As of the 1st of December this year manufacturers selling cigarettes in Australia are required to package their products in drab olive green packs that show pictures of diseased body parts.
When I heard about it on the news I took a nostalgic leap back to the dim distant past when we knew nothing about diseased body parts as they related to smoking. We might have heard rumours, mainly from wowsers, that connected smoking to lung cancer. But those people were killjoys. Smoking was a glamorous activity. We had it on the best authority.
Movie fathers gripped pipes between their teeth and gave out wise advice. Our boyfriends imitated the romantic Paul Henreid in ‘Now Voyager’, and lit up two cigarettes at once, offering up the second to their partners. The most enduring symbol has been Audrey Hepburn, in her tiara and Givenchy gown handling a long cigarette holder with grace and elegance.
As for the disease whose name we preferred not to mention, well that was an inconvenient tumour, er rumour, best left unexamined. Those of us who smoked knew we had plenty of time to stop and we could do it any time that we wanted. The plan was to wait until we were old, maybe twenty five or thirty, and not so cool any more.
When I was a teenager, deciding my poison of choice depended on affordability, the preferences of peers and the, colourful packaging. When affordability was no longer a problem and peers didn’t matter so much, the brilliant packaging that got me started kept me loyal to the product. All the cool kids gathered together behind the shelter shed at lunch time and discussed life, love, and all that other meaningful teenager stuff before rushing off to endure a daily dose of geography, history or maths. By the time I got around to maths, I wanted another cigarette to calm me down. Maths gave me a brain freeze. Mention statistics and I would zone out. As I later found, whenever a crisis presented itself, lighting up a cigarette might not resolve the problem but it did keep me calm while I panicked.
And after all, who was I to argue with doctors? In the late forties doctors advertised the benefits of smoking. The hard-working, much put upon doctor, who was called up in the middle of the night to deal with an anxious patient had to have something to calm his nerves. Doctors in the late forties knew ‘what a pleasure it [was] to smoke a mild tasting cigarette’ so ‘so Camels became the coffin nail of choice. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKMn-_aQoPk. If it was good enough for the faithful family doctor it was surely good enough for the rest of us. Doctors were on a par with pipe smoking dads. My mother has this memory of being ushered into her doctor’s surgery. He puffed at his cig while lecturing her on the evils of smoking. She stopped, he didn’t
That was in the early sixties and even then you could smoke not only on planes, trains and automobiles but also in hospitals. In hospital foyers there were metal ashtrays attached to the walls between the lifts and signs that asked smokers to be considerate and butt out before getting into the lift. The nurses smoked back then, the doctors smoked and the patients smoked.
I realised that in the small confined space of a lift it might be uncomfortable for non-smokers, but couldn’t understand what the fuss was about in restaurants. Actually there wasn’t much of a fuss for some time. The occasional grumble built up a head of steam over time and mutated into a decidedly loud roar. Once upon a time, and wherever you went, one smoker holding forth about his or her rights could hold a bunch of non-smokers to ransom. We’re so educated these days it seems only natural to us that smoking is banned in public places; non-smokers now know and even smokers reluctantly accept that second hand smoke can also cause damage.
I’m not sure that the packaging victory is the end of it.. I’m sure people are already planning to lobby for another reform quite soon. Still, if Phillip Morris don’t mind my appropriating their slogan just this once, ‘[we’ve all] come a long way, baby’, thanks to you don’t stop now. 2012 marks another notch in the belt of the anti-smoking campaigners and the surgeons general. Go get them.
I have given imitation of another writer’s writing style anothert go, this being the second time. This time around it has been an imitation of Charles Gulotta of Mostly Bright Ideas http://mostlybrightideas.wordpress.com
I like his style very much. I think that even if I haven’t succeeded in capturing Charles’ wit I haven’t done too badly in writing a piece that I can be proud of. I tend to ramble in in my introductions so I have revised this one and placed it down the bottom so it won’t distract from my story.