We’re nearly at the day where we (officially) won’t be able to tell the difference between packets of Winnie Blues, Marlboros and Long Beaches. From Saturday, durrie packets have to be coloured a particularly foul brown.
“Look you stupid bastard, you’ve got no arms”
But what’s stunning is how little fight the tobacco industry has put up against the packaging laws.
The industry’s attempts to stop plain packaging gained no traction right from the very beginning, when a group posing as a representative for convenience stores popped up, stressing the economic impact of plain packaging on your local servos and 7-Elevens.
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E-cigarettes. Have you ever tried one?
The TGA’s looking at the impact any new regulations could have on them. It’s a bit silly at the moment because you can buy them with nicotine online - but not in Oz. Some commenters reckoned they got off real cigs because of them - others, like Laurel May, just got dizzy.
And hey. It’s Thursday! What’s on your mind?
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Smoking is bad. Big tobacco is evil. These truisms are as entwined as pies and sauce. Therefore, the plain packaging of cigarette packets must be a progressive step, given tobacco companies have spent tens of millions of dollars fighting the idea. Yesterday, the High Court made such legislation binding.
Even smokers might gloat at the idea of tobacco companies being flogged in a courtroom. And Australia, once again, gets a gold medal for showing the world how it should be done, which is a step up at least from some of ourl male swimmers.
It was a “victory for all families who had lost someone to a tobacco-related disease” said a Gillard Government press release. It was “a relief for every parent”. “For anyone who has ever lost someone, this is for you.” Cigarettes, it seemed, have been reinvented.
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Cigarette /sıgə’rєt/ n. a pinch of tobacco rolled in paper with fire at one end and a fool at the other.
The good thing about writing about smoking is that for once I don’t have to watch my words. Nothing I say could possibly offend smokers more than the government’s shock tactics and cigarette packets themselves.
Those of the self-poisoning persuasion are the one section of society you can tear to pieces with impunity. They’ve been told a million times they’re not wanted. I imagine they’re so stressed out by the merciless attack that they need a cigarette.
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Many smokers and, at a guess, pretty much every cufflink-wearing executive from the big tobacco companies have a habit of posturing as macho libertarians. They argue that cigarettes are a legal product, smoking is a matter of choice, and that when it comes to telling us how we can live our lives, the nanny state can go stick it in its pipe and smoke it.
This is all fine, up to a point. And that point is when smokers get sick and automatically assume that it is the job of the health system – that is, the taxpayers – to step in and cover the cost of their collapsed lungs, clogged arteries and triple bypasses.
It is a logically inconsistent position and, frankly, quite a pathetic one. If smokers and the tobacco industry are going to be hairy-chested about the manner in which they live their life, they should also be held to account for the manner of their death. I write that not as some clean-living puritan, but one of those poor sad dills who has become addicted to this stupid drug, but who is now happily (and hopefully) in the final stages of a victorious battle against nicotine, setting aside last week’s beer-fuelled regression at the office Christmas party.
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In the gruesome final scene of Martin Scorcese’s remake of Cape Fear, the sadistic murderer Max Cady has been bashed with a plank, burned with lighter fluid, thrown off the side of a houseboat and is finally drowning in a river. As he sinks into the water he starts speaking in tongues, struggling to keep his mouth above the waterline as he shouts random free-form gibberish before finally drowning.
I was reminded of this scene while listening to a woman from a cigarette company on the radio this week as she put forward the tobacco industry’s arguments, if you can call them that, against plain packaging.
Despite having a long-standing fondness for the gaspers, and a firm belief that adults should be free to do whatever they like, I don’t ever think I have heard such nonsense in my life. This industry, which in essence is in the death business, is itself in its death throes. As it sinks further into the abyss it is thrashing about spouting nonsense in defence of its right to sell demonstrably deadly products.
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Plain packaging of tobacco products has great potential to reduce the appeal of smoking, particularly among young people, and should be supported if Australians want to see death and disease from tobacco use continue to decline.
Simple, really. But unfortunately the facts have been difficult to read amid the smoke and mirrors, sound and fury. So consider this:
Fact: Glossy, stylised cigarette packets are a valuable marketing tool for attracting new smokers. This has been shown in Cancer Council research and dozens of other Australian and international studies, not to mention documents obtained from tobacco companies.
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Commonsense, let alone science, tells us that no level of smoking is safe or healthy.
Yet 2.9 million Australians smoke each day and smoking continues to be the leading cause of preventable death in Australia. Each year smoking kills 15,000 Australians and costs the economy more than $31 billion.
With this sort of impact, we can’t afford not to act. By not acting to reduce smoking, we’re standing by letting people die.
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Way back (on this day) in 1586, Sir Walter Raleigh brought the first tobacco plant to England from Virginia.
And it’s Tuesday, so what’s on your mind?
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It’s customary to denounce government ministers for being ineffective but for something different today I’m going to attack the Health Minister Nicole Roxon for being far too effective.
More so than any other frontbencher in this government Roxon appears to have got her way on pretty much everything and, as a result, life has becoming increasingly more irritating for those of us who choose to treat our bodies like a science experiment.
Early last year, when cigarettes cost a paltry $12 a packet, as opposed to the new price of $286 a packet, I had the pleasure of bumping into Ms Roxon in the gardens outside the House of Representatives chamber at Federal Parliament, where I happened to be stubbing out a cigarette in the ashtray. “You don’t have to put that out because of me,” she joked, although there was a vaguely maniacal glint in her eye, as if she was going to finish the sentence by saying: “Yet.”
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My dad was a pack a day smoker of Marlboro Reds, he died of cancer in 1996. This is a picture of my three brothers and I carrying him into the funeral service in his coffin.
If you look carefully you will notice the coffin is painted as a carton of cigarettes, Marlboro Reds to be exact (it was painted on my dad’s request by my talented sister Tania Ferrier).
Dad loved his smokes and didn’t appreciate anyone saying he couldn’t smoke. In fact, just before dad died he asked me to give his eulogy and remind everyone that he wanted to be cremated so he ‘could light up one last time’. He was a relatively conservative chap - but one with a wicked sense of humour, and I guess a fierce sense of brand loyalty.
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Much has been said and written about the wisdom of Kevin Rudd’s glistening mega-slug on the apparent evil that is tobacco.
As a parent, it does seem sad that a future generation of child smokers will now be priced out of the market. And while the jury might still be out on the links between smoking and illness, the Government has clearly thrown its lot in with the “it certainly appears to be quite dangerous” crowd.
I have no background in medicine so I will leave this part of the debate to others. But I do know this – I just paid $17.50 for a packet of Marlboro Reds, and no, you can’t have one of them.
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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.
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Federal government tax on cigarettes goes up by 25 per cent from midnight tonight. Here’s a quick calculation on what it means for me. I usually smoke eight 20-packs of the revolting, filthy things each week.
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The tax tables that tell you whether you’re better or worse off under the federal budget may need a new category this year. Alongside the “Couple, 60/40 income split, 2 kids” we’ll need “Couple, 60/40 income split, 2 kids, family smokes a total of 30 a day” because reports today suggest the government may mount an unprecedented tax assault on smokers to fund health reform.
As in most other countries the prevalence of smoking in Australia goes down as you go up the income scale. There’s no getting around this: a tax hike on smokers targets the most disadvantaged sections of society.
To which many non-smokers from all walks of life will respond: So what? It’s an offensive habit that causes revolting diseases which non-smoking taxpayers must pay to treat because chuffers don’t have the will power to quit.
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