There was a time – perhaps surprisingly, when viewed from the context of the 21st century – when cigarettes were advertised widely in newspapers, magazines, and on billboards. There was the sturdy, Western masculinity of the Marlboro Man, who lit up in between lassoing cattle; fifties housewives in aprons hurrying to light their husband’s cigarette after he came home from a hard day at work; and alluring vixens draped over sofas balancing a sensuous cigarette holder in their fingers. On screen it was even more prominent: love scenes inevitably ended with the protagonists enjoying a post-coital cigarette or three, busy newsrooms were depicted in a fog of smoke, and everyone from Brad Pitt to Scarlett Johansson has wielded a cig as part of their character.
So there was a time that smoking was seen as very, very cool indeed; it’s why schoolkids tried it behind the bike sheds, why clubbers waved their cigarettes aloft like glow sticks, and why expensive lighters became sexy accessories, used to tempt someone you fancied with the offer of a light. But do we still consider smokers of tobacco to be cool today? Vaping site GoSmokeFree.co.uk asked 300 respondents and found the answer to be an almost overwhelming ‘no’ – 87% of us think it is definitely, totally, absolutely <uncool> . These days Hollywood actors almost go out of their way to project a healthy lifestyle, drinking green juices, doing pilates and mainlining yoga. The very idea of putting a cigarette anywhere near their lips would be heresy.
Obviously the world’s attitude to smoking has changed over the past couple of decades. We’ve gone from doctors and surgeons advertising it in the 50s and 60s to cigarette cartons being printed with photographs of diseased lungs, or being sold in plain paper packages. We now know how bad it is for our health. In a further question asked by GoSmokeFree.co.uk, over a third of people – 37% – said that they believed vaping should be available on the NHS. No wonder – by swapping cigarettes for vapes, it would be helping people cut down on a very bad habit that can ultimately lead to a variety of unpleasant illnesses and diseases, from heart disease to strokes, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
GoSmokeFree.co.uk also asked the respondents what the biggest turnoffs were about tobacco smokers. Over a third – 35% – said they are unhealthy (and prone to succumbing to the diseases listed above). Even more (37%) said it was that their breath smells (as anyone who has ever kissed a smoker will attest), 18% said that their clothes smell (somehow the aroma never completely comes out), and 10% cited premature ageing. If you’ve ever studied a smoker’s face, you’ll likely notice their skin is leathery and wrinkled before its time, due to the lack of oxygen and nutrients getting to their blood from the nicotine in their system (probably another reason Hollywood stars, models and the like have probably shunned the habit)…
GoSmokeFree.co.uk also asked respondents whether, if they had a loved one who smokes tobacco, they would try to encourage them to switch to less harmful vapes, and a huge 71% – nearly three quarters – said yes. Trying to boost their health and lifespan is clearly one of the kindest things you can do for family member or friend. In addition, over a third of us (34%) believe the government should make smoking completely illegal. Yes, the price of cigarettes has been creeping up over the years but it appears that this is not a big enough deterrent.
One progressive part of the USA – the suburb of Brookline, Massachusetts — has permanently banned anyone born after 1 January, 2000, from buying tobacco products. It is something New Zealand plans to introduce, too; currently, there’s government proposal to bar anyone aged 14 and under from ever buying cigarettes, starting from 2027. The crackdown on the tobacco industry would also curb the number of retailers allowed to sell tobacco, and cut nicotine levels in all products. It would be great to see the rest of the world follow these sterling examples.