Dad’s last gasper: burying the argument for smoking
By Adam Ferrier May 6, 2010
My dad was a pack a day smoker of Marlboro Reds, he died of cancer in 1996. This is a picture of my three brothers and I carrying him into the funeral service in his coffin.
Welcome to Marlboro Country: Adam’s Dad prepares to light up one last time.
If you look carefully you will notice the coffin is painted as a carton of cigarettes, Marlboro Reds to be exact (it was painted on my dad’s request by my talented sister Tania Ferrier).
Dad loved his smokes and didn’t appreciate anyone saying he couldn’t smoke. In fact, just before dad died he asked me to give his eulogy and remind everyone that he wanted to be cremated so he ‘could light up one last time’. He was a relatively conservative chap – but one with a wicked sense of humour, and I guess a fierce sense of brand loyalty.
I’ve never had a cigarette in my life, for some reason it’s never had much appeal to me. Correct me if I’m wrong but smoking, as far as I can tell, is the only legal product in the world that if used exactly to the manufacturers directions will do you harm. Guns, alcohol, driving a car or motorbike or scooter, sugary foods, gambling and TV can all be used in a safe, useful, enjoyable manner. All, like everything are open to abuse, but all can be used safely and harmlessly.
Cigarettes, on the other hand, can’t be used in a harmless manner. Even in moderation they are doing the smoker (and those around them) harm. For this important reason, cigarettes are categorically different to any other legal product in the world – and therefore should have their own set of rules. Bring on the regulations.
So it is with interest that I examine the moves by the federal government last week to remove all branding from cigarettes, and raise the price (again).
I can only applaud the Federal Government for their actions. They have systematically pulled all of the marketing levers out from under the cigarette companies feet. They’ve restricted placement where they can be enjoyed. They’ve raised the price. They’ve stopped broadcast communications. They’ve massively restricted sponsorships.
All of these initiatives have, according to Quit Australia helped reduce the smoking rate in Australia from approximately 35% of the adult population in 1980 to well under 20% today. The proposed restrictions on packaging will no doubt also be effective. The government wants to ban all branding devices such as logos, colours and fonts. Research shows that increasingly plainer packaging makes cigarettes appear less aspirational, less tasty, less satisfying, and of poorer quality to smokers. These continuing initiatives will ensure the smoking rates continue to fall. All other things being equal we’ll consequently be healthier, and therefore perhaps even happier.
I’m not sure how my dad would react to the proposed changes. He was pro-freedom of choice, and an ardent supporter of smokers rights. I feel quite differently. Whichever side you’re on – I guess the picture speaks for itself.
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