For the past several years, I've been spending about $56 for a carton of Marlboro Red Labels (formerly known as "Mediums"). I could deal with that, just barely, but...there's recently been a spate of bad cig news: The supermarket where I always shop just recently stopped selling cartons. You can still get individual packs, but they're over $6. And the pharmacy chain that for the past few months has had multiple $1-off specials on packs just announced that they'll no longer carry any cigarettes at all starting in October.
And so I have finally been driven to shopping at places online for cheaper cartons of Marlboros, manufactured in places like the Philippines and Moldova. But my kind, "Red Labels" and "Mediums," apparently don't exist over yonder, so I gambled and ordered something called "Flavor Note" for, after taxes, about $33. At first I was horrified by the huge black-bordered warnings:
(Death and sexual dysfunction await if I smoke these weird third-world cigarettes!) But then after some Internet research, I discovered that the EU had passed laws requiring these warnings on packs, so every smoker in Europe is walking around with these, not just me.
As for "Flavor Note": They're not bad at all. Turned out a lot milder than my "Red Labels" (I had not done any research beforehand into the comparative tar/nicotine content: Red Labels = 7 mg tar and 0.5 mg nicotine; Flavor Note = 3 mg tar and 0.2 mg nicotine). At first, I was disgruntled -- my body not being used to a different/lesser intake of tar/nicotine -- but I kept telling myself, "Look, just smoke 'em 'til they're gone; they're friggin' $3 a pack." Still, I bought myself a couple of expensive packs of Red Labels just in case I was craving one... For the past week or so, I've delved into my Red Labels only a couple of times; the rest of the time, Flavor Note has been fine. I HAVE been smoking more of them, but even when smoking 1-1/3 of a pack per day instead of 1 pack, I'm still saving a ton of money AND intaking less tar/nicotine overall.
After this Flavor Note experimental carton is gone, I'm thinking of trying the European Marlboro Gold -- 6 mg tar and 0.5 mg nicotine, which is a lot closer in strength to my old Red Labels. Whatever I decide on, I've been forced into it, which pisses me off. Cigarettes costing over $6 a pack is insane, as is the refusal of my local supermarkets and drug-stores to sell cigs any more. I absolutely cannot stand this smug, PC, bandwagon, "slippery slope" of the past 20 or more years to "criminalize" smoking.
In the beginning, laws that banned smoking in restaurants, airplanes, movie theaters and the like were perfectly fair and reasonable. But then came the ridiculous "no smoking in bars" and "no smoking in the apartment you're paying rent for" and "no smoking on campus or city streets" and "if you're a smoker, you pay more for health insurance." Not to mention being taxed completely unreasonably.
Bars = They're bars. You're there to drink too much. And listen to too-loud music. And maybe pick up people. And stay up too late. They're not SUPPOSED TO BE health centers -- they're there as OUTLETS. They're there for FUN.
Rented apartments = You're paying WAY over cost for the space. You should be able to do anything legal there that you want to do. So what if the management company has to pay to repaint after you move out? You've more than contributed to the cost of a roomful of paint.
Campus/City streets = In public spaces, the rule should be: "Don't be a nuisance." Don't hang out on street corners drinking and harassing passers-by. Don't blow smoke in people's faces. Don't blast your music.
Health insurance = Smoking is bad for you. But so is a lot of stuff. Why, for instance, should I -- a smoker but also well within my weight range, walking over a mile a day and eating mainly non-meat -- pay more than, say, a grossly fat person who eats junk food almost every day and will probably require a lot more health-care over the years for heart and diabetes problems than I ever will? And what about the supremely fit thrill-seeker who eats vegan and bikes 10 miles every day but who also likes to sky-dive and bungee-jump? I'm 48, a smoker for 30 years, and thus far, I haven't cost the health-care system much of anything -- what, though, have we all been paying for Mr. Thrill's sprains and broken bones? You can't just randomly pick a group to discriminate against, when there are multitudes of other "risky" categories.
And an argument that I keep coming back to: Have you ever heard of someone smoking a carton of cigarettes and then (1) beating the wife and kids? (2) robbing a bank? (3) getting into a shoot-out with police? (4) driving and killing people? Conversely, you CONSTANTLY hear in the news about people legally DRINKING and doing all of the above. And I'll wager that drinking causes a LOT more health problems (both mental and physical) than smoking. Yet you don't hear anyone calling for Prohibition again. Alcohol CLEARLY causes more societal problems than smoking. So why aren't there new Carrie Nation Societies forming every day for the PC crowd? Because people are group-thinkers and cowards. Being anti-smoking is an avenue for feeling smug and superior about yourself without much backlash. (I feel similarly about the anti-fur-wearing activists who don't hesitate to throw paint on old ladies' coats -- but would they dare do the same to a leather-clad biker?)