Thursday, 16 August 2012

Plain packaging, good taste

I am not, and never have been, a smoker, but now I'm considering it. Can't bear the smell of cigarettes, or the ugly stinking piles of their ash, they give me asthma and make my eyes water, and I can't afford them anyway; I don't want nicotine stains on my remaining teeth, there's a history of cancer in the family and I think when you have smoked and alcoholically poisoned your organs away you've got some cheek expecting new ones on the NHS, but if I hear one more, smug, prissy, overpaid to be sanctimonious idiot preach the virtues of plain packaging, or packets decorated with skulls and health warnings, I shall go out and buy a pack of 200 to blow in their faces....

  Old habits die hard: lighting up over a billiard table in 1840s Paris. Detail of a Lithograph by the Bettennier Freres 

If they want a deterring image, the anti-smoking packaging campaigners should be pressing exclusively for photos of real people hideously disfigured and dying of smoking-related diseases, or of the naffest, non-trending living celebrity who smokes and has spots, but not plain, recyclable packets with forbidden fruit inside them. How stupid and out of touch with basic human psychology are they? Fags ceased to be cool and glamorous a long time ago; stigmatizing them, branding them with mystery, alienation, individuality, rebellion and a death-wish is going to revive their chic - particularly at a time when High Court judges have cruelly deprived locked-in syndrome victims of the right to have dignified assisted deaths. Murderers of truth, liberty and beauty, the lot of them. Don't they know what it's like to be alive, now?
Sex, death and a packet of cigarettes, c1900. In the Belle Epoque, an age of blissful ignorance compared to ours, by calling itself "Egyptian Deities" rather than "Healthy Living"  this brand tapped into the morbid and erotic fantasies associated with tobacco. If the sultry, drugged temptress was holding up a plain brown packet, her suggestiveness would be the same; if she and the tag line of deities went, they would still leave their trace on the packet remaining for future generations to pick up and wonder about.