The Cigarette returns to the screen in retrospective dramas that glamorise smoking, sexism and alcohol. Battles that were fought in the 80’s, resurface in new packages. Marketing a bad idea, convinced previous generations to take up smoking. Images of cool sophistication, success and popularity were used in the advertising campaigns that pushed the dangerous chemical concoctions, onto its gullible audience.
Youth of the 50’s,60’s,70’s and 80’s were conditioned into thinking that smoking was OK.
Some claimed to be a healthy alternative and relied on ‘fresh’ images to sell its product. A team of young medical students known as ‘BUGA-UP’ (Billboard Utilising Graffitists Against Unhealthy Promotions) would graffiti smoking posters with warnings, as medical professionals campaigned for restrictions.
In 1980, Chairman of Rothmans, Sir Ronald Irish complained that “some government officers supported BUGA-UP” and Rothmans CEO, Vernon A Brink claimed; “he was surprised that the media had been sympathetic (to BUGA-UP)”
Protestors faced charges for defacing tobacco company advertisements but it did not deter them. Current legislation that restricts smoking companies, was due to these past efforts.
Each year, smoking still kills an estimated 15,000 Australians. These statistics are less than previous years due to the preventative measures of confronting packages and soaring costs. The smoker pays high taxes with each purchase to compensate for the *$31.5 billion health bill it generates. However when we examine the images that these generations were exposed to and the acknowledged addictive nature of the product, were they merely victims of persuasion?
There is something irreverent about returning to bad ideas, an insistence to wrong rights, lose rights and slide back into harmful behaviour. Don Draper in the TV series Mad Men, encapsulates all that went wrong in the past and yet the character has a cult status, due to the sophisticated edge he portrays. Cigarettes, alcohol abuse and sexism has found its new home, in drama. Maybe the problem that appears to be dealt with, was not.