Celebs are trying to make smoking cool. They're morons
THEY'RE the coolest kids on the planet with an alluring combination of beauty, wealth and influence.
Kylie Jenner, Bella Hadid, Dakota Johnson, Bambi Northwood-Blythe, Sofia Richie and our own Jordan Barrett may not be names you've heard of if you're over 40 but to many of the Snapchat generation they are icons of their era.
Who they hang out with, what they wear, what they like and what they do is of such importance to their young fans that icons of old such as Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe or even The Beatles look positively amateur.
Which is why it's alarming that these stars with the world at their fingertips have taken up smoking and posting images of cigarettes hanging from their lips and smoke curling around their face.
To anyone who's lost a loved one to lung cancer it's laughably contrived artifice - the brainless actions of those with too much money and too little sense. But to millions of impressionable and malleable teens the message being absorbed is that smoking is glamorous, sexy and as innocuous as other Instagram trends like pouting or posing in a bikini.
No one expects 20-year-olds to be wearing cardigans and sipping on a cuppa. But when you've been afforded a following simply because of your impressive cheekbones or agenda-setting eyebrows then you can show a modicum of responsibility and not undo three decades of excellent anti-smoking awareness and education.
I wish I'd been in the bathroom at the Met Gala in May - even as a cleaner. As the likes of Rita Ora, Bella Hadid, Dakota Johnson and Frances Bean Cobain filed in and proceeded to light up then Instaboast their oh-so-cool rebellion, I'd have pulled out some Kodak prints of my grandmother.
Bella Hadid, Lara Stone, Paris Jackson and Ruby Rose kick back in the bathroom at the 2017 Met Gala, sharing a smoke and undoing three decades of anti-smoking education. (Pic: @parisjackson/Instagram)
"Here kids, check out my Grandma Peg aged 50 puffing away at every family occasion."
"Oh, and here she is at 60 - yes that tube in her nose and oxygen tank behind her are helping her breathe."
"Look, here's another one of her at 65. She can barely inhale and her skin is grey and she's in constant pain and she can't go on that cruise with all her friends but instead has to sit all day in her green recliner. Oh, that's my grandad beside her - he loves her but his life has been ruined too."
Of course they wouldn't have listened. But these kids need to be shamed for their stupidity and their flagrant disregard for the messages their schools and governments have been investing in for decades.
My teenage daughters have learned from the earliest years of primary school that smoking kills. The Healthy Harold van would rock up each year to reinforce the message and television advertising drove the reality home. If they ever choose to buy a packet of cigarettes, they'll not only pay a fortune but be faced with harrowing images thanks to our nation having adopted some of the toughest packaging laws in the world.
In short, our generation has done the work and now a bunch of overindulged and arrogant upstarts is carelessly undoing it. These "influencers" - with millions of followers between them - will do anything they can to not follow the mainstream yet, ironically, they're effectively doing Big Tobacco's marketing job for them.
I'm all for freedom of speech and freedom of image but when these totems of social influence blithely post pictures of themselves smoking as if it were as innocuous as acai bowls and green smoothies, then we need to call them on it.
Sponsors, who pay huge sums to have these influencers endorse their products, need to insist on no smoking images in their contracts. Likewise advertisers and magazines need to spearhead a new aesthetic where smoking is not sexy but sad.
When Bella Hadid takes a drag of a cigarette then stares sultrily into the camera in the new Chrome Hearts clothing campaign, the artistic director needs to be brave enough to call cut. Fashion is full of recycled trends but to reignite smoking as a sellable prop is lazy, unimaginative and ignorant.
Carrie Goldberg from Harper's Bazaar argues that there's an "inherent sex appeal in seeing someone smoking in a photograph" and that it's a mistake to ban the use of such images. "That slim curl of smoke carries your eye up or along the frame of a photo - a subtle yet stunning component of any photo's composition."
We need to screenshot such images and repost them with our own captions: "Young woman attempts to get cancer" or "She may look good in that coat, not so much on a nebuliser."
With figures in Australia showing the number of adolescents who smoke has reduced by 70 per cent in 20 years we cannot afford to have such progress compromised. Since 1999 teenagers have overwhelmingly rejected experimenting and taking up smoking.
But fashion is a fickle beast. If those who steer popular culture collectively decide to adopt a behaviour - and thus normalise it - we'll be facing something far more sinister than stirrup pants. If only my Gran could Snapchat from her grave.