Here & Now with S Sorrensen

Lismore. Thursday, 9.15pm:

So, cigarette packets will be plain from now on, thanks to some progressive action from the Australian Government. Interestingly, this will be done without the U.S. telling us to.

The new packets were going to be olive green, which has been shown in surveys to be the least attractive colour to young people, but the olive industry objected (because people may think that it's the olives in cigarettes that cause cancer) so the packets will be brown. I hope the potato growers can live with that.

Maybe olive growers should change the colour of their olives anyway, so young people will be more attracted to them. Blue is a good colour. There are blue drinks now that young people like. I suggest a new olive industry advertising campaign: a rugged, handsome man in a cowboy hat riding his horse, a blue kalamata olive stuck between his lips. The Olive Man. Cool.

Cigarette companies are upset by the new plain packaging law. Poor cigarette companies.

I'm sure the NSW Government is upset too, because they have nearly $30 million of our money invested in cigarette companies. For our own good, apparently.

Exposed, the government has reluctantly decided it may shift that investment to some other industry. I hear coal seam gas mining gives good returns - well, in the short term, anyway. And we know the NSW Government is not into long term. Its concerns are corporate, not social.

Cigarette companies argue that plain cigarette packets will make it easier for the black market to make a lot of money because the plain packs are easier to copy. The cigarette companies point out that Australia will suffer from these black-market, cigarette-

importing parasites, who will deal a dangerous drug to the poor Australian people. Aw, they care about us. And not only that, these copied ciggies will be cheaper. How awful.

Actually, the so-called plain packaging won't be so plain; there'll be pictures of what smoking can do to you. Not pictures of people enjoying a smoke with a glass of wine after work as the sun sets in the west; not of a cowboy astride his steed with a fag (and a blue olive) in his mouth enjoying the full-flavoured rush of nicotine as it cools his extremities; not of the anxious mother with pram and thongs getting some mentholated respite from a hard day at the mall, Christmas shopping in November; not of smoky, post-coital bliss - no, but rather those pictures we already see now: rotting green teeth with mouth ulcers, amputated toes and brown lungs. Yuk. (I have never seen anyone with green teeth, missing toes and bleeding lips, but then again NSW's nuclear industry will take some time setting up. This is a lucrative short-term investment for the NSW government to replace its cigarette portfolio.)

All that's fine, I guess, but it gives me an idea: why not have all dangerous objects adorned with a warning using pictures of possible effects?

All motor cars should be plain brown with pictures etched into the doors of mangled bodies wrapped around a semi-trailer. Every petrol bowser should display pictures of decertified farmland and flooded coastal towns. Wine and beer bottles should show fatty livers and wives with black eyes. CSG propaganda should display pictures of poisoned creeks and impoverished communities. Computers should carry a picture of a fat kid eating a Mars bar, his pallid face glowing blue (like an olive) in the screen's light.

State governments should carry a warning that shows a few fat white men, smoking cigarettes and guzzling wine, toasting their investments while Rome (or Lismore) burns under a fiercer sun.

Topics:  opinion

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