It's NOT big, and it's NOT clever,

When I was about 15 or 16 I smoked.
Only a bit, maybe one or two a week if I was lucky (should that be unlucky?) I was strictly ‘other peoples’ in what brand I smoked.
Once I was 18 and living outside of home I occasionally bought my own cigarettes. I still rarely smoked more than one or two a week, mostly I smoked when friends did on a Friday or a Saturday night. Peer pressure, yep, it was both big and clever. But it was also ‘cool’.

I usually smoked exotic and enticing brands like Black Russians, More Menthol or Multicoloured cocktail cigarettes with gold coloured filters ...it was all about the glamour. Packaging and presentation had a direct effect on whether I would buy a brand, I was beyond excited to discover a brand called DEATH that was sold in Brighton that came in a suave black coffin shaped box, too naïve, and too stupid to care about the irony it was quickly my favourite.
I never became addicted to cigarettes, I never smoked more than a couple a week and after the age of 24 rarely smoked at all. I haven’t smoked now in over 20 years.

 I wish smoking wasn’t cool. A smoking ban in public venues has done a lot to stop smokers, it is not so chic to huddle out in the rain to catch a quick puff. Lack of advertising has also helped to stop children and young adults starting the habit and of course you now need to be 18 to even begin. But I think another great preventative would be plain boring non-trendy packaging (think the classic TESCO VALUE campaign!) which is why I’d be happy to see all cigarettes sold in plain white cartons.
 I know all the arguments about cigarette taxes helping the country. I’ve heard things in favour of an outright ban (I’m not in favour mainly as it would only serve to make it cooler!) I think the best way to ensure that less people risk their health is to make smoking a real decision, based on proper information and not ‘oooh look – how cool is that packet!’ or ‘how handsome is that cowboy smoking!’