The other day, I needed to buy some tobacco, so I stopped off at a local periptero. For those unfamiliar with Greece, the periptero (περίπτερo) is ubiquitous. They are small kiosks found on nearly every street corner which sell cigarettes, newspapers, ice-creams, soft drinks, beer, crisps (chips to our American friends), phone cards, bus tickets etc etc etc. They tend to be open all hours, and are very handy.
Anyway, I stopped at the periptero to buy my usual Golden Virginia, and the girl started telling me about an offer on ‘Craven’ tobacco. I’ve never bought ‘Craven’; in fact I thought the brand was long gone – I remember ‘Craven A’ cigarettes from when I was a kid, but haven’t seen any Craven products since. I wasn’t too bothered about trying a new tobacco, so I just said to the girl “Oh, I don’t like Craven”, to avoid prolonging the discussion. “Oh no”, she said “this is a new product (thus negating my lie about not liking Craven), Craven Blue, and you get a lighter and (something I didn’t understand) free”. So I thought she meant maybe a Bic lighter and maybe what I hadn’t understood was a pack of filters (which I don’t use) or something similar. She was very pretty, and very smiley (something which always tends to loosen my resolve – I’m a complete sucker for a pretty girl), so I said ok, gimme a pack of this Craven Blue and I’ll see what it’s like. When I got back into the van, I had a look at the extra goodies she’d given me, and to my surprise there was a rather handsome tobacco pouch (that was the word I hadn’t understood),
very well made from some synthetic material that is fabric-like to the touch, fully lined and with various pockets for papers, filters etc, and magnetic clips. The lighter, far from being a disposable Bic, was a solid, heavy and well made refillable jobby.
To be honest, I’ve never had much luck with refillable gas lighters, with the plethora of different size and shape nozzles that come with the can of gas. I always seem to spray clouds of gas everywhere but in the lighter reservoir. Still, I may give it another go – the tins of gas are cheap enough.
The ‘Craven Blue’ tobacco is actually not bad, albeit on the heavy side. It reminds me of the Jaava Jongense (spelling?) I used to buy as an addendum to my normal tobacco. Too heavy to smoke all the time, but very nice as an after-dinner smoke, so I may well be buying the odd pack of ‘Craven Blue’ now and again.
I remember a few years ago that it wasn’t unusual to be in a bar or restaurant and to be approached by a cigarette promo girl giving away packs of one brand or another, but I guess the killjoys in Tobacco Control put a stop to that, as I haven’t seen it happen for years. I seem to remember reading that in UK the tobacco companies are no longer allowed to offer any promotional goodies at all. Is that the case? At least here they can give away tobacco pouches and lighters still, although how long that will last is anybody’s guess.
Greece has had the gross medico-porn all over the packs imposed on them by the EU, despite a distinct lack of enthusiasm on the part of the Greek authorities for that particular measure, so doubtless there will be more restrictions to come. Thankfully, the demos doesn’t have the same compulsion to adhere to EU diktat as do the government, so laws like the EU imposed smoking bans, although passed into Greek law, are not taken seriously on the ground. And I haven’t heard any mention of the so-called ‘plain’ packaging being mooted here. I think that will only happen if it is forced on them by the EU, and I don’t think the EU has any plans on that score – yet.
I find it staggering that a small coterie of fanatical zealots have managed, through lies, deception and exaggeration, to have so many antisocial and restrictive laws enacted globally. They have destroyed businesses, lives and social cohesion, and yet continue blithely on without a thought for the swathes of collateral damage that follow in the wake of their ideological pogrom. Like ISIS (and the Taleban before them), they seek to destroy anything cultural or aesthetic that is associated with their nemesis. Like the vandalistic morons who blew up Palmyra and the Bamiyan Buddhas, when they succeed in despoiling something which others value, they dance in glee at their supposed cleverness, and gloat over the ruins they leave behind them. Like the Islamists, they eschew all compromise, and are fixated on making everyone conform to their ideology. And where proselytising doesn’t work, then they use division and force; all the while broadcasting a relentless stream of propaganda designed to stir up hatred and bigotry against those who refuse to submit to their dogma.
As someone who is a natural libertarian, I find it difficult to articulate my contempt for these narrow-minded, sanctimonious, authoritarian bullies. They represent everything I despise. Despite their mealy-mouthed protestations that it’s all about health, and protecting the cheeldren™, the reality is that it’s nothing of the sort. They couldn’t give a flying fuck about health, kids or any other noble justification. The majority of their draconian impositions haven’t had any impact on smoking rates; they just enjoy punishing smokers, because they don’t like them, and because smokers refuse to bow down to their ideological demands. So of course they must be punished. So the multitude of stupid, pointless regulations (like ‘plain’ packs) continue to be rolled out, despite all the figures showing that those regulations have no impact whatsoever on smoking rates.
But the important thing, for the anti-smokers, is that they remove some of the pleasure that the smoker may derive from smoking. Because like with anything else in life, good design and attractive packaging enhance the pleasure of using the product, be it a building, a book, a bottle of wine, a car, or a packet of cigarettes. It’s a small but important part of the experience of using a product. And gross uglification of the product will therefore detract from the overall experience. And that, for them, is a win. It won’t stop people from using that product, but it does remove the visual pleasure one enjoys from the presentation. It really takes a special kind of misanthropy to revel in the removal of pleasure from others. A bit like those nasty kids at school who enjoyed pulling the legs off spiders. Nothing to be gained but a warped pleasure in the infliction of pain on others.
On a more positive note, Dick Puddlecote reports that Austria has vetoed proposals for a complete smoking ban, and a Swiss politician (a non-smoker) is taking the federal rail operator SBB to court, saying the decision to ban smoking on train station platforms goes “too far”. A little bit of common sense and decency floating on the misanthropic, festering morass of anti-smoking lunacy. We can only hope that other countries take a leaf out of that book and adopt a more sensible approach to legislation concerning smoking. I’m sure they can’t all be blind to the fact that they’ve been conned big time by Tobacco Control.