Schrödinger’s Cat and Cigarettes
Schrödinger’s cat, for readers who have not heard of it, is the name of a thought experiment devised by the Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935. It is meant to illustrate a principle of quantum mechanics in which a cat in a box can be both dead and alive at the same time. I am not clever enough to understand it but you will see the point of mentioning this idea shortly.
But first, gentle reader, allow me to digress by mentioning an item I came across recently in one of those magazines you find in the pocket of an aircraft seat next to the instructions about what to do in an emergency.
It was an advertisement for a ‘lifestyle intervention’ organization.
First it states, ‘Weight loss is not achieved by CHANCE, it is achieved by CHANGE!’ (sic). Since it is most unlikely that weight loss will happen by chance, unless you are ill, you will have to change something in your life, particularly your diet, so it’s saying, in effect, ‘Weight loss is achieved by weight loss.’
Then they ask, ‘Do you want to strategically transform your health and fitness?’ Disregarding the split infinitive, I am not sure what the difference is between transforming health and fitness and strategically (!) transforming them, so why don’t they just say, ‘Do you want to improve your health and fitness?’
The next question is, ‘Do you want to lose weight and embrace a lifestyle change?’ But if you’re happy with your lifestyle and merely want to lose weight, does this mean you can’t do one without the other? Anyway, they’ve already mentioned weight loss, so they could have left this question out.
This is followed by, ‘Do you want to live happier in your own skin?’ Oh dear. Presumably they mean ‘more happily’, but ‘in your own skin’? You can’t very well live in someone else’s skin, so we could re-write this as, ‘Do you wish to be happier?’
Now we have, ‘Do you want that long term sustainable approach?’ They don’t need to say long term and sustainable—they mean the same thing. It could simply be written as, ‘Do you want a sustainable approach?’
Finally, ‘Do not waste anymore time and get in touch today!’ Is getting in touch part of wasting time? It would have been clearer if the poor old copywriter had made this exhortation into two sentences or used a dash: Do not waste anymore time—get in touch today!’
This is an example, not only of nonsense, but of badly written nonsense. Now, let’s return to smoking for another bit of nonsense.
I also browsed through the catalogue of the in-flight shop, and was feeling pleased that among the many offerings of expensive whisky, perfumes, and electronic gadgets, there was no mention of cigarettes. Until I got to the last page. And there it was. But oh-so discrete. No pictures and no mention of prices. Tobacco control really making progress!
For the purpose of my research I asked a friendly stewardess to provide the missing information, and discovered you can buy 400 Marlboro cancer sticks for £62 ($84) and 200 Benson & Hedges with a special filter for a mere £38 ($52). But what is this mysterious special filter? What additional poisons does it remove that the ordinary filter doesn’t? Do they even make them with ordinary filters? Probably they’re all the same and the idea of ‘special’ and the name ‘Gold’ are just advertising gimmicks.
I suppose Benson and Hedges have to peddle their poisonous products somehow, but what is the point of not showing the price or any pictures? Is it part of the government’s drive to discourage smoking? Can you see a smoker, desperate after enforced abstinence for a few hours, thinking: ’I have to ask the price? Nah, too embarrassing! I won’t bother.’ But if someone, nonetheless, does buy them it could backfire, because the buyer wouldn’t have the opportunity of being put off by seeing the horrible pictures on the pack in advance of purchase!
The whole thing, in my unhumble opinion, is an example of the two-faced attitude of the government to the smoking problem.
If the idea is really to discourage smoking, why are cigarettes allowed to be sold at all?
It’s like Schrödinger’s cat: they want to sell them and at the same time they don’t want to sell them.
Please buy these cigarettes; we need the tax. Please don’t buy them; they may kill you.
But if you have been buying cigarettes and think you can’t quit, you may like to look into the Symonds Method.
Text and photos ©Gabriel Symonds