Dinosaurs eating homework — reeling in the years on smoking cessation
As I browsed through the usual press releases that trickle through my inbox — ‘Company X expanding market to China’; ‘Drug X discontinued’; Minister Harris says ‘everything will be grand’’; etc — one in particular caught my eye, as I was convinced it was either a wind-up or I was somehow on the mailing list for satirical newspaper The Onion. The truth was even funnier.
Shouting the headline ‘Butt Out Campaign Aims to Stop Cigarette Vending Machine Ban’, this required a double-take. In a nutshell, a group which I did not know existed is pressing Minister for Health Simon Harris to do a u-turn on plans to ban the sale of tobacco products from self-service vending machines.
The plan is blasted as a “nanny measure” that is “designed to reduce adult freedoms”, according to the group, which is called Forest Ireland (nice green name, huh?).
The group bemoans the inconvenience of smokers first having to get a token from the bar in order to use the machine, and states “it is further tokenism by a Government obsessed with being seen to combat smoking, regardless of the outcome”. Regardless of the “outcome”. You couldn’t make it up.
A roadshow/tour is being organised to push this agenda and it’s titled ‘Voice and Friend of the Smoker’. The irony of that title will not be lost on our otolaryngologist readers.
Suddenly, I suffered a Rambo-like Vietnam flashback to
times when it was okay to not only facilitate smoking, but also to openly
encourage it — sometimes in the most
grotesque ways, as illustrated in the image featured opposite.
Everybody was used to push cigarettes on children — dad, mum, doctors, dentists and even on a few occasions Santa Claus. But in this more enlightened age, the severely addictive properties of cigarettes are beyond question. Right?
Back to the press release for a counter-point: “The health risks of smoking are very well known yet many people choose to smoke because they enjoy it, not because they are addicted [my emphasis]. Government must respect that choice and stop bullying smokers to stop. The only people who will gain from a ban on cigarette vending machines are those who are selling illegal cigarettes.”
I went to the Internet for a dictionary definition of ‘absurd’ and I liked the first result: “The definition of absurd is something that is so untrue or impossible it is funny. An example of absurd is a child telling a story about a dinosaur eating their homework.” Another definition might be to say smokers are not addicted to cigarettes.
I would imagine you are wondering where the money comes from for this initiative. So was I, so I headed straight to the footnotes, which included this statement: “Launched in 2010, Forest Ireland is supported by the British group Forest (Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco)… Forest Ireland receives donations from tobacco companies in Britain and Ireland. We do NOT [their emphasis] represent the tobacco industry. We have a completely independent set of goals that are focused on the right to smoke a legal product without undue harassment or discrimination.” We are then offered the opportunity to interview representatives from Forest Ireland, and you know what? It’s almost tempting. Where is Paxman when you need him?
I’m happy to forward the email to anybody who needs a bit of light relief (contact me at the email address above and I’ll send it on).
I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane to 1950s America. Sometimes, this stuff just writes itself.