Sunday, August 19, 2012

plain packaging

The success of the Australian government's push for the plain packaging of cigarettes in a landmark High Court case this week is a rare example of why I still believe in politicians. We don't often see our elected representatives putting their necks out for a real cause, but there are still many who entered politics to make a difference.

Having said this, i have no doubt that we have not heard the end of this case. The tobacco industry will rally and spend some of their significant profits on further legal battles over brand ownership, compensation for loss of profit and other spurious arguments aimed at stalling a final outcome.

So, why am I so interested in this subject?

In the last 10 years I have watched three people near and dear to me die slow and agonizing deaths as a direct result of smoking a substance that is freely available and regulated by the government.

All three of these people were from a previous generation and grew up in a time when smoking was cool.

First my eldest uncle succumbed. A man who could handle anything and who held a big extended family of misfits together was suddenly our most vulnerable member. He held on, did a lot of things and said everything he wanted to say before we finally lost him.

Only a little over a year later my next uncle was struck down. It seemed more sudden this time, but he had kept it to himself. His wife had died some years before of a skin cancer that had spread. Their young son was still recovering when his dad became our next fatality.

We had a reprieve for a few years, then it was my Mum's turn. Alone and otherwise unwell for years, mum was fairly pragmatic and started giving her things away as soon as she found out. It almost felt like a joke until she became so weak and feeble we had to put her into palliative care, where she languished for what felt like an eternity, but was really only a matter of weeks. Like her eldest brother, she lapsed into a coma before we lost her too.

I have every faith that cigarette plain packaging will have a positive effect, ultimately reducing smoking related illness and death in Australia, and hopefully eventually around the world. My fear is that it will take a long time to see it come into effect, as the all-powerful tobacco companies and their politically connected lobbyists fight for every last dollar at the expense of the millions of society, particularly the weak, dumb and addicted smokers of the world.


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