A new 'turbo-charged' campaign to eradicating smoking

But won't parties be sort of boring when everyone has adopted a health-conscious, risk-averse attitude to life?

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The Independent Online

The year is 2040. Silver lycra is in, Boris Johnson’s cryogenically frozen head has just been re-elected President of Earth and, stranger still, everyone has given up smoking. This glimpse into the future comes courtesy of a panel of experts writing in The Lancet to mark next week’s World Conference on Tobacco and Health. One of the authors, Professor Robert Beaglehole, from the University of Auckland, has promised that a “world where tobacco is out of sight, out of mind, and out of fashion – yet not prohibited – is achievable in less than three decades from now.” Great stuff, but what exactly will we have to give up to get there? Not just the ciggies, that’s for sure.

The benefits of a tobacco-free world are obvious, but for many people, including evangelist ex-smokers like myself, the prospect still isn’t entirely appealing. Won’t parties be sort of boring when everyone has adopted a health-conscious, risk-averse attitude to life? Isn’t such widespread conformism slightly sinister, even when well-intended? And do we really want to live in a world where no one will ever again look as cool as Humphrey Bogart did in Casablanca, with his collar turned up against the wind and a Chesterfield attached to his mouth’s corner?

Smoking as the ultimate expression of free choice is a notion which runs deep in our culture. It’s also utter cobblers, of course, but that only makes these notions more difficult to dislodge from that spot in the emotional, irrational part of the brain where they usually take root at some point during adolescence. It’s no coincidence that two thirds of smokers start before they turn 18, when their minds are most suggestible and the idea of rebellion has most appeal. Smoking takes us right back to our idiotic youths and so, for a habit that will surely kill you in the end, it’s strangely life-affirming.

If the proposed new “turbo-charged” campaign is to save one billion lives in 25 years it will have to be different from the anti-smoking campaigns which have come before. Instead of simply hearing the health risks once again, nicotine addicts need to come to understand how skilfully the tobacco industry has tricked them into believing that ruining their health was all their own idea.

It’s like Chandler says in that episode of Friends where Ross and Joey (both total squares, admittedly) try to persuade him to give up smoking. “I’ve had it with you guys and your ‘emphysema’ and ‘lung cancer’ and ‘heart disease’. The bottom line is, smoking is cool and you know it.”

Home truths in the kitchen

When your enemies are really determined to take the mick, almost anything will do for fodder, as Ed “Two Kitchens” Miliband discovered this week.

He might be comforted by the story of a girl I once knew called Two Jumpers Jane. She earned her nickname by coming to school one day wearing what looked like one jumper layered over another. That’s it. Since Jane was a nice person who’d never really done much to attract negative attention, we, the self-appointed wags of Year 8 second-set maths, were forced to work with what we had.

As mindless mockery goes, at least Two Jumpers Jane was both alliterative and to the point. Two Kitchens Ed is more confusing. What exactly is it we’re supposed to be sneering at, again? First it was how his drab kitchen (singular) reflected his drab politics. Then it was the existence of an extravagant second kitchen, which is presumably where all champagne socialists store their vintage bubbly.

Fine. Except that having two kitchens is not really a signifier of obscene wealth, so much as bad architecture. Real high-rollers, such as Britain’s richest woman, Kirsty Bertarelli, tend to splash their cash on a multi-story “mega-basement”, complete with a bowling alley, cinema room and fully equipped home gym.

So, finally, we were forced to return to the old faithful of Ed Miliband media narratives; he’s just a bit weird, isn’t he? What kind of bacon sandwich-slobbering deviant has two kitchens? Don’t worry Ed, when any slight divergence from the norm is used as evidence against you, it’s a sure sign your critics are running out of ideas. Just ask Two Jumpers Jane. 

Transparent confidence

Kim Kardashian West did it, not once but twice, during Paris fashion week. Kate Moss and Poppy Delevingne both did it at the same event, and Rihanna does it whenever there’s an R in the month. Stepping out in public in an entirely transparent outfit is a recognised tactic of attention-hungry celebrities. Lately, however, the see-through dress has evolved from a fashion statement, to a fashion cri de coeur.

Instructive magazine articles and high-street retailers have made it easier than ever for ordinary women to imitate Hollywood glamour on the cheap. That means that celebrity clothes horses have to work twice as hard to justify their elite status.

The see-through dress doesn’t easily translate from the red carpet to the school run, and so it denotes a wearer with the body confidence that belongs only to perfectly toned catwalk models. Or so you might assume. Kudos to the Chinese woman who posted online pictures of herself in a copy of a see-through dress first worn by Thor actress Jaimie Alexander at the film’s premiere. True, the fit may not have been exactly as she’d hoped, but she certainly wasn’t afraid to try. Mortals 1, Celebrities, 0.

Back to basics

It’s been called “America’s most hated meal” (Vice), “an adolescent’s idea of how adults spend their time,” (The New York Times) and “the absolute worst” (Buzzfeed); it’s fair to say “brunch” is experiencing a backlash. The weekend ritual, a combination of breakfast and lunch, served up to hungover hipsters at extortionate prices, is strongly associated with the US, but was invented by the British. The first documented use of the term comes from an 1895 article in Hunter’s Weekly in which the author proposes a later meal on Sunday, “to make life brighter for Saturday night carousers.”

It’s only right, then, that we should be the ones to make a stand finally against this made-up meal. Accordingly, unglamorous chain-pub J D Wetherspoon announced it’ll be selling a 99p filter coffee and a full English for £2.99. That’s brunch without the pretensions – an all-day breakfast, in other words.