Call me a fascist, but I love how marginalised smoking has become around the world. In just a few short years, most of the developed world has banned smoking from the workplace, pubs, bars, restaurants, cafés, and even from directly outside buildings so the smoke doesn’t flow in through the doors. It’s a win for everyone, even smokers, though they sometimes refuse to acknowledge it. What makes all this most incredible is that it is a very rare victory for common sense over capital – big tobacco can go and suck on that.
Australia has been a world leader on this front, something that is both astonishing and entirely unsurprising in this country – astonishing because as a nation we all too readily get down on our knees and drink the jizz of big business, and unsurprising because we love overdoing safety regulations. Our laws on smoking are the toughest in the world so far as sales and advertising are concerned. Cigarette packets can no longer be displayed behind the counter; they are now all packaged in plain, dull packaging without any brand identification other than a uniform text stating the manufacturer and variety, with bold health warnings larger than the brand name and a disgusting image of the effects of smoking on health taking up the bulk of the packet. All advertising has long since been banned and the taxes on cigarettes are now so wonderfully high that a regular packet will cost you over $20 Australian and a packet of rolling tobacco over thirty. It’s a much healthier world we live in when a nine-year old kid asks “what is a cigarette?”
We could, however, go further still. In some cities in Japan it is illegal to smoke whilst walking down the street, and smokers must use designated smoking areas as depicted in these two images. How often have you gotten stuck walking behind a smoker on the pavement and been forced to inhale their pollution? How many fines and public awareness campaigns will it take to stop smokers littering city streets with their cigarette butts? It would be far easier simply to ban smoking from all outdoor areas, bar certain designated smoking stations, which could even be enclosed to ensure passers-by are protected from the smoke. The idea has been discussed in Sydney and a trial ban in downtown Melbourne was implemented last October with all the usual whinging from businesses that it will affect their custom. What they too often fail to consider, however, just as was the case with smoking in bars, is that less than 20% of the population smoke these days, so bear in mind how many customers are put off by the presence of smokers. I certainly am, and won’t sit at an outdoor area in a café if smokers are present.
Anyways, enough ranting – as to these photographs, it was tough to decide between the two so I’ve gone for both. I’ve always liked these shots for the chap’s posture, the seemingly arrogant cool he projects and the very contextual circumstances of the shot. If I was advertising smoking, which I might inadvertently be doing, and that makes me a massive hypocrite, then I think I’d like this guy in my ad to say screw the lot of you, smoking is cool and it makes you look like a real man. Incidentally, if you look closely at the wider shot, there’s a splendid little warning and graphic reminding people of street etiquette. It states: “When I bumped into someone, I apologized. When my smoke hit your face, I said nothing,” telling people in a curiously shaming and cryptic manner that they ought to consider the impact of their smoking as similar to accidental physical contact. Hear hear.