Plain packet cigarettes

Will plain packets of cigarettes really encourage children not to smoke, or is it already too late for the design of the packet to have any effect? Image

Headlines this week informed the UK population that cigarettes will have to be sold in plain packets under government plans, recently announced. This move is an attempt to stop branded packets encouraging children to smoking, and address the issue with the number of teenagers addicted to this lifestyle habit. Data collected from 2012 support the viewpoint that the likelihood of smoking increases with age, yet by 15 years of age, 10% of school pupils are regular smokers.

First things first. Just to make it clear, I don’t smoke. Never have. And I hope I never will. I don’t drink either. In spite of this, I hope to provide a balanced account of my stance on smoking, primarily in children and young adults, with an absence of bias.

Sir Cyril Chantler’s study found that if plain packets were brought in, the government would potentially be able to prevent the 60 children each day that start smoking from becoming addicted. I however find this difficult to believe. Whilst there is not, and there will never be, just one reason to explain why people take up smoking, I hope to highlight those factors that I believe to be most persuasive in encouraging this behaviour. Of course, each individual case will most likely have significantly contrasting causal factors, and so it would be foolish to state that there is one over-branching explanation for all instances.

Tobacco consumption is currently recognised as the UK’s single greatest cause of preventable illness and early death, with an estimated 102,000 people dying in 2009 from smoking-related diseases. Additionally, data suggest that around 86% of lung cancer deaths in the UK are caused by tobacco smoking, which, in itself, is estimated to be responsible for more than a quarter of cancer deaths in the UK.

There’s no point denying it, everyone knows that smoking is an example of a lifestyle factor that has a significant negative effect on one’s health. You, me, we all know. So why do people live such a lifestyle? In my view, many different factors can be attributed to such behaviour. The most predominant being: stress.

The action of smoking can be viewed as a form of escapism. Who can blame them? It’s not like we’ve not thought about partaking, I know I certainly have. Many smokers have reached the stage where they believe that smoking is the only way that they can escape from the constant pressures that surround this generation of students: the pressures from parents, schools and governments to achieve.  Smokers get a small high because nicotine triggers the release of dopamine in the brain – a chemical linked to feelings of pleasure. Consequently, this also means that smokers start to make a mental link, on a sub-conscience level, between the act of smoking and feeling good. Cigarettes, after all, are deliberately designed to give you a fast nicotine hit. In fact, it takes just 10 seconds for the drug to reach one’s brain from inhaled cigarette smoke.

It is frightening to think about the depths people fall in society. Most happen right before our eyes, without us noticing. And by the time we do realise it’s too late to be of any assistance. The thought has manifested, developed into action, in the disturbed mind of the oppressed. This collapse, at first glance, seems to occur so rapidly, but society fails to grasp that this person has been suffering for many weeks and months, before that fatal action that caught our attention. That is because we only see the outside, the actions. We can’t see the other steps in the process, they’re internal. A change in mental state, for example, in that person’s perceptions, can easily be hidden from others – I know all too well, anyway more of that another time. The smoking of a cigarette is simply the end product. It is only when we see this end product that reality hits. And yet, even then, we fail to act in the right way. Immediately society judges them, without realising that this behaviour could in fact be their only comfort. Their last resort. Their escape.

Plain packets will make little difference, in my opinion. It’s already too late for the design of the cigarette packet to affect whether or not children smoke. Instead, it’s simply a ploy by government officials to look like it’s taking action, and addressing an important issue. The government should be providing direct support to those that need it most, but in reality, the government is skirting round the issue, rather than tackling it head-on.

Feel free to leave any comments. Great to hear your thoughts. All welcome.


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