Friday, April 13 2012
EVERYONE knows smoking is bad for you. If you smoke, you’re a right twat.
As a smoker, the odd roll-up here and there - mainly there - I have fallen foul of the new government regime when it comes to purchasing tobacco.
It’s now a confusing, disorientating and daunting process - especially if you’re brand new to smoking (which brand should I go for? What’s the cheapest? Will this girl think I’m cool with Camels?)
Even if you’re a yellow-fingered dab-hand at it, your brand might be out of stock. Then you have to remember all the other ones that might be in stock.
The queues build as you light-headedly list off cigarette brands, asking how much they are. Children overhear and suddenly fancy a Mayfair. You cough up some phlegm and get your tissues out to get rid of it. Eventually you'll remember a packet you liked.
Coughing as I went into WH Smiths this afternoon I thought buying a 12.5g box of Amber Leaf would be easy - unlike walking up the stairs where I need to have regular rests due to getting out of breath.
The lady behind the counter was wisely unaccustomed with cigarettes and wasn’t sure what 12.5g of Amber Leaf looked like. Was it in a box, a packet? She checked her name badge for confirmation of who she was.
Surreptitiously peering through the magical shutters of necrosis - that now obscure cigarettes to the easily-swayed thick-headed general public - she looked. And looked, and looked and looked.
“Sorry, I don’t know your name,” she said to the bottle-blonde girl next to her, missing her name badge, “do we have any Amber Leaf? 12.5g.”
Joining in the hunt, she too looked. And looked and looked. “Don’t think we do Amber Leaf,” she offered, glumly, like a woman who thought she’d won the lottery but discovered she just had wind.
“No, sorry,” she said, turning to me, clearly delighted that she might save my life and lungs.
“Can I have a look at what you’ve got then?” I said, feeling feint.
“No, that’s not allowed. New rules. You can have a look at this price list.”
Browsing the extensive list I could see 12.5g of Amber Leaf. The Holy Grail. But they didn’t have it in stock. Though by this point, my faith in my server was waning. Had she really looked hard enough? Could I trust a woman who couldn’t spot a name on a name badge?
“Have you got 25g of Amber Leaf?” I asked, doubling my original request and increasing my chances of a coronary or not getting pregnant, as the pictures on cigarettes remind me.
She once more peered into the unknown, desperate to be rid of my hollow, toxic face.
“We’ve got a box of Amber Leaf,” she said, grasping at it and secretly showing me it under the counter like a terrorist browsing bombs.
“Yes, that’s 12.5g of Amber Leaf,” I said, furious at her lack of reading-prowess.
“It says so on the top. 12.5g. See?”
Unaware of the intricacies of measurements and cognition, she made me pay and I was on my way - namely to a bench to have a sit down as I’d been standing up for some five minutes or more.
With the government planning on introducing plain packaging for cigarettes, I can only see things getting worse.
Soon, teenagers will not be able to gaze upon the magical colours of cigarette packaging – exciting black and gold boxes or blue and silver with go faster stripes on them. Things that desperately make people want to start smoking.
I know I started when I saw a blue Mayfair packet and became immediately aroused.
Soon, all that will be left are the exciting day-glo colour of alcopops and the allure of cans of Stella, just sitting on the shelves, desperate for you to drink them. At least they won’t kill you and leave the NHS with no money.