Ok, so, full disclosure: I’m a smoker. A twenty year, twenty a day habit of those vile little coffin nails filling my blood with nicotine and my lungs with god knows what. I’m not proud of this, far from it. When I was a kid smoking was cool, seriously. I watched movies by Scorsese or Tarantino and as I watched actors I idolised exhaling clouds of thick, beautifully lit smoke I thought; “that is so fucking cool!” So, I began smoking at the earliest possible opportunity. This was back in the day when on my morning walk to school I’d pass three hilarious Lambert and Butler billboards, get to the shop to find that 555 and Lucky Strike were offering a free lighter with a pack of twenty and ten Red Band cost a miniscule £1.50 (my exact lunch money).
Unlike many smokers, I don’t blame or condemn big tobacco for my addiction, nor do I blame advertising or promotional offers. I certainly don’t blame Alan Moore for my John Constantine obsession as a fifteen-year-old or Michael Madsen for making it look so fucking cool as Mr Blonde. If those factors were the determining elements of my nicotine addiction, then I would surely have quit in the anti-tobacco 21st century Britain we now live in; which brings me to my point.
The governments disdain of smoking is both understandable and appreciated, anything that deters my children from picking up those little white sticks of slow and painful death is A-OK with me. But…some of the anti-smoking pictures on the new plain packaging cigarettes are simply hilarious.
First up we have a neck with a hole in it, which after much debate with my wife, friends and work colleagues looks nothing like a neck but rather another, more comedic crevice. Each time I pick a pack up with that image I giggle like a schoolgirl during sex-ed. I know I shouldn’t! I know that smoking related diseases are a terrible, horrible thing and that it is extremely likely that I will one day (hopefully not of course) be a sufferer myself thanks to my disgusting habit. But it is funny, sorry/not sorry.
Then we have the guy in a hospital bed, a sad sight that evokes memory of my dying Grandfather; himself a smoker for over fifty years. However, if you hold the pack a little further out and squint ever so slightly the man in the picture looks a little bit like dickhead of the century, Nigel Farage. Again, my friends and I can’t help but laugh as, well, who doesn’t want to see Farage suffer a slow and painful, self-induced death? I don’t know many who would mourn him that’s for sure. Sat in the staff room at work even a non-smoker (one of those infuriating dipshits who have never smoked and have no idea what they are talking about) saw a pack on the table and laughed, as they saw the similarity to the unwanted, unelected politician whose sole purpose in life seems to be to destabilise British politics.
Finally, there is the image of a man naked on a bed in the foetal position with a warning that smoking causes impotence. Again, this should not be funny, I know this! I am a sick and disturbed individual for chuckling as the lady serving me at Tesco saw the naked man on the pack as she passed them to me. She noted that most of the pictures to her, as a smoker, were often more comical than disturbing. She failed to contain her laughter when I said “impotence means I wouldn’t be able to have any more kids right? I’ll take three more packs please.”
I do plan to quit smoking and would urge any smoker to do so themselves, and any potential smoker to stop and think about the long-term dangers. But I am a smoker and I have been all my adult life. In short: smoking bad, but some of the packaging imagery is too funny to take seriously.