If you don’t smoke… you don’t belong

That was the culture of my High School in the 80’s. It was the type of school where the senior Girls toilet was strictly used for smoking and not for the intention it was built for. There were ashtrays lining the bench for our use and if a new girl came to the school and attempted to use the toilet for other matters she was promptly sent to the younger girls toilets. At our Year 11 and 12 camps, we were permitted to smoke.

The smokers at my High School were defined by the brand of cigarette they smoked. The toughest kids smoked Marlboro; the “coolest” girls smoked St Moritz and the youngest girls smoked Alpine. The higher the tar, the tougher you were.

How times have changed! My son declared that there were only a few students that smoked at his school and those kids were regarded as “stupid”!

This week, the High Court upheld the government’s plain packaging laws for cigarettes. Will this decision impact the number of people who take up smoking? What we do know, is that the cigarette companies were serious enough to protect their brands in the High Court. If this branding was not a way of attracting potential new smokers then they would not have taken this action.

This legislation is one more step towards alienating the smokers from the “rest of us” and this additional leverage can only be good for our collective health and wellbeing. When smokers feel the pain of being judged and cast out, they are more likely to put an end to this self-destructive activity. This strategy is at the cutting edge of attacking the habit of smoking to its core. India, New Zealand, the UK and USA are also considering this type of action.

When smokers come to me to help them stop smoking, one of the key motivators is that they are judged and frowned upon by co-workers, friends and family. Society has cast them out. Many of my clients practice smoking by stealth. This secretive behaviour is a result of them being ashamed to smoke in front of their friends, family and co-workers.

The partners of smokers often feel distressed as they watch their loved ones blow their money up in smoke, risk their health and impact the lives of their family.


  1. Do not nag them to stop smoking. Let them make the decision for themselves.
  2. Do not support their habit by buying cigarettes for them. The inconvenience of purchasing cigarettes is an additional leverage that will add to the many disadvantages of continuing to smoke.
  3. If they have resumed smoking after quitting, be supportive, show them that you do believe that next time they will kick the habit for good as the more times a smoker quits smoking, the higher the likelihood that they will succeed in being a non-smoker.

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