07 April 2011

Voice silenced with every cancerous puff

TOBACCO giant Philip Morris Limited, Australia has started a campaign on behalf of smokers nationwide to allow their thoughts and opinions to be aired. The “I Deserve to be Heard” campaign (IDTBH) involves information cards being put in all Philip Morris tobacco products, recommending smokers go online and have their say about issues affecting smokers. The issues in question are proposed “excessive” bans on smoking outdoors, heavy taxes on cigarettes and retailers unable to display cigarettes.
Firstly, let me make clear that I am a dirty, filthy, money wasting, cancer enticing smoker.  Yet in debates about smoking I normally take the side of a non-smoker. I find the biggest problem with smoking is that it is legal. Why?
 Smoking reaps no health benefits, no societal benefits, so why has tobacco not been banned?
Despite being a smoker, my view on the IDTBH campaign and “poor me” attitude of many smokers is simple:
No, you DON’T deserve to be heard.
Being a smoker and whinging about the public scrutiny is like getting a Mohawk and complaining about people staring at you. What did you think was going to happen? As a smoker you choose to single yourself out. Own it.
For those of you who haven’t checked it out, you can find the IDTBH website here. Below is my opinion of their arguments.
Excessive Smoking Bans Outdoors
There is nothing worse than being at the beach, or a park, or walking through your shopping centre entrance and getting caught up in a plume of smoke. Being outside does not make the smoke and associated stench disappear; it is just lessened.
We all know cigarettes are highly addictive, but if you cannot get through a mere few hours without lighting up, you may have a larger problem than just willpower.
Why should a non-smoker, young or old, be subjected to this? Their choice of clean, fresh air is taken away by the choice of a smoker to pollute the airways. The other side of this debate normally sees someone arguing that our airways are polluted anyway, or that minor passive smoking as you walk through a shopping centre entrance cannot be that bad. Valid points, but the real issue is choice.  
So why is a non-smoker’s choice more important than a smoker’s? Because the non-smoker does not afflict anything negative on the health, well-being and comfort of the smoker (unless they are a jerk, but this is off topic).
For the record, I do smoke on beaches, in parks and outside of shopping centres, but only in designated smoking zones or where it is legal to do so.
Heavy Taxes on Tobacco Products
The only thing legalised tobacco has going for it is the massive amount of tax revenue it brings in. About two-thirds of the retail price of a packet of smokes is government tax, but only one percent of this is spent of preventative health measures, such as anti-smoking campaigns.  So clearly the government do not want us to quit.
Smokers arguably cost our health departments a lot of money.  The tax revenue versus health cost debate is made all the more confusing by the fact that government don’t ban smoking. Again, if the health costs outweigh the tax revenue, why is tobacco still legal?
Governments seem to constantly create laws and regulations for the betterment of humanity and/or to save lives. Helmets for bicycles, seat belts in cars, and fences around swimming pools...the list goes on. None of these things have EVER killed or disabled more humans than tobacco allegedly has. Are these lives more precious than those of a smoker? Children’s lives may be, but adults?
Hidden Displays and Packaging Changes
The IDTBH campaign argues that hidden tobacco displays and packaging changes will negatively impact smokers in regards to wastage of time. They argue because retailers will take longer to find your desired brand, you will be forced to waste more time in queues.
Is smoking a cigarette not a waste of time? An example to ponder: when I clean my house (top to bottom, full, spring clean), it takes me an entire day. I encourage myself to clean by setting myself tasks with rewards for completion. By rewards I mean cigarette breaks.  Whenever I have (unsuccessfully) quit smoking, I could clean my entire house in a mere few hours. The moral of this story: smokers waste time daily, what’s a little extra queuing going to change?

So smokers, speak up if you want. I dare say you’ll run out of breath before you make your point.

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