Graphic health warning splashed across the plain packages of cigarettes that cost millions of lives (and pounds) every year. Surely, one of the most obvious steps our governments could take if they really cared about the misery inflicted by one of the world’s worst legal vices. Cynics might suggest that, as tobacco taxes bring in twice as much money to the British Exchequer as is shelled out on direct NHS treatments, there is little incentive to clamp down on this lucrative industry that makes globally, every year, more than £30bn.
I was astounded to learn that cigarette manufacturers make only a penny of profit for each “death stick” sold, making the average life of a smoker worth $10,000 to Big Tobacco. Almost as heart-breaking is the fact that – in the last few years – smoking has actually increased in the 20-34 years-old bracket and every year 200,000 of those aged 11-15 in the UK start smoking. How on earth can they miss, or ignore, the warnings?
One doctor has proposed that the price of a packet of cigarettes be set at £20, forcing those addicted and unable to stop to seek help. In fact, he argues that these dirty, health-sucking pleasures have become relatively more affordable over the years. In Austrailia, hard-hitting black packaging with lurid pictures and stark messages seem to be scaring away potential smokers. There even appears to be more movement from the UK government to clamp down on these cancer-causing scourges.
Yet, why stop there? Surely, first contact with tobacco for youngsters comes not from a packet, but being slipped a plain-looking, relatively innocuous roll of paper from someone you trust as a friend and probably even admire as a rebel. What’s to stop smokers emptying out the lethal contents of their packets into more stylish containers, so they are not reminded of the harms every time they reach for another puff.
So, we need to brand the actual death sticks with messages that cannot be ignored. Instead of creamy white and light orange, which I’m sure were deliberately chosen to appeal to smokers, a black and yellow colour scheme, along with a vivid toxic warning, would be much more effective at scaring away all but the most hardened nicotine addict. I’ve tried to mock-up a quick idea of what this could look like, using the technology available on my simple desktop computer.
Tobacco should never have been allowed to establish such a foothold in our society and wreak untold havoc. We should be making every effort to ensure our children can enjoy a future much less smokey and much more rosey.