When I was a kid, in my fifth grade health class, we were assigned to make our own fake cigarette brands. These were supposed to act as the honest alternative to cigarettes. So instead of Camel, we made Cancer; Newport became Not Cool; and Marlboro became Bone Marrow. Give me a break, I was ten, and that was the extent of my wit (some would say it still is). The point is, this was supposed to teach children about the dangerous effects of cigarette smoking. Fast forward almost two decades later, and Canada now covers about seventy-five percent of the pack with an image and a fact about the harmful effects of smoking. You’ve got your somber, your painfully obvious, and your more abstract, among a whole host of others seen here.
I wrote this post to talk to you about how stupid the whole thing is. Does this deter people from buying cigarettes? Not at all. In fact, of the images above, do you know what the most popular one is? It’s the empty crib. Why? Because, and I quote, “Most people don’t necessarily have children, so the empty crib isn’t disturbing to them.” That was said to me by a woman, with a grin on her face, like she had just Rain Man-ed her way through Vegas, and had mentally outsmarted the system (and herself) of feeling any sense of guilt. The least popular? It’s obviously the cancer ridden tongue. I’ve had people throw that pack back to me as if it was possessed by Linda Blair herself. That just leaves Leroy. Who’s Leroy? He’s the somber dude with a hole in his throat. The first time a customer asked me if he could have the Leroy pack, I was confused as all hell. And then he showed me that this guy actually had a name underneath of the quote.
What’s my point with this? It’s just the absurdity of it all. Canada tried covering its cigarettes from the public eye, and now uses that space as a billboard for whatever it chooses to advertise (usually it’s gum, go figure). There’s no deterrent. Anyone who wishes to smoke knows they exist behind those black covers. It’s as if the next logical step in their minds was people would literally be frightened away by the packaging. Smokers don’t care about the packaging. It’s probably a mere five second uncomfortable glance to them at best. And while many come in an joke about the packaging, and about their intentions to quit, most of them would rather just play trade the pack as if they were some rare Pokémon card. You know what might work better? They should come in, ask for their cigarettes, and I should take their money without giving them anything. That’s the point, isn’t it? To make them feel bad for purchasing cigarettes? Showing them pictures of people dying, or pregnant women, or kids coughing isn’t doing anything. They’re not losing sleep over it. But if they started losing money over it, that might start to make a difference.
But I’m clearly biased. I am the Merchant of Death after all.
— Juvenile NamsaKe