From Flags to Fags and Buck-a-Beer: the Biggest Differences Between the UK & Canada

Part I:

(in which is included a FREE inspiring message of encouragement to anyone trying to knock tobacco on the head)

People in the UK always ask what’s different over in Canada.

Number one: Canadians never ask the opposite of that question, instead hiding behind their reputation of being too polite to question anything to not give a shit.

I moved to Canada ten years ago. Since, everyone I know who smoked here then has quit except for one. And this even includes the casual ten bummed smokes when drinking smoker.

Conversely, all the people in the UK who smoked when I left still do except one.


Image courtesy Mathew MacQuarrie

The UK smokers talk about giving up and how they tried and failed and all the reasons why that happened and how the time just has to be right and if only for this and that, etc, etc, all the time.

Whereas the Canadian smokers were always quite happy with the life choice, until deciding it was time to quit; and while that isn’t to imply it was all plain sailing from there, they did it with nothing like the complete throwing in of the towel and following overflowing ashtray of cheap lies mentioned above.

The really bizarre thing about this completely polar behaviour is the price of cigarettes in the UK is roughly double that of Canada (based on cost of living, not the still fucked-up exchange rate thanks to the last recession/ongoing hilarity of Brexit).

The frequently cited financial benefit to giving up should have more impact in the UK.

Something that might explain this contradictory situation – rollies!

In the UK most smokers spend a good part of the month doing ‘rollies’; even going so far as buying little filters so they don’t have to feel quite as poor.

Packs of twenty (there’s packets of twenty-five in Canada) are kept for special occasions, such as the start of the month, big nights out down the pub and events like weddings and baptisms.

In Canada rolling tobacco is pretty much non-existent.


The Torontonian font of all rolling tobacco (image courtesy NeONBRAND)

When first moving here, I smoked.

The only—that’s right: ONLY—place I could find selling rolling tobacco in the whole of Toronto: 7-Elevens.

(Meaning that all the rolling paper readily available elsewhere was thought used for skinning up and nothing else at a time weed was still illegal here. Not that anyone knew that; everyone thought it was just fine until the government announced plans to decriminalise it a couple of years ago – but that’s a different story (tho suffice to say, couldn’t organise a pow wow in a cannabis factory)).

Seeing people make rollies like seasoned cons is an everyday occurrence in the UK no matter where; be it down the pub, in the park, just next to the doors of a hospital or outside school gates while waiting for kids to turn out.

In Canada people would holler out all sorts thinking it was a joint being made.

smoke 2

Standard UK smoker kit (image courtesy David Gallie

I even went to a gig once where a bouncer (venue door technician) stood right next to me outside while looking over my shoulder as I made one to ensure there was only tobacco being used.

I offered him the opportunity to have a root around the tobacco packet to be sure, if it bugged him that much, but he turned it down, saying he’d come across this rolling phenomena with British types before (he remained glued to my shoulder throughout the entire process, though).

For some reason people are far more inclined to smoke in the UK, as even with rolling tobacco a UK smoker only ends up on parity with Canada when it comes to price (and that’s if rollies are smoked all month long).

Evidently British types are just cooler.

But seriously:

The thing is this: if you say you’re going to quit something, but then quit quitting, you’ve still quit, so probably don’t feel like you’ve failed being a quitter quite so badly. If you’re a parent this is a terribly confusing message to send and appalling (and I really can’t stress this enough in the most preachy way possible) example to set children.

It’s all in the mindset. Cigarettes are not something to quit but an adversary to be beaten. One could even go so far as to say, conquered!

Every time one fails to give up, it isn’t because one has quit but not quite as intended, it’s because one is a loser, nothing more, nothing less; a great big good for nothing loser who’ll come up with any excuse on Earth, even a particularly stressful narrative on a much loved soap, to “gotta ‘ave a fag” vs. a teeny weeny packet of cigarettes (which do, despite their size, have the ability to kill and have done on numerous occasions).

With the price of twenty around 11 quid in the UK, that’s 77 pounds a week, which is a whopping 308 ($619) a month to do something that makes you smell and doesn’t even create a buzz like weed or booze does.

Talking of booze; how that’s a different matter entirely next in this happy trio of posts inspired by my recent jaunt back to the mother country:

Next, Part II BEER!

Other posts somehow mentioning smoking:

Thanks for reading 🙂

N. P. Ryan.


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