mate. Although he did once try to beat me up.
Each morning Brett and I would head off early and walk to school “the back way”, so I could enjoy a pleasant dawn service of standing around like an idiot watching Brett and a bunch of kids smoke their lungs out. I think I did this every day of my entire high-schooling career, and for some reason I never smoked. Ever. But even though I thought it was disgusting, I always knew smoking was undeniably cool.
I don’t care what anyone says, to young and impressionable eyes, smoking has and might always be the ultimate short-cut to cool. And it’s a habit that’s proven extremely difficult to eradicate over the years not because people don’t know it kills them, or because they don’t know it’s addictive, but because it is cool on a multitude of fronts.
It’s cool because cool people do it. It’s cool because it looks cool. It’s cool because it always gives you something to do, and people who have things to do are important, and hence, cool. It’s cool because you are essentially taking one of man’s greatest accomplishments, the ability to create fire, and saying I AM SO COOL I BLOODY BREATHE THIS STUFF.
NB: Interestingly, dragons are simultaneously cool and uncool. Cool because they breathe fire (very cool), but uncool because of fantasy novels and the people who read them (extremely uncool).
But mostly, smoking is impenetrably cool for one reason – it’s bad. And the more people tell you how bad it is, the badder and more attractive it gets. Bad and cool are almost inseparable. God may be great, but he’s not cool. Robert Johnson didn’t carve his way into music folklore by selling his soul to Jesus. Hell naw. Bob went straight to the source of cool, the devil himself, who taught him how to shred like a demon and subsequently invented probably the only thing cooler than smoking – rock and roll. And I bet they both lit up after their first lesson.
And now smoking has been made even cooler after the one person in the country who epitomises both the height of authority and the pinnacle of dork, our very own four-eyed robo-tronic Prime Minister of uncool concentrate, Kevin Rudd, has publicly declared that, “Cigarettes are not cool”. Good one Kev. I almost want to take up heroin now.
So let’s be clear: if you want to eradicate the smokes, the war you have to wage is not the war against cigarettes – it is the war against cool. And that battle is an absolute bitch fight.
Last week in the SMH Becky Freeman and Simon Chapman championed the government’s latest announcement that by 2012 all packets of fags will be completely devoid of “cool” branding, replaced by a non-descript brown box with plain type because apparently in the 90s some tobacco exec said, “a cigarette pack is one of the few things you use regularly that makes a statement about you”.
Here’s two reasons why this article is a complete waste of time in the war against cool:
1. It was co-authored by a research officer and a university professor.
For starters, co-writing is uncool; and for supper, so are academics. So anything that was said within was so eye-rollingly square it almost made me want to take up the darts.
2. It assumes that flashy advertising and cool logos are what sucks in would-be durry munchers.
Wrong. What lures in the kids is watching cool people like Don Draper in Mad Men, in his cool office, saying cool stuff, to cool chicks, all sewn together by a slim little ciggie in one hand, and an Old Fashioned in the other.
The packaging has little if nothing to do with it. The packaging is a garnish. Sure we all like a bit of it dressing our dinnerplates, but you’re hardly going to pass up a porterhouse just because some idiot forgot to plonk on some parsley.
If anything, the smoker is the packaging; and as long as the smoker looks cool, people will always want to do it.
Recently a study of over 200 students at the University of Canberra concluded that young people know cigarettes are killing them, but they simply don’t care.
“Every student surveyed was aware of the health risks associated with smoking” the study found, “but smokers wouldn’t give up because they enjoyed it, they couldn’t quit, they found it relaxing or their friends smoked.”
And more tellingly, the study revealed that heavy handed fear campaigns, especially from establishments such as educators and the government, were the least effective approaches. “Teachers weren’t seen as a credible source of information, while scare tactics were viewed with scepticism”.
Put simply: you can’t put people off by demonising something when it is precisely the demonising that people find alluring. And frankly, if you’re the most uncool Prime Minister since, well… the last one; the less talk about what is or isn’t cool the better.
So sure, remove all the labels. Plaster diseased lungs all over billboards. Raise the tax until it’s cheaper to smoke crack. These are all unquestionably worthy measures in limiting exposure. But until the day comes when smoking is a global embarrassment guaranteed never to get you laid, all arguments to the contrary are sadly, and if you’ll pardon the pun, nothing but a load of hot air.
Don’t miss: Get The Punch in your inbox every day
Get The Punch on Facebook
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…