Like a number of my friends, I enjoy an occasional cigar. Not very often. I have not kept count, but it probably smoked less than one cigar a year in my adult life. I rather like Cuban Romeo y Julieta Romeo No.3 TUBOS; not too big and not too small.
And yet, in order to buy a cigar, I have to endure the absolutely revolting images mandated by Nicola Roxon under the previous Australian government by the misleadingly titled Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011. There is of course nothing “plain” at all about packaging like this.
And so I spent some time looking up the research, and I find that there is absolutely no evidence at all that smoking an occasional cigar will damage my teeth or my gums. There is of course evidence that people who smoke large numbers of cigars are at some increased risk of oral cancer, but these people are surely tiny in number. I do not know anybody who smokes several cigars per day; I know lots of people who, like me, will once a while enjoy a cigar after a meal. The research suggesting a link between cigars and oral cancer are all concerned with people who regularly smoke several or many cigars a day, and if the research mentions the case of the occasional smoker at all, it is simply to note that there is no relevant evidence.
And so for me, and for the fast majority of people who smoke cigars, the message carried by these gruesome mandated packages is a lie, according to the best science. Cigar smoking will not damage our teeth or our gums.
Let’s be charitable to Nicola Roxon. Let’s suppose that she actually read the research, rather than allow herself to be guided merely by her half-baked nanny-like instincts. So, on this charitable supposition, she knows that the message is a lie for the majority of cigar smokers. Is the message still okay, on the basis that it is a “good lie”?
I do not think so. The message on the rear of the mandated package is not balanced or reasonable, and the use of the disgusting photograph on the front is plainly intended to intimidate. If it contained a sensible statement along the lines of, “If you smoke x cigars a day, your chances of oral cancer are increased by y%” that would be one thing thing. But this is another.
Personally, the whole business makes me determined to smoke rather more, because I’m damned if I’m going to let my life be ruled by this sort of gross maladministration.