Terence Blacker: Smoking - the habit the world loves to hate

Wines and spirits cause far more collateral damage than tobacco

Share

It can be the devil's own job buying a packet of cigars these days. One usually has to visit a large supermarket, an unpleasant experience in itself. There, one joins a queue of hollow-eyed addicts – gambling addicts, that is, because these days smokers have to share a counter with poor saps hooked on the National Lottery. Finally, a cupboard must be opened to reveal a treasure-trove so gorgeous that it has to be hidden from view. You point to the object of your desire – "That's the one, with 'SMOKING KILLS' on the front" – and, having made a significant contribution to the Exchequer, you have your cigars.

An additional obstacle may soon be in place. This week, an Australian court confirmed a law that will require all tobacco products to be sold in plain green packets, decorated only by health warnings and gross-out pictures of tumours.

Few people have been surprised. We live in a world of goodies and baddies, and smoking is top of the league of perceived badness, well ahead of other unhealthy forms of human pleasure. Announcing Australia's proud stand against it, Attorney General Nicola Roxon argued that governments should be "allowed to take public health measures to protect their community".

Those words sound innocent enough, but if politicians really believe it is their responsibility actively to legislate against citizens harming themselves, then the implications are significant. Wines and spirits, which cause far more collateral damage, should immediately be sold under plain labels, with photographs revealing the results of alcoholism, car crashes and violence. Fatty foods should be de-branded. Those colourful betting shops, which the British Government is so happy to encourage on our high streets, should have one generic façade, marked "Gambling Shop".

This week's faintly Soviet new initiative by the Australians is also unlikely to work. Tobacco will be cheaper, with a fortune saved on marketing. Those olive-green packets may even add a certain mystique to smoking. At a time when people love nothing better than smugly to disapprove of others less virtuous than they are, lighting up has become a bold expression of individuality. The moment Bradley Wiggins was photographed puffing on a roll-up, he won my vote for this year's particularly tricky BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

Being what doctors describe as a "trivial smoker", I have no particular worry if what I smoke is sold under plain wrappers. Indeed, it may well be sensible to discourage manufacturers from targeting the young. All the same, when one form of unhealthy human indulgence is de-branded by nannyish politicians while others, which are potentially more harmful, remain untouched, it makes neither moral nor logical sense.

terblacker@aol.com

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Outgunned by a lack of military knowledge

Guy Keleny
Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Tiny Tim’s tea shop while canvassing in Rochester this week  

General Election 2015: What on earth happened to Ukip?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions