Wednesday 25 April 2012

How do you stop children smoking?

Alluring? Not when the wrinkles hit!

I don’t believe in telling people what to do, how to live their lives, what to do with their minds and bodies.  I can’t abide the nanny state.  Yet I confess that, when it comes to smoking, I find myself squirming in a hypocritical fashion because – yeah - I’m pretty censorious about smoking.  It doesn’t take a psychologist to figure out why. My father died of lung cancer. I watched him die in a hospice. It wasn’t pretty.  He was 52. I was ten. 
Yet, y’know, that didn’t stop me smoking when I was a teenager.  Why? Because I thought it was cool. 

While I figure that if adults want to wreck their bodies and give themselves fag faces, not to mention stinky breath (see, toldya I was censorious) then that’s up to them (providing they don’t blow their smoke in my lungs).  But when it comes to children, that’s something quite different.  Hence this blog post.

Today Cancer Research UK are launching a campaign called The Answer is Plain, asking for all branding to be removed from tobacco packaging. 

It may sound a bit petty in the scheme of things but branding and marketing are powerful tools.  We respond to visual stimuli at a subconscious level.  The researchers showed first cereal boxes and then cigarette packets to a group of six to 11 year olds.  These are a few of their comments (to the cigarettes, not the cereal).

“It makes you feel like you’re in a wonderland of happiness.”
“The pictures actually look quite nice. Ice cubes and mint.”
“It reminds me of a Ferrari.”
“Is that the Royal Sign?”
“Yeah. Pink, Pink, Pink”.

Even saying "Smoking kills" doesn't put people off!

While I don’t think Cancer Research UK are saying the manufacturers are directly appealing to children per se, the tobacco companies are certainly putting out products designed to be alluring to teenagers.  And the cynic in me says that the tobacco companies probably don’t remotely mind that the seeds of desire are set early.
The charity is pretty clear that we can’t stop people choosing to smoke.  Their director of tobacco control simply says: ‘We need to give young people one less reason to start smoking.’

Will a plain pack work?  To be honest, I’m not entirely convinced.  When I was a kid, cigarette packaging wasn’t terribly sophisticated yet I still thought it was cool.  So far James thinks smoking is ‘pretty disgusting’ and I just pray he continues to think that way.  He sees his grandfather (Adrian’s father) barely able to walk, hooked up to an oxygen mask because of emphysema and that, coupled with his love of sport, seems to be an effective deterrent so far. Will it last?  God, I hope so.

However, I was asked if I’d put up this video on my blog and so – here it is.  Watch it and see what you reckon.  If you want to spread the word, sign the petition or whatever – well, I don’t see it can harm – and if it stops even a handful of children from wrecking their lungs, then that’s a win as far as I’m concerned. 


MilkChic said...

Great post. I'm so sorry you had to go through that so young. My brother died of (non-smoking related) cancer and it destroys me to see people I care about smoke. The idea that you would knowingly risk cancer is beyond me. Will share.

Exmoorjane said...

@MilkChic - thank you and I'm so sorry to hear about your brother. Yup, my nephews smoke and I still have the odd friend who does (though, thankfully, most have given up). It does upset me but what can you do? They have to make their own choices. :(

Posie said...

Do hope my children make positive choices for themselves too Jane, not just with smoking but with all of the various drugs that I am sure they will be offered at some point in their lives. I used to work in drugs education and at the end of the day it is their choice, but hopefully if they have the facts, good self esteem and realise that drugs can happen to anyone and it may be their best friend or a relative offering them the drugs, not some shady character, then they will be prepared and choose to make a positive choice for themselves.

Jay said...

I agree that kids should not smoke and we should educate them to not take up the habit. But the research is false and faked. Kids are completely unimpressed with pack designs unless you deliberately push the packs into their face and ask them what they think. Even Deborah Arnott admitted that kids take up smoking because it's a cool thing at puberty (note, those are really young kids in the vid). It has nothing to do with pack design.

And if you need evidence of that, consider: Drugs. Been in plain packs for ages, yet kids and adults still buying them in huge quantities.

I appreciate your sentiment for children, but plain packs are misguided, and it's nice to see you say you aren't sure about them, but it really can do some harm!! If you don't support a nanny state, how could you ever support this by NOT speaking out against it? Surely it's a parent's job to educate their children...? Not the government's.

Well, you're going to think what you like, and I know I won't change your opinion. But please do know that plain packs will make it a lot easier for countefeiters, and those are the same people who are trafficking children in the sex trade. Seriously. You only need to look ...

Anonymous said...

Until 27 years ago, my parents both smoked their way through a minimum of 40 a day, often 60 a day. they gave up.
However, it seems as though those years of smoking (dad started before he was 10) have permanently damaged his lungs and is now being tested for emphysema.
I don't think anything will make a difference if it is peer pressure and the desire to fit in or be cool that motivates people to smoke. I've never managed to fit in anywhere, but I have had little desire to do so. I have also never smoked.

Exmoorjane said...

@martine - ah heck, that's tough. :(

@Posie - self-esteem is the bottom line, I feel... being secure enough not to succumb to peer pressure.

@Jay - interesting. I wasn't entirely convinced myself. Actually I am always willing to change my mind. I hadn't known anything about links with trafficking. Maybe you could post some links so I - and other readers of this - can check them out and make up our minds? Thanks. :)

@Viv - I suspect you're absolutely right. YOu mentioned on Twitter about tribalism and I think that's probably spot-on. It links back to Posie's point about self-esteem and the ability not to fall into peer pressure.

Jay said...

First, there is this one, and I quote: There is also an expansion in distribution networks used by criminal organizations for the illicit trade in a wide range of
products including tobacco, narcotics,and human trafficking.

And there are more of course - will these be enough? Only the first one below is from a tobacco company, the others are 3rd party or gov't sites, etc. I'm really not making this up!

Exmoorjane said...

Thanks, Jay. Will check these out. :)

Jay said...

You're welcome. If you want more, get in touch with me on my blog (which might be offensive to some -- fair warning -- but it's an unfortunately necessary persona) there are contact details there - I can keep our correspondence confidential if you would prefer.

Here's one more, just for good measure:

Exmoorjane said...

Thanks again, Jay... Like the acronym of your blog! :) I don't really do confidential stuff so happy to discuss anything out in the open. Haven't had chance to read right through yet (am immured in fight against mindless bureaucracy down here right now which is...time-consuming and irritating). Absolutely don't agree with nannying for sure - but then again, not wild about supporting the tobacco industry either. :)

Jay said...

Thank you, Jane. :) Happy to speak in the open as well.

This really is not about supporting the tobacco industry. You don't have to like smoking, or big tobacco, or anything. And I would fully support anyone's right to fairly advocate against smoking. Education, not legislation.

But this is about long-standing rights of companies being able to brand their perfectly legal goods. They are already talking about plain packaging for alcohol and candy. So where do we draw the line? What if everything that *could* harm you was plain packaged? What then? Would you support this? Cigarettes are not the only harmful legal substance out there.

Life is risky. The foods we eat are not always healthy. I can assure you, plain packaging of anything is not the answer. That video is misleading. And even CRUK's own research indicated that it was, but they didn't come out and say it. Others read the research and found the truth.

All I'm saying is this: The moment someone says something will hurt chldren, that they are doing it "for the children" or to "protect the children" then you need to be suspect of their motivations. 99% of the time it's not about the children. It's a time-honoured tool to make people feel rather than think.

I know this, because Tyler know this...

er... or something. :P

Exmoorjane said...

@Jay - yup, totally agree about education rather than legislation. And fair points too about the other stuff we do that isn't good for us - funny thing, was going to write something about that the other day. May well still do.

You may have convinced me actually. :) Though I'm buggered if I'll do anything that supports these monster industries. Bet that got them shaking in their boots... :D

Re advertising I think parents have an onus to try (hard job!) to educate their children on how the ad guys manipulate us - particularly via television. My son has been schooled in this for years, yet will still fall prey to their seductions. :(
Like I said earlier, my feeling is that it's about teaching children to have enough self-esteem so that they can then make informed choices that suit THEM.

Now then, your about you harness all that energy and take the fight beyond the filthy fag! :D

Jay said...

Take the fight where, for instance? My fight isn't actually pro-smoking, it is pro-civil liberties. It is also, perhaps, a fight against career politicians who exploit us. That is a topic for another day...

Pretty certain comment moderation wasn't on yesterday... what happened?

Exmoorjane said...

@Jay - just seemed like vast majority of posts on your blog were about smoking. You should talk to a pal of mine about broader issues - sadly it looks like his blog got burned. :( But he might pitch up at some point.

I haven't turned on modification.. :) I just switched word verif back on as the spam was driving me bloody potty!

Jay said...

Ah, spam. This is why I'm using Disqus -- it has excellent spam filters and is pretty easy to use. It is another interface that is separate from Blogger.

My blog focuses on smoking because I believe smokers are the new oppressed minority. Smokers are easy targets for hateful people, and the things people say about smokers are the same things they used to say about women once upon a time, gay people, or black people, the Irish, ginger-haired folk, etc. Smokers are now treated as sub-human animals, and frankly the intolerance is intolerable. I do not advocate that anyone should start smoking, adults or children.

Anyway, I have personally been assaulted by rabid anti-smokers, who actually had to cross a busy street and walk 30 metres to knock a cigarette out of my hand and call me a murdering bastard. I just think it's time we exposed anti-smoker intolerance for what it is... hate.

the veg artist said...

I am old enough to have been sent to the local shop for cigarettes for my father when I was still a child. This was common practice then! I remember handing over a ten shilling note and thinking that smoking was just like setting fire to money. I have never smoked, not even one, and I put it down to that childhood realisation, so perhaps preventive measures should focus of the cost of the addictive contract people enter into when they start smoking?
I also like the idea of using photos of faces of smokers. Lip lines, poor skin texture and wrinkles - that should do it.

Ashen said...

I like smoking roll-ups, after a good meal, a job done, to meet nice people outside conferences, or simply to calm my nerves. It's an ancient sacred tradition that has fallen into abuse and defiles the air in small rooms.
However, it is worth noting that positive data from research into smoking has been repressed: ... there is evidence that smoking calms nerves, and helps prevent the onset of dementias, to do with chemical receptors in the brain that just happen to be stimulated by nicotine.
With available technology, soundless smoke detractors could easily be installed in specially designed areas. Instead, smokers are penalizing and treated like outcasts. And insurers are looking for yet another loophole to reduce pay-outs.
There are at least two sides to every argument, of which one is silenced when comes to moral or political missions.
I'm making a case for my roll-ups. Filter cigarettes are indeed a menace. They cloud up a room in no time, keep burning when put down, contain harmful chemicals and leave a disgusting smell.
I respect places where smoke is not welcome, but object to the vilification of smokers.
Excessive abuse of alcohol, interestingly, does not get similar punitive media coverage,though it does deep psychic damage to children down generations.
Everything in excess is harmful, but making laws of prohibition, or spreading cursive spells to susceptible minds, like, smoking kills, is NOT educational, nor does it encourage personal responsibility. I reckon that, apart from Jay, I'll be seen as the devil's advocate here :)

Exmoorjane said...

@Jay - scapegoating huh? Yup, that stinks and have written about it elsewhere on the blog. I hate cigarettes; not the smokers - and I freely admit my hatred is visceral and highly emotional, based on my own history. But sure, I would defend anyone's right to smoke - providing it doesn't affect anyone else. I think that's been the trouble with the smoking question - if you eat crap food or binge-drink alcohol, you are not directly hurting anyone else (well, apart from alcohol-related violence etc but that's another issue). I have to confess I heaved a deep sigh of fresh air when smoking was banned in pubs and I don't feel comfortable seeing people smoking around babies and children.
But, aside from that, I have no problem logically with people smoking...and the actions you describe are despicable.

Ashen said...

Thanks Jane, for not shooting me down :) It's a cyber Wild West of hyper communication we live in, and it creates uncertainty resulting in depression and self-harm. Knowledge of psychic development is not applied, therefore the pre-occupation with substances. I haven't got much hope the tone will change in the near future, because our economy is based on dis-ease. Happiness does not provide income.

Exmoorjane said...

@Ashen - Absolutely. :(

Anonymous said...

Verily, verily I say unto thee (girls): commercial products tests results (and especially their interpretations) depend solely on who finances the research. Namely, if you are a producer of animal fat, the scientists you hire will prove, easily and unquestionably, that vegetable fat is bad for you. And vice versa. :oD

D.J. Kirkby said...

I smoked for over 20 years but luckily finally managed to quit and have stayed quit for 11 years now. I am not certain blank cigarette packs will make a difference but they certainly won't encourage more people to start smoking! I think the plain packs need to be implemented along with even more social marketing around why smoking is bad for you but this will probably only work to get people to give up...children tend to think they are invincible and therefore the 'smoking will damage you forever' messages don't apply to them because they think they can give up smoking before it's too late. I have no idea what the solution to this one is...except to make cigarettes illegal.

Stephanie said...

I just keep driving home with my girls all the horrible things smoking can do to you and lead by example. Fingers crossed, so far they think it's pretty gross.

Anonymous said...


I recently took a trip back to Authonomy to see if the fossils there are still as loony as they once were.
I won't be returning, but I did see an interesting post from you about three people who you miss from the site.

One was ol'e blue face, the next, I'd never heard of, and the third was me.

I remember in my waning days on the site, having a bit of a laugh with you.
Something about you having been employed by The Daily Express as their
"Foremost authority on South American Shamanism"

I was touched to see you remembered me, and I'm glad to have the chance here to catch up on your goings on.

Throw away that walker, you don't need it anymore.

Two thumbs up kid.

Rainbow Prams said...

Thank you so much for this post! Both my parents smoked and I saw it as a natural thing to do when you grow up, therefore as a teenager I thought I was grown up and started smoking. It was the worst thing I ever did and if I could turn back the clock I'd change it in a heart beat. I tell my children the dangers and that frankly it's more addictive than heroin. I never smoke infront of my children, infact not even in public, I'm ashamed of my addiction. I have shared this post on Facebook. Thank you again xx