I don’t smoke. Never have, for two very simple reasons.
Firstly, I was convinced my Old Chap would beat me up if he caught me having a fag.
He probably still would today.
Secondly, cigarettes are expensive.
I used to do two paper rounds and worked in a factory on Saturday mornings when I was a lad up north (cue Hovis music and Monty Python ‘You were lucky!’ sketch).
In all, I pocketed about £6 for the lot. This was a long time ago, obviously.
But one of the highlights of the week for me was coming out of the kitchen factory and heading to the local newsagent, which in those days, doubled up as a record shop. There, a good third of the floorspace was given over to racks of pure gold: albums.
Row upon row of 12-inch, 33rpm LP vinyl, alphabetically stacked and wrapped in grimy polythene sleeves to keep prying fingers off the actual album covers.
Attempts to remove the records from the sleeves (to check whether the paper ‘inner’ had lyrics on) were met with fierce barks from behind the counter: “Oi! That’s yer lot.”
There was no CCTV, just a scary woman with a crew cut, X-ray vision and a good memory for faces, especially mine.
Anyway, once I’d paid the bus and got Fruit & Nut, I had about a fiver left, which in those days would buy you an album at £4.99 and a Bazooka Joe with the change.
A 7-inch would be 40p, but you would only entertain the idea if it came with a picture sleeve – a luxury that little backstreet shops rarely got.
A packet of B&H was over £1 even then and lasted my choking smoking pals a couple of days at best.
Yes, they could – in theory – make you look Bowie-esque to young ladies, but it was only temporary.
My record collection was permanent and you’d be amazed how many girls were impressed by a scratchy copy of My Sharona.
Yep, I had The Knack back in 1979.
I was set on this trip down Memory Lane on my weekly ramble round Sainsbury’s.
There, in the CD section, I spied The Stranglers’ greatest hits.
They were all present and correct: Walk On By, No More Heroes, Peaches – classics every one.
Digitally remastered (whatever that means) on a laser-cut disc offering unthinkably improved sound quality and running for well over an hour of rock solid post-punk nostalgia.
All for a grand sum of £3.
Worth every penny – if only to see the look of disgust on my teenagers’ faces as I cranked up the volume before we’d even left the car park.
But it got me thinking about how music could help keep kids off tobacco.
Any young person paying £6 for a pack of 20 tabs, should be handed CDs instead.
Good CDs. Music that may make them think a bit more about what they’re spending their money on. Something to enhance their life, rather than shorten it.
It may wreck their hearing, but at least it won’t turn their lungs golden brown.
So instead of putting health warnings on fag packets that no-one takes any notice of, why not change tack?
‘GOVERNMENT ADVICE: For the same price you paid for these cigarettes, you could have bought The Stranglers greatest hits – twice. Get a grip on yourself.’