Plain packaging won’t totally stub out the urge to smoke

Will plain packaging really make you quit?

Barbara McCarthy

PUBLISHED18/03/2015 | 02:30

Dr James Reilly has introduced plain-packaging legislation
Dr James Reilly has introduced plain-packaging legislation

Last week, President Michael D Higgins signed legislation enforcing the plan to make Ireland the first country in the EU to introduce plain cigarette packaging, 11 years after we became the first country to ban smoking in public places.

This begs the question; does logo-free packaging make people smoke less? In Australia, where it was introduced in December 2012, there is a 12.2pc fall in consumption.

It’s not exactly plain packaging though. The boxes are olive green, while revolting photographs consume the entire front of the box.

When I started smoking, F1 legend Ayrton Senna was wearing overalls with my favourite cigarette brand across the top and good-looking dudes rode around Monument Valley at sunset, smoking away.

I religiously smoked reds and never lights, but I didn’t start smoking because of tobacco advertising. That said, I got the Marlboro Man and the kids today get a photograph of a decomposing foot. It’s not exactly James Dean sexy, though he was sexy smoking a cigarette, let’s not lie.

Needless to say tobacco companies are up in arms, saying that people will just buy black market fags instead and they have started a multimillion-dollar campaign against plain cigarette packaging.

Meanwhile, tobacco companies haven’t a leg to stand on. Cigarettes are responsible for 30pc of all cancers worldwide, six million people die worldwide each year and 6,000 die in Ireland (16 people each day), while tobacco-related illnesses cost the State up to €2bn a year.

Cigarettes, it is estimated, take on average between 15 and 20 years of your life, though I remember comedian Dennis Leary famously saying, “You can have those years, it’s the kidney dialysis, adult diaper f***ing years.”

He must be disgusted the way smokers are being denigrated by society. In California last year, I had to leave certain streets to stand in a parking lot to smoke. Though I can’t dispute the fact that it’s healthier for me and people around me, the PCness was irksome.

I, like many others, got over the many restrictions forced upon me. The smoking ban didn’t impact on the amount of fags I smoked, vaping never held any allure, and I didn’t care much for the graphic images on the bottom of the packs.

When you’re enjoying a few beverages with friends, no one cares about a photo of cancerous throat.

Even the cost of cigarettes didn’t put me off. I usually got Duty Free myself or from someone. I couldn’t stand the Eastern European ones, they just taste disgusting.

I think people stop for their own reasons in the end. You know it’s bad, so someone telling you won’t help. I know someone who used to smoke 60 a day and then one day he smoked 100, got repulsed and never smoked again. Another friend woke up one morning and realised smoking was ridiculous and gave you those awful lines around the mouth. Others stopped because they were out of breath the whole time. I stopped because l started a family. Though I found I ate chocolate in a much more needy way after I gave up. In fact, I became obsessed. Sugar-free chocolate isn’t the same, who’d have thunk.

There’s nothing really to replace cigarettes with. It’s the only thing you do 20 times a day – I can’t justify 20 Bakewell tarts and I wouldn’t go swimming 20 times a day or drink 20 cups of tea. That’s why I am still wide open to being corrupted for the rest of my life.

Though the urge wanes over time, you’re only really a few whiskeys and a momentary lapse in reason away from being reunited with your long-lost friend, who accompanied you through thick and thin. In that moment, an olive-coloured box probably wouldn’t be enough to put me off.

Irish Independent