Forty bucks for a pack of ciggies? That will happen by 2020 if Bill Shorten gets his way and Labor’s proposed increase to cigarette taxes is introduced.
Not everyone agrees with tobacco excise, with NSW’s Senator David Leyonhjelm a prominent recent dissenter, but at both state and federal levels, governments of both persuasions have made cigarettes more expensive, covered the packets with horrifying images, and restricted the places where they could be smoked.
Nowadays, smokers huddle outdoors, away from doors and outdoor eating areas, and the long Aussie tradition of bumming cigarettes has become tantamount to asking for a gold coin donation.
But is this the only way of convincing punters to give up their precious ciggies? I’ve come up with a few more lateral options.
We’ve all seen those cards that you open and they play a little song. What about mandatory cigarette packets that, when opened, let out a loud, hacking cough?
If Bill Shorten is determined to reduce smoking, he might also like to put his famous sense of humour into action. If every cigarette had a Shorten one-liner printed on it, smokers would feel nauseous every time they lit up. On second thought, though, this might require careful testing because if cigarettes had things like “Once upon a time, I thought denial was a river in Egypt” printed on them, some might be tempted to set them on fire immediately.
Back when you used to be able to smoke in pubs, I’d regularly come home reeking of ciggies, even though I’ve never smoked. It seemed particularly unfair that smokers lose the ability to smell the scent that infests their own clothing.
But there is one aroma powerful enough for the impotent nostrils of smokers could detect – the scent of an ashtray at the end of the night. If all cigarettes were rolled in paper dipped in eau de ashtray, we would surely see a drop in smoking rates immediately.
What if in every box of cigarettes, there was one unmarked filter that delivered a huge hit of wasabi? We all know that smoking has many risks – now there’s a new one. Chili and ultrasour filters could also be available.
We know that making cigarettes expensive works, but this disproportionately strikes the least wealthy among us. So why not waste the time of everyone wanting to buy cigarettes?
Whether it’s watching a mandatory public health video, signing a lengthy contract and initialling every clause, or completing a multiple-choice health impact quiz like the one you have to do to get a learner driver’s license, this would hugely reduce the desire to buy a fresh pack.
Freshly shocking packaging
Australia’s world-leading plain packaging laws have been credited with reducing smoking rates via a series of disgusting images printed on cigarette boxes. But after a few years of this, I wonder whether they’re losing their impact.
Instead of rotting teeth and diseased lungs, we might need a fresh disincentive. Surely nobody would want to buy cigarette packages with images of politicians on them?
If you think about it, two five-minute smokos per day across the roughly 220 days we all work per year means 2,200 minutes per year which is 36 hours which is approximately one working week. So, what if non-smokers got an extra week of leave? Then again, this logic could also penalise people wasting time on Facebook or watching YouTube cat videos, in which case the modern economy would collapse completely.
Evil product placement
Watch any old movie, and you’ll see that the cool dude and the exciting broad generally have cigarettes between their fingers. This kind of thing has been stamped out in subsequent years, but what if we went a step further, and insisted that the movie and TV industries follow in the footsteps of the X-Files, whose mysterious baddie was known only as the Smoking Man?
In the new season of Game of Thrones, the terrifying White Walkers could be depicted holding equally white cigarettes, while the Star Wars movies could be re-edited once again so that the Emperor’s maniacal laugh was punctuated by hacking smoker’s cough.
What if those horrible, depressing little rooms in some airports were everywhere, and became the onlyplace you were allowed to smoke?
Giant fans could extract the thick fug of smoke from the ceiling and then pump it afresh into the room so everyone could benefit from the secondary smoke into the bargain. These rooms could also be designated as the only places where cigarettes could be purchased – from machines, of course, because anyone made to work there would earn millions in the inevitable lawsuit.
Market cigarettes as healthy
I’ve no idea how you’d accomplish this, but surely the best way to encourage many Australians to give up ciggies would be to somehow convince chronic smokers that cigarettes are healthy. We know that regular exercise and a sensible diet prolongs life – we also know that the vast majority of us totally ignores this message. Fortunately, the tobacco industry has some old marketing material that would be just perfect.