I've been working recently as a cleaner at a school. This really has nothing to do with what I want to talk about other than the fact that it indirectly led me to be inspired to write this blog post, something that I am afraid I don't take the time to do much anymore since I seem to have so much other stuff happening in my life right now, some of it pleasurable, some of it mind-numbingly, soul-destroyingly badly awful, but all of it time-consuming.
In the area I am tasked to clean are the kitchens that are used to teach catering. (Yeah, that's right. Back when I attended the same school we were taught Home Economics, and basically taught to cook. Now they are taught how to become sous chefs and work in restaurants. The teacher is referred to as 'Chef' rather than 'Sir' and they all wear chef whites. Surely teaching them to cook and instill a love of cookery is the first step, and then train to be a chef at catering college? Maybe it's just me, but the preponderance of chefs on TV speaks volumes. Being a cook in a restaurant, much like every other job in a restaurant, is a thankless and sometimes god-awful job. Why is everyone trying to be Gordon bloody Ramsay instead of Justin Wilson?)
Full sized restaurant-type kitchens, along with a classroom area known as the 'restaurant' and a hallway with three restrooms - one boys, one girls, and one disabled persons. They are all fairly small as this isn't an enormous area and is essentially just one big classroom. In the boys' toilets, the toilet stall is located next to a window, and was obviously designed to be somewhere else, as you can open the latch to open the window but you cannot open the window itself as it opens inwards and there is a supporting pillar of the toilet's cubicle halfway along the window, thereby preventing anyone from using the window for its intended purpose. Make sense? Following me? Good.
So what do the boys use the window's expansive windowsill for?
Frequently when I go in there to clean, I am confronted with a few stray strands of baccy, or a filter, or a plastic sleeve from a pack of filters, or a discarded empty Rizla pack.
Several things about this disturb me. First, you have the nuts to roll your much-needed smokes at school? You are that gasping for a fag you have to roll'em in the loos so you can instantly light up as soon as you are outside the gates? Gimme a break, you barely have hairs sprouting from your nether regions. You don't need a smoke that bad.
Secondly, I recall when I started smoking in the early to mid-80s, a pack of 20 was around the £1 mark, and I thought that was pricey then. Rolling baccy was cheaper than that, but I still preferred ready-made ones to rolling my own. Nowadays a pack of 20 cigs is around £8, which to me seems astronomical. To put it into perspective, from the local Chinese takeaway you can get Kung Pao Chicken and a generous serving of Egg Fried Rice for almost the same money. I know people who regularly go down to the Duty-Free shop at the Port of Dover to stock up on cheap tobacco, as it is so cost-prohibitive.
Where are schoolkids getting the money to finance such a ridiculously expensive pastime? Notice I don't say 'habit' or 'addiction' because as I say, they are schoolchildren and hence haven't been doing it for long enough to be addicted. I'll tell ya where. Parents. Parents either give the kids too much money as pocket money (well, to be honest, living as I do in a house with teens in it, it's likely the kids more or less extort the money out of the parents who are either too tired to say no or who want a quiet life), or the kids have weekend jobs as paperboys or shop assistants, but this seems unlikely.
Thirdly, for as long as I can remember, cigarette packs and tobacco pouches have had health warnings on them. When I was young it was just a side panel of the box that said that cigarettes MAY be harmful to your health. Nowadays, it makes you wonder why cigarette manufacturers even bother with pack design, logos, fancy colours etc. because there's a dirty great sticker on every pack, covering almost the entire front surface, boldly proclaiming SMOKING KILLS and SMOKE THIS AND DIE or EMPHYSEMA - THAT'S A VERY LONG WORD, ISN'T IT?
The long and the short of it all is that for decades now (at least since the '50s) we have known that smoking is perhaps not the best idea in the world if you want to stay healthy. Only recently, however, has the government decided to stop pussyfooting around and call a spade a spade with SMOKING KILLS. But they still won't stop selling the stuff, because it's profitable. The reason your pack of 20 Mayfairs is so expensive is because of all the lovely taxes that the government slaps on top of it. So as long as people are prepared to pay outlandish prices for their dangerous addiction, the Government will not do the sensible thing and outright ban the stuff. If there ever comes a day when people just quit buying ciggies because they're too pricey, the Govt. will just scale back the prices to keep you dumbasses buying.
It's utterly moronic to me, knowing as I do about the health warnings, and the number of TV documentaries I've watched over the years, that anyone still thinks about taking up smoking. I know that a lot of smokers are hooked and have been for years, and their need is just that - a need. Their brain tells them that it needs the nicotine one way or another and they are powerless to stop. But kids - why? I cannot get my head round that one. What is so attractive about smoking?
When I was a kid I spent my money on snacks and magazines and records, cigarettes came later and was just a passing phase. I never really smoked hardcore and gave up when in my early 20s.
So what is the point I am trying to make in this mess of incoherent and disjointed thoughts? That that evil fiend Nick O'Teen is still out there trying to sell kids on the demon baccy. Superman, you're slacking.