Marlboro Advertising In Germany

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Here in Switzerland the politicians recently voted NOT to ban or further restrict tobacco advertising. The health lobby were pretty angry but I think most people were generally in favour of the decision. Advertising here is of course limited in relation to how it used to be. It is not allowed in magazines or on T.V. but in most cantons it is allowed on posters and advertising hoardings, in tobacconists and in some special events such as clubbings, music, cultural and even sports events.

Switzerland is outside the EU so some legislative restrictions on smoking are less strict here or ignored completely. I am therefore surprised that right at the heart of the EU, Germany still hasn’t banned cigarette advertising hoardings. I’m not quite sure how they manage that, but obviously cigarette companies are making the most of it.

Germany is however starting to sell cigarettes in virtually plain packaging (though not so draconianly plain as in the UK or Australia). The new cigarette packs in Germany have substantially larger and more prominent health warnings and nasty photographs but there is still a hint of the brand logo which will not be the case in stricter regimes. In case branding becomes banned altogether the tobacco companies are using advertising hoardings as fully as possible to create and keep brand loyalty.

As might be expected, Marlboro are ahead of the game. Their latest campaign “You Decide” has done all that a good advertising campaign should do; it has created interest and controversy. People are talking about it even here in Switzerland. And for the most part, the response has been positive. It has hit a nerve. It’s simple message can be interpreted in many ways but for those of us who smoke, and even for non smokers who have libertarian leanings, it is as if Marboro is reminding us that we are free agents who can make our own choices.

l am sure Marlboro are as corrupt and heartless as any other major multinational company. But I do quite admire them for this campaign. It is as if somebody is fighting back on our behalf. Marlboro have never forced me to smoke their brand or to smoke at all, but many governments and health fascists have been trying to force people like me to stop smoking for decades. This latest slogan from Marlboro has become something of a battle-cry for those of us who want the right to live as we choose and not all be clean living sheep without an original thought in our heads.

You decide.

That is a right and a freedom that is being stripped away from adults all over the world; not just in respect of smoking of course, but in many areas of lifestyle and politics. And always the people who deprive us of our right to choose think they are doing it for our benefit, because they are better and cleverer than us and we should all be like them.

But no. You decide.

The other slogans attached to the You Decide campaign are also quite deep and provocative.

Will the world know your name?

Is the sky the limit?

Will you stay real?

Is up the only way?

What’s your next move?

Is freedom a state of mind?

These all seem to be questions about individualism; something that society has forgotten to value but which is very important in our family at least. So the Marlboro ads resonate with us. I smoke Marlboro Gold quite often but none of our family are regular Marlboro smokers. Tina, the youngest smoker in our family, usually smokes Parisienne but these Marlboro advertisements have scored a goal with her. “I feel like we should support Marlboro on this,” She told me, “Because they are saying something that should be said. And they are making people think.”

Why I Smoke and why I want to write for this blog

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I’m Tina. When my mother and Cassie started this blog I was 13 and I was already smoking cigarettes occasionally. It started as just one or two cigarettes with friends at parties and gradually built up. After a while I was smoking quite regularly although still only a small amount. Now I am sixteen and by this stage I am smoking quite a lot; at least ten cigarettes each day and sometimes quite a lot more. Nicotine is very addictive I must admit I am totally addicted. If anybody reading this does not want to smoke the best way is to never start.

However, I did want to. I knew I would get addicted. I also know that smoking can damage my health, it can make me less fit and one day I might die of cancer or another disease that is connected with smoking. But even knowing all this, I always wanted to smoke and now that I do I like it very much. I will smoke until I get pregnant and have a family. Then I will stop. It will not be easy to stop because I like it very much and of course I am addicted. But my mother stopped when she was pregnant with me and I have just as strong will power as she does. So there is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that when I decide to have a family I will stop smoking. I don’t know if I will start smoking again when my children are older. Perhaps not.

But for now I really enjoy smoking and I am glad I live in a place where I am still allowed to decide these things for myself.

I am sixteen. I know that is not very old and I still have a lot of growing up to do. But while I might only be a young adult, I am in fact an adult and not a child. That is what the law says in respect of many things and it is how I feel. I have serious studies and exams to think about. I could get a job if I wanted to. In some places I could join the military. I do have a boyfriend and a sex life. So with all these things in mind it seems ridiculous to me that in some places I wouldn’t even be allowed to buy cigarettes, let alone smoke them!

I think that in order to grow up and grow as a person you have to be allowed to decide things for yourself. Taking some choices away just stops people thinking for themselves. I want the freedom to be myself. I don’t want to be a Disney Princess, I want to be something very different than that. I want to be a person who smokes and drinks and has tattoos and piercings and does things that other people disapprove of. And at the same time I want to be one of the best students in whichever university I go to, I want to be one of the top vets in Europe and, when the time is right, a good and kind mother. I think that is possible. I know who I am and what I want to be.

And that is why I want to contribute to this blog. Smoking is just a small detail in some people’s lives but to me it is kind of symbolic. I feel like there are powers in this world who want us all to conform to some kind of sickly, whiter than white, Disney image of what a good person should be. I could never be that and I would never want to be that; and I don’t think I am alone. When my parents started smoking and when Cassie started smoking I guess some people didn’t like it, but at least they were allowed to make that choice. And they were allowed to choose what brand they liked and see what other brands were available. Well those choices are being taken away from my generation and I don’t think it is right. I don’t think somebody who has never met me has the right to say how I should live my life. Being an adult is new for me and I admit some of the decisions I will have to make about things now are quite mind blowing, but I don’t want the possibilities to make my own decisions taken away before I even get started. What will be next? Will they make smoking completely illegal? Will I be called a criminal just because I smoke? And then what? Maybe they will decide we are all too stupid to decide for ourselves what we should eat or what we should drink or what music we should listen to… Well let’s face it, maybe we are too stupid to know what political party to vote for; so they could just remove some choices to make it easier for us!

No; I smoke. It is already part of who I am and it is a symbol of my attitude to this world and this life. I think this blog is important because here you have three people who refuse to be sheep and just follow the line. We smoke because we like the taste, the feel and the sensations that come from smoking. We also tend to like other people who smoke. We know we are taking a bit of a risk with our health but we are okay with that. We have this little corner on the web to say things that a generation ago you could say anywhere but now it’s not “politically correct”. Maybe we just want to talk about what brands we prefer and stuff like that without other people saying “Oh you shouldn’t say that out loud, smoking is bad you know!” And maybe we want to complain a bit about the fact that smokers have less and less rights because the ones who want everyone to be a Disney Princess and have perfectly white teeth are in control. (Actually my teeth are perfectly white and it really annoys me)!

I think people my age should rebel a bit more, not about stupid things but about the ways we are all under pressure to be the same, to like the same things, to have the same opinions and values… The problem is the people with power are clever, they take away options and alternatives before you even know they exist.

Anyway I will do my best to be the person I want to be and help others to do the same. If you agree with me on that you might like some of the things you read here even if you don’t smoke. Yes, smoking is the main theme of this blog but on another level I think it is about allowing people the freedom to be and express themselves.

We wish smokers would be more rebellious!

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We don’t write in this blog very often and to be honest we have some moral worries about what we write here. Sophie and I are adults who choose to smoke. Smoking has been part of our lives since we were teenagers and it would be fair to say that the fact that we smoke is a part of our identity and perhaps a physical manifestation of some of our character traits and inner philosophy. We accept that there are health risks attached to smoking but we are libertines and we believe very strongly that adults should have the right to make their own lifestyle choices. We started this blog as a voice for people who share that view and actually enjoy smoking. We also felt and still feel that the momentum of the anti-smoking lobby has got too much and that the increasing restrictions on smokers are wrong, unfair and unbalanced. What we didn’t particularly want to do was to encourage anybody to start smoking and certainly not give the impression that smoking was a habit that was healthy or free of serious risks to health. Hopefully we have managed that but since we admit to being fans of smoking on a personal level, it is a difficult line to walk. Moreover, our own daughter is now smoking regularly and we cannot deny that in some ways we may have influenced her in that. So perhaps the easiest way to avoid controversy and the charge of leading people into bad habits is to just shut up and say no more on this blog…

But clearly that is not what we decided. A long while ago I wrote a post about the time that I “officially” started started smoking. Well, at least it was the first time I smoked in front of my parents and it happened when we went out to celebrate my sixteenth birthday. I was reminded of that recently when Sophie, Tina and I went out for a meal to celebrate Tina’s 16th. Tina has been smoking off and on for about a year or more and Sophie has written already about Tina’s campaign on behalf of the smokers at her school… So when we went out for her birthday meal her smoking was no secret or surprise. But because I recalled the time when I started smoking we began talking about the subject and Tina was shocked by the suggestion that Sophie and I might stop writing this blog. After a while she convinced us not only to continue with this blog but also to let her become a regular contributor to it. I think she is going to bring some new energy with her! And with that I am going to hand over to Tina for her first official post as one of the authors of this blog…  (Cassie)

Hello, it’s Tina writing now… The first thing I want to say is that if anybody starts smoking just because I do or because my mother (Sophie) or Cassie does, then they are stupid. Or to put it another way, whatever happens to them is their responsibility not ours. Considering their philosophy, sometimes my mum and Cassie are too nice or too considerate for their own good! Everybody is an individual and everybody is responsible for their own choices. Just because we like smoking doesn’t mean the people who read this blog can blame us if they have some nasty consequences because of their smoking. We might die of cancer or heart disease one day. But still for the time being we decide to smoke because we like it and whatever anybody else decides, it is their business not ours.

Cassie and my mother both started smoking when they were about the same age as I am now. Back in those days, from what they have told me, it wasn’t such a big deal. A lot more people smoked. Cigarettes were much cheaper. There were more brands to choose from. You could see advertisements for cigarettes in magazines and newspapers, on billboards and posters and even still in the cinema. You could smoke in most cafes, bars and restaurants. You could smoke in trains and buses. You could still smoke in some cinemas and theaters. And in my country you could smoke in school during the break times. It was all normal. I guess it wasn’t very nice for non smokers in some places and maybe if smokers and businesses had been a bit more responsible then and had made it easier for non smokers to have places to go where they didn’t have to smell cigarette smoke, things today wouldn’t be so bad now. But now it has gone too far!

I’m lucky that I live in Zurich where our laws aren’t so bad as in a lot of places, but even here there are less and less places where you are allowed to smoke and more and more restrictions on who can buy tobacco and how it can be sold. In Cassie’s home country (United Kingdom) they are beginning to only sell cigarettes in plain packaging where you can hardly even see the name of the brand you want to buy and there are just disgusting pictures of people with cancer. Recently I read that in California they are going to make it illegal to buy cigarettes until you are twenty one! How ridiculous is that?? At sixteen here in Switzerland I can have sex and maybe even get married, in most countries I could leave school and get a job and pay taxes, in some places I could vote in elections, I could drive a motorbike or maybe even a car in some parts of the world, I could join the military and die for many countries;- but in California I wouldn’t be allowed to buy cigarettes! That is insane!

And when all these restrictions started it seems like smokers just accepted it. Maybe smokers thought it was only fair that non smokers should have more rights. Maybe they thought that because smoking can have bad health consequences it wasn’t such a bad thing to make it a bit more difficult for people to smoke. But maybe they didn’t realize how far things would go and eventually all their rights to smoke would be gone.

When Cassie and my parents were the age I was now they were allowed to make the adult choice to smoke or not. For me and for people of my generation that right is being taken away. For future generations it will be even worse. So all the sheep will have the same choices to be good little sheep! I wish smokers of the past and smokers now would be a bit more rebellious.

Nobody would accept it if you couldn’t tell the difference between one brand of beer or another. Nobody would accept it if all cars had to be the same shape and be painted with pictures of what can happen to you in an accident or what damage you are causing the environment. Nobody would accept it if tattoos were made completely illegal until you were twenty one and even then everybody had to have exactly the same tattoo. Maybe you should be twenty one before you eat a McDonalds (with all that unhealthy fat) and even then you should not be allowed to see the difference between McDonalds and Burger King…

Well smokers are consumers and I think we should have the same consumer rights as anybody else and I am pretty angry that the smokers before me didn’t protest enough when their rights were being taken away. And now they are doing the same to vapers. Well I smoke and vape so I feel like it is an attack on my life choices.

So I think smokers and vapers should start getting organised and should protest more. We shouldn’t be treated as second class people just because we smoke and vape. It is time to start fighting back!

Putting Things In Perspective

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I’m Tina. I’m the 15 year old girl who smokes. Shock! Horror! Seriously, if you really are that much shocked or horrified you really need to get a life!

My mother has written a couple of articles here about the fact that I smoke. She got mixed feedback about it. We left some of the more normal replies up but there were a few that weren’t “normal”. There were a few that were insulting and abusive to my mother. We deleted them. For quite a while I wanted to write a reply about it but my mum said no. But I showed her the text for this and she agreed I could post it. If you disagree with anything I say here you are free to say what you want as long as it is polite and not abusive.

If I am going to say anything here it should be honest, so here I go… It is not really unusual for people my age to smoke where I live. About half my friends who are the same age as me smoke. Before you think it, I don’t smoke just because they do! I will try to explain why I smoke a bit later. I will admit that by now I do smoke a bit more and a bit more regularly than most people my age. During school days I smoke about 5 or 6 cigarettes in the day. At weekends I smoke more because I meet my friends in cafes where you can smoke and I sometimes go out in the evening. Also my boyfriend smokes. So to tell the truth, I smoke a whole pack at the weekends or sometimes more.

I am lucky in some ways that I have two sets of parents. I live with my mum and her partner Cassie and they both give me an allowance. My Dad also gives me an allowance. On Saturdays I have started working in a shop and i get paid for that. I also sometimes do volunteer work in a zoo for which I don’t get paid. But all this means I have enough money to do the things i want. Actually I save most of my money but I still have enough to buy two packets of cigarettes in a week and pay for coffees and clothes and go out. Plus I get cigarettes from my boyfriend and from my family sometimes too.

So why do I smoke? Good question! I know it can be unhealthy, but I will tell you what I think about that later… Well, I always thought I would smoke. I could blame my mum and dad and cassie because they smoke but that would not be fair. I can’t prove it, but I know for sure I would have smoked even if they didn’t. I always wanted to. I never thought “I wonder if I will start smoking”. I always thought “I wonder when I will start smoking”. I admit I kind of like the image part of it. But I would never do anything just for image. The simple thing is I just like the feeling of smoking. One day I was at a party with some friends. Cigarettes were being offered around. I took one. I was a bit nervous because I always thought I would smoke but suddenly I thought, “Shit, what happens if I hate it?!” Luckily I didn’t hate it. I knew in that moment that I would be smoking regularly from that time on. If my mum had forbidden me, it would have complicated my life but I would probably still have smoked. I’m glad I didn’t have to lie to her. Funnily enough, it isn’t really the taste of smoke that is the best thing at first; it is just the feeling it gives you. There is nothing like it. Then after a while of experimenting you get to know the tastes of different brands and the ones you like best.

Maybe you think I’m just a silly rebellious teenager who is going through a trend or a phase. Well that just isn’t true. I think my mum would say I am pretty well behaved as far as is possible for teenagers! I hate following fashions and acting like a sheep. I am a bit shy most of the time. I like school and I’m a good student. I work pretty hard on my studies. I used to feel a bit young for my age and then suddenly for some reason I overtook a lot of people and now i would say I am more mature than average for my age. I will admit that smoking makes me feel a bit more grown up. Is that wrong? I don’t know. I don’t really see why it should be.

One thing about smoking I have realized is that it feels like part of me. It feels natural. If I have a morning when I can’t smoke i feel grumpy and bad tempered. Maybe I am a little bit addicted already but to be honest I like that feeling. Being addicted doesn’t mean you can’t stop; it just means it would be more difficult to stop if you wanted to. I don’t want to. I think we all have an idea of who we are. I always knew I would smoke. Just like I always knew that one day I will get tattoos. I know the kinds of places I will hang out in, the kind of people I will like, the kinds of things i will do, the kinds of job I will do. The kind of person i will be… And smoking is part of that, and it is completely my choice.

I seriously don’t care at all about it being unhealthy. It is frightening to think I could get cancer. I know the chance is higher because I smoke. And probably like my mum and dad and cassie I will be smoking for a long time…  I just think it is stupid to not do things because of what might happen one day in the distant future. If you think I’d feel differently if I knew somebody who had cancer you are wrong. I have known a few…

It is more about how I see life. Some people think we live more than once; that we get reincarnated many times… I don’t know. It’s a nice idea but I am not convinced it is true. I think we can only be sure about this one life we have now. Probably this is the only chance we get. So here is what I think. We don’t know how long we will live. I could be a very good person, never drink, never smoke and always stay healthy and still a bus could crash into me or a meteorite could land on my house and kill me! We just don’t know. There are no guarantees. But it is a bit deeper than that. Last year I saw a picture of a tiny little boy who was a refugee and he got washed up dead on a beach. That was his life! His short and sad life… There are some children born in Africa who will die of illness or because there is no food before they become teenagers. There are some children in my own country who will be born into abusive families and will get beaten or even raped all the time. That is their life and it is very sad.

I am lucky to be safe, healthy and happy for now and live in a country where there are not many problems. While I have this luck I will make the most of it and do all the things I want to do while I can. I think it would be insulting to those who don’t have the chance of doing all these things if i just tried to be safe and well all the time so I could live as long as possible. I don’t believe anything or anybody is totally good or evil but I do care about people and animals and i will do a job that helps them. But I will also smoke and drink and probably do other things that people don’t think are right. It’s my life!

If you want to write something here saying that my logic and reasoning are all wrong and smoking is a terrible thing and i should be more sensible, please go right ahead. But not until you feel strongly enough to also write something about refugee children dying at sea, people starving to death in Africa, animals being hunted to extinction and global warming making the future dangerous for everyone.

People need some perspective.

After Smoking At School

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Having read through what I have written below I feel I should apologise a bit that this is less a post about smoking in particular and more a celebration of the fact that my daughter is growing up and blossoming in a way that is very pleasing to myself and Cassie and makes us proud.

This is a follow up to my post “Smoking at School” in which my daughter found herself leading a student campaign to retain their right to smoke in designated areas of the school grounds; something which had been normal here ever since the days when I myself was a school student. Rather than repeat everything which went before I will direct readers to the previous post and continue here with what happened next…

Tina took part in several meetings with the other students at which various suggestions were put forward; some a bit wild including demonstrations, writing to several magazines and having a ” smoke-in” protest in the student common room. There were a couple of meetings with the principle and other teachers at which Tina was “volunteered” to be the student spokesperson. Tina said that some of the teachers were sympathetic to the student’s case but it was clear that for legal reasons there wasn’t much hope of progress. Finally Tina was called in for a meeting with the principle at which she was offered a deal of sorts.

The principle said that they couldn’t go against the legislation of the Canton which now technically forbids the sale of cigarettes to people under 16 but that students who were sixteen or older could be allowed to smoke in the area the teachers are still allowed to use. This would mean that more than half the students currently complaining would in effect still be allowed to smoke. However some who were not yet 16,including Tina, would not be allowed. Tina asked how seriously it would be taken if she and a few others continued to smoke in the teachers area anyway; after all, she does have her mother’s letter of permission. Could they just “turn a blind eye” to it? She was told that would not be possible since the school must be seen to be obeying the law and promoting a good health and anti smoking stance in public. Thus if she and the other younger smokers continued to smoke on the school grounds or if they got caught sneaking out of the school during the break times there would have to be punishments which would look bad on their school records and letters to their parents which could be embarrassing for them.

Tina was asked to try and “sell” this solution to the students who were protesting because it was the best and only deal they were going to get. And that is what Tina did. The older students were quite pleased with the result, the younger ones not so much. In fact Tina is getting on much better with the older students who are more at her level of maturity. She gets annoyed with some of the ones that are closer to her own age.

“And will you keep to those rules?” I asked her.

“Probably, at first anyway.” She said. “I’m not so addicted that I can’t wait a few hours for a cigarette. I suppose I might sneak out somewhere for a cigarette once in a while when the fuss has died down. To be honest it’s not so important to me to smoke at school. I think some people do it just to show off.”

“And you?”

“I don’t think I’m showing off. I’m just being me. I smoke. I always knew I would. It’s my choice. I like it. And it is kind of a sign to people that they can’t categorise me. I’m a good student but I’m not a sweet and harmless person. I don’t want the teachers to put me in a box and I don’t want my friends to do it either.”

Readers of our other blogs will know that that stems very much from our family’s philosophy. And I have respect for the choices my daughter makes. You know I didn’t think it would be possible to love my daughter more than when she was a very sweet and innocent child pretending to be a vet with her toy animals, but actually I love the woman she is becoming just as much if not more. She is somebody I admire and respect. She is somebody I would choose to have as a friend. Some mothers seem to dread coping with teenage daughters. Maybe I’m lucky. Maybe I’m strange. But I am enjoying this new stage in our relationship.

About smoking; I accept that she smokes. We all smoke in our household.

Earlier tonight I mentioned to her that I might write about these things in this blog.

“Oh yes. Well if you do, you can use this picture. And don’t pixelate it or blur it or do anything weird like you usually do. I’m not ashamed of who I am or what I do and you shouldn’t be either. Oh and you don’t have to worry about protecting my identity either. I’ve put worse things on my Facebook page!”

Well I’m still the Mum and we will be having a grown up mother and daughter chat about that!

Smoking At School

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I guess that in some parts of the world people will be surprised to know that until very recently (and still now in some places) both teachers and older students were allowed to smoke in designated areas in school grounds here in Switzerland. Recently there have been changes, as a result of which my daughter has found herself at the centre of a little controversy in her school.

But first a little background information about some of the laws and culture related to smoking in Switzerland. Basically for a long time we have been a country of smokers. Laws relating to smoking differ from Canton to Canton (state to state) but there is no minimum age when people are allowed to smoke. In my youth most teenagers smoked and it is not so different now. There are laws relating to the age at which it is legal to sell cigarettes. These laws used to vary from zero to sixteen but now in most Cantons it is sixteen or eighteen. Where we live it is technically sixteen, but the laws are only liberally enforced and still anyone can buy cigarettes from machines in the street.

In my daughter’s school it used to be permissible for students to smoke in a designated area of the school from the age of 14 upwards providing they obtained a letter of permission from their parents which was always followed up by a phone call. Getting such a letter of permission has always been a kind of right of passage. Tina will be 15 soon and has been smoking regularly for about a year (about one pack per week). I had already agreed to give her the letter. However, her school has just decided to implement the law more strictly and forbid all students from smoking in school. (The teachers will still be allowed to smoke in their own room). This has caused many of the students to protest and start a campaign to be allowed to smoke again. Tina has been nominated as their spokesperson. I think this is because although she is one of the younger regular smokers she is seen as a good, well behaved student who usually gets good grades and therefore not “just” a rebellious teenager. The fact that her mother (me) is known to be a teacher too may have something to do with it. I’m not sure that she really wants to be in this position, but it might provide her with some off the curriculum life lessons.

Now I fully understand the school’s position and I fully concede that school should be an environment which promotes healthy living. I suspect that within a few years all students in Switzerland will be forbidden to smoke while they are at school. I don’t think there is much chance my daughter and the other students at her school will be able to change the minds of the school authorities. I suppose overall it is a move in a good direction. However, something will be lost…

Smoking has been part of our culture. Perhaps it isn’t the most healthy part of us Swiss but it has been part of our social and cultural life for several generations. I started smoking about the same age as my daughter and I must admit that smoking with my friends at school and getting that letter of consent from my family was a part of the whole process of growing up and starting to behave and think more like an adult. And being able to smoke at school meant that we didn’t have to sneak out. As a mother I would prefer to think that my daughter can stay within the safety of the school grounds during the day and not have to sneak off somewhere in the break times to have a cigarette. I am also a realist. Banning smoking in school will not make anybody stop smoking. Will it discourage some people from starting to smoke? Maybe, but I doubt it.

In my school the students are still allowed to smoke and I hope that doesn’t change soon. I teach in a school for students who have serious social and psychological problems. Believe me when I say that the fact that most of them smoke is the least of their worries. Often in the classroom environment it is difficult to break down some of the barriers that can make them under-achieve, become anxious, disruptive or even occasionally violent. Yet it is amazing how quickly those barriers can come down over a cigarette in the break time. Psychologically I think that when they see that we accept their smoking, it gives them the feeling that we are accepting them as people who are growing into adults and respecting at least some of the choices they are making. To put it more simply it is a valuable point of connection between us and them. I think it is genuinely therapeutic. And if nicotine remains the worst of their addictions, we call that success.

Well in the meantime my daughter will fight her battle with the school authorities. It is a battle I think she will lose but in fighting the battle she will learn and grow up in other ways. And symbolically at least, she has my letter of permission.

Sophie

Smoking Is Good For You

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Yes, yes… Smoking cigarettes and other tobacco products significantly increases your risks of contracting and dying from a host of unpleasant diseases. Yawn. Unless you have been living on another planet for the last century there really should be no need to state that. But this is a pro smoking blog (if that idea disturbs you, go away and find something else to read) and from our point of view smoking can also be good for you. In these days of health fascism and political correctness you are not supposed to say things like that. But we ARE saying it.

Smoking is good for you because it can add to your pleasure and happiness and thus increase your quality of life. This in turn, according to most physical and psychological medical practitioners, can boost health and increase longevity. I will detail some of the ways smoking does this below. But first a note about happiness and quality of life. It is still seen as somehow sinful in some quarters to see pleasure and enjoyment as positive things. We don’t take that view. In our opinion pleasure, fun and happiness are self rewarding and healthy. I am sure many people reading this will sometimes have experienced an increase in their own happiness just by being around happy people. I doubt it can be scientifically proved but I firmly believe happy people look younger for longer and have greater immunity against disease than depressed or unhappy people; whether or not they smoke. Thus we are sure that, on average, happy smokers live longer than unhappy non smokers.

So here are some things about smoking which by adding to the quality of your life are actually good for you. They are in no particular order.

Tobacco tastes nice. Well nice is the wrong word and the taste of tobacco takes some getting used to. But ultimately the taste of tobacco is pleasurable. It is much like wine, beer, alcoholic drinks, olives, strong cheese and caviar; it is a sophisticated, acquired taste which comes in many varieties. Most people don’t like these tastes at first but come to appreciate them in all their sophistication as their pallets mature. Learning to appreciate different types of tobacco through different brands of cigars and cigarettes can be as satisfying and pleasurable as sampling fine wines and cheeses.

Tobacco reduces stress:a contributory cause of many diseases. It is better and more pleasurable to smoke a few cigarettes in a time of stress than to take strong, prescribed medication which is often far more addictive than nicotine and may have other negative effects.

Nicotine is addictive but does little harm in itself in the amounts normally smoked. This makes it difficult (though not impossible) for some people to give up smoking if and when they want to. However the pleasure experienced by satisfying the need or craving for a cigarette is lovely; a pleasure that non smokers will never understand.

Smoking is still sociable. It is a pleasure shared with like minded people. It is a common uniting factor among those of us who smoke. In fact in times when smokers are increasingly forced to the fringes the uniting factor maybe stronger than ever. We smoke with our friends, our families, our lovers. And often a pleasure shared is a pleasure multiplied.

Smoking can add to the pleasure of drinking tea, coffee and alcoholic drinks. A digestive cigarette after a meal clears the pallet and is very enjoyable.

Smoking can aid weight loss and help to control your weight. Cigarettes can replace snacks of starch and sugar. This is at a time when obesity related diabetes is reaching epidemic proportions. It is pretty much an open secret that women have been using this method to keep their weight down and figure in shape for many years.

Many of us find that smoking aids concentration. At work, while studying for exams or writing for a deadline smoking cigarettes can be calming and allow us to focus. We would certainly rather smoke than use some of the other chemicals (legal and illegal) that people frequently use to aid work and study.

Smoking can be sexy… Oh come on, of course it can! Some people do look sexy when they are smoking. There are ways of holding a cigarette or cigar that have a sexual appeal. There are ways to inhale and exhale that have a similar effect. Moreover the fact that somebody smokes says something about them and their attitude to life which some will find sexy. Of course smoking can look very unsexy too. Eating and wearing clothes can add to sex appeal but sloppy eating and bad fashion sense can be very unappealing. This is all obvious. Smoking is the same; it has just become politically incorrect to even hint that smoking can be sexy. Well it can and we all know it.

As an appendage to the last point about sexiness, smoking is often associated with self confidence which most people find attractive. If you don’t believe us, read some psychology and dream interpretation books. And self confidence and self esteem are in themselves healthy.

Smoking is an adult activity which certainly does involve risks. By smoking you are asserting your independence and your right to make adult decisions and take responsibility for them. You are saying something and there is indeed a darker side to what you are saying. In general smoking is accepting death but choosing to live until it happens rather than trying to avoid all risks in the hope of living a longer, blander life.

If you think that last sentence is kind of cool, then for you smoking IS cool. By smoking you are in some way associating yourself with the writers, artists, musicians, politicians and intellectuals who smoked their way through the last century and continue to do so in this one despite the warnings.

As an adult pleasure smoking marks a right of passage for many teenagers as they begin to make their own choices about who they want to be and how they want to live. And it is a safer right of passage than many other things.

Smoking for pleasure is legal and open.

While there are certainly chemicals in tobacco smoke that may do you harm there may be chemicals that actually do you good. You will never hear that publicised!

Of course smoking too much over a long period will almost certainly do you more harm than good; just as anything taken to excess tends to be dangerous. But in our opinion the flip side is that,if you enjoy it, smoking in moderation may well do you more good than harm.

Stupid Canadians and Worried Austrians

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A typical cal scene in an Austrian cafe (above)

From BBC NEWS>. [A Canadian court has ordered three tobacco companies to pay C$15.5bn (£8bn; $12bn) – the largest award for damages in the country’s history.
The plaintiffs were Quebec smokers who said the firms failed to warn them of health risks associated with smoking.
Imperial Tobacco Canada, Rothmans Benson & Hedges and JTI-MacDonald vowed to appeal against the decision.
The class-action lawsuits were filed in 1998, but only recently went to trial in the courts.
The firms argued that Canadians have had a “high awareness” of smoking health risks since the 1950s.
“That awareness has been reinforced by the health warnings printed on every legal cigarette package for more than 40 years,” JTI-Macdonald said in a statement.
But the plaintiffs argued that the companies did not properly warn their customers and failed in their general duty “not to cause injury to another person”, according to the Quebec Superior Court decision.} link http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-32969338

Good grief! How can anybody not know the health risks associated with smoking in this day and age? I know not all Canadians are stupid but this particular group of people must have been. If only the notion of personal responsibility were as popular as the notion that governments should legislate to enforce health and lifestyle choices on others.

What if the victims of road traffic accidents started a class action against car manufactures because they hadn’t been made sufficiently aware that if they stepped out in front of a car they might get hurt? Or maybe climbers who fall from mountains should sue the local authorities for not warning them strongly enough that climbing mountains can be risky?

Meanwhile in Europe Austrian smokers who have successfully avoided or gotten round most of the smoking bans in the last decade have been warned that from 2018 smoking will indeed be banned in all public places. Austria has been called “The Ashtray of Europe” because of its high percentage of smokers and its refusal to bow down to European anti smoking legislation. Interestingly however it is one of the healthiest places in Europe and has some of the lowest rates of “smoking related diseases. (Look up the statistics). I have spent many enjoyable hours in Viennese cafes chatting and reading while drinking coffee or wine and smoking at the same time in plush, comfortable surroundings. It would be such a shame to see that enjoyable characteristic element of Austrian lifestyle disappear. Is it too much to hope that the Austrians will continue to be quietly rebellious against the anti smoking Mafia?

Tobacco Point Of Sale Restrictions

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Above you can see what tobacco counters in British shops used to look like before the most recent restrictions came into force. Below you can see what the same counters look like now…image

Basically the rules which came into force this April are as follows, (these are based on government guidelines issued to retailers);-

FROM MONDAY 6TH APRIL 2015, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland:

All tobacco products must be covered. You MUST NOT open the tobacco unit and display tobacco products if you are serving a customer who has requested a non-tobacco product.

You can only show a customer your tobacco products if they have made a request to purchase a tobacco product and that you are satisfied that the customer is over 18. If a customer asks to see your tobacco range it may be more appropriate to show them a picture price list. The maximum area you are permitted to reveal to the customer is 1.5 square metres.

You can serve more than one customer at a time but no more than 1.5 square metres of your tobacco display can be revealed each time the unit is opened. The unit must be closed immediately after each activity is complete.

Tobacco products must be covered up whilst being moved around the store.

Notices which state that “It is illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18” MUST continue to be displayed by law. Generic signs such as “Tobacco sold here” can continue to be used as well. All branded signage must be removed from the display unit.

You can display prices but there are limitations on how you can display them. Only three types of price displays are permitted: poster style, picture price list and price labels. All three can be used at the same time. A tobacco price list may include brand name, price, units/weight per pack, country of origin (cigars only), type and cut (pipe tobacco only). Poster style tobacco price list must be called “Tobacco product price list”, must not include prices of any other products, must be in Helvetica font with letters no larger than 7mm, use lower case letters after the initial capital letter, be bigger than A3 size, have no border or frame must not use sub headings other than “cigarettes, “hand-rolling tobacco”, “cigars”, “pipe tobaccos” and “other tobacco products”.

Picture price lists are permitted but can only be shown once you are satisfied a customer is over 18 and that the display of a picture price list lasts no longer than is necessary and is not left on permanent display. Letters and numbers must not exceed 4mm in height. Pictures of products must not exceed 50 square cm. Only one price list is permitted per till, and only where tobacco products can be purchased.

The rules in Scotland are very slightly different.

And to all of that I say, Good Grief! What the fuck?

What it actually all means is that you cannot actually see any cigarettes or other tobacco products on display, and unless you have bionic eyesight it is impossible to know the prices for the items you are buying without asking first.

I’m not in the UK much these days since making my home in Switzerland (which fortunately doesn’t have these draconian restrictions) and I guess that is why these things came as quite a shock during a recent visit. So there are two things I would like to say.

Firstly; lets get this out of the way, I think these restrictions will make it a bit harder for people to start smoking or even to continue smoking which I guess is the point.

Secondly however, and this is my main point, this is an unprecedented attack on the consumer rights of smokers which seems to have been overlooked in the state’s desire to control our lives and the choices we make. It has been arbitrarily decided that smokers should not have the right to easily compare and contrast the products we want to buy. How can you compare and choose what products you want to buy if you cannot see them? How am I supposed to know if a new brand or product has come out if there is no advertising and nothing is displayed in shops? Do I not have the right to try new tobacco products? The shops are not even permitted to open the display cases wider so that I can see clearly what options are available.

“A-ha!” Say the health fascists gleefully, “That’s the whole point. Your options will be more and more reduced until you simply don’t have the possibility to buy cigarettes anymore. And that will be for the best because, without sounding arrogant at all, every single one of us risk averse, health fascists know what is better for you than you do! And so that means you don’t deserve, need or get the same consumer rights as everybody else.”

Well fuck that.

Choosing to do things that may be a bit risky is part of what life is about. And practically everybody does some things in their lives which could be hazardous to their own health. It doesn’t mean it WILL hurt you. Not every racing driver dies in an accident and not every smoker dies of a smoking related illness. Moreover careful pedestrians are not immune from being killed in car accidents and people who don’t smoke are not immune from diseases associated with smoking. This legislation won’t stop smoking, it will just drive it more underground. How sensible is that?

Imagine if McDonalds had to cover up it’s logo and you weren’t allowed to see pictures or prices of the meals on offer in its restaurants… I imagine that too much fast food does pretty much as much damage to some people as cigarettes are supposed to do.

And think about alcohol… Imagine if you had to know the name of product you wanted to buy before going into a liquor store or off licence because no cans or bottles were allowed to be on display. If you didn’t know the name of a particular type of beer or a particular kind or vintage of wine, you couldn’t ask for it. Perhaps you could be shown a small sample of the merchandise on offer through a one point five square meter window for a limited number of seconds. You might spot one bottle which appeals to you but only then can you find out if that is a few dollars or a few hundred dollars. In other words both physical space, visual input and time are limited so that you can’t make an informed choice.

No, if this happened in the alcohol industry (or any other industry) it would rightly be condemned as ridiculous and both an outrage and an insult to consumers. But smokers are supposed to just suck it up and not complain.

Of course I am aware that I am fighting a loosing battle here, for the time being at least. In the current climate smokers are classed as third class consumers and the idea that it is morally righteous to control the choices of a large group of the population for the sake of their health seems to go largely unchallenged. Hopefully these draconian laws won’t reach Switzerland too soon…

Perhaps in five or ten years when this experiment in social engineering can be demonstrated to have failed, people who choose to smoke might once again be granted the right to be treated as normal consumers and will once again be free to choose what they want to buy as easily as people can decide what hair product or breakfast cereal they want to pick off the shelf.

Smoking, Life Expectancy and Mr Spock

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Cassie and I were both sad to hear of the recent passing of Leneord Nimoy. He was certainly a talented actor and director and seems to have been a genuinely nice and interesting human being. Of course he will be best remembered as the actor who played and evolved the character of Mr Spock who is surely now a cultural icon of our time, even among people who never read or watch science fiction. I’d guess his face and aspects of his personality and values are as well known globally as Micky Mouse and many past and present politicians and religious leaders. No mean feat! And while he was in theory emotionless; his dedication to logic and science combined with his struggles with and examination of emotions, actually made him a high class of human. He made us think and was in many ways a worthy role model. Well done Mr Spock! Well done Mr Nimoy!

He died of Chronic Obstructive Pulmanary Desease, attributed by many (including himself) to smoking although he had given up over thirty years ago.

We do not dispute that smoking may have been a significant contributory factor to Leonard Nimoy’s death and, as regular habitual smokers, that gives us reason to pause and think about our smoking habit. Even more so as a mother of a teenage daughter who has recently taken up smoking, it does give me cause for concern. Certainly the anti smoking propagandists have been quick to use the example of Leonard Nimoy as a further warning about the potential dangers of smoking. It seems that Leonard himself blamed his deteriorating health on smoking to some degree and we respect him enough to take his opinion seriously. However, that does not mean we have to agree with his conclusions.

On one level I think Leonard Nimoy’s fate poses a problem for the anti smoking lobby. Normally their message is that it is never too late to stop smoking and indeed that to stop smoking is always a good idea. However in this case it would seem that the message is that it is pointless to stop smoking because the fact that you smoked will still kill you in the end. I will concede that is a gross over simplification but it is no worse than the over simplification that smoking is always the worst thing you can do for your health.

On a more factual basis though, let’s consider the fact that Mr Nimoy was 83 when he died. As sad as his passing was to many of us, and as much as he will be missed; at that age death is not exactly a stranger. Eighty-three is well above the average life expectancy in the world for a man born in the 1930s. Sure some will live longer and a relative few might live more than twenty years longer, but most won’t. In truth most of the people born in the early1930s are dead already. And most of them died well before they were eighty.

You could look at Leonard Nimoy and say that despite the fact that he was once a regular smoker (and had alcohol problems) he lived longer than most of his generation did.

The simple truth is that we will all die. There are various charts you can look at to find out your life expectancy and many of them will state that you are not expected to live as long as average if you smoke. But it is still true that some smokers will live longer than the average for non smokers and some non smokers will die much younger than the average. Moreover unless we are killed in an accident or are murdered we will all die of some disease or failing of the body. That is life. The cynical part of me thinks that one day every disease known to humanity will be “attributed to” or “connected with” smoking. Of course that is rubbish.

We are not immortal! No matter how many risks we reduce, we will still one day die.

I accept that Cassie and I are very likely to to die of some illness which is “associated with” smoking. And now I must accept the same may well be true for my beloved daughter. I don’t accept however that this means any of us will necessarily die younger than the average for people who don’t smoke.

None of us know how or when we will die, we only know that we will.

We are just coming to terms with the premature death of Cassie’s mother due to complications caused by early onset dementia. She died too young and her death and final years were difficult and often undignified. This is one illness that is not (yet) associated with smoking. She did smoke occasionally when she was younger but stopped a long time ago. We know of another person who died in his fourties of cancer despite never having smoked. Of course everybody knows of people who died young due to accidents or illnesses which were nothing to do with their lifestyle choices. Death is unpredictable and often seems very unfair. No matter how many risks you try to remove there is never any guarantee of a longer life.

Perhaps we are strange but we actually think it is unhealthy to live your life trying to avoid all risks of illness and death. Mr Spock and the Vulcans have a famous saying; “Live Long and Prosper.” I guess that is not the worst maxim for life but our legend would be “Live well, Live fully and Enjoy!”

We would like to live long lives but that can’t be guaranteed for anybody. However for us smoking is one of the many ingredients that adds to the pleasure of life.

We continue this blog because we think some people have their values confused and we don’t agree that smoking cigarettes is always a bad lifestyle choice. And some of the anti smoking propaganda is really stupid if you look at it critically rather than accepting it like sheep.