Tuesday, 24 May 2016

What the Papers Say - Part 2

An interesting review of the papers with Deputy Louise Doublet on BBC Radio Jersey on Sunday morning.

Deputy Louise Doublet wanted to look at the news stories about how cigarette packaging is changing, and how this may help reduce the take-up of young people smoking

This is because bright packaging is said to attract people without them realising it. But the new boxes will be anything but bright. The new design will be deliberately drab, with a large health warning and graphic photographs.

This is the end result of a long campaign. The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) noted in 2003. As Rob Cunningham noted in the 2009 Bulletin of the World Health Organization.:

“As the FCTC Guidelines recognize, health warnings with graphic images of the negative health effects are far more effective than text-only warnings. A picture does indeed say a thousand words. Compared to text-only warnings, pictures are more noticeable, more memorable and have more emotional impact. Indeed, WHO chose pictorial warnings as the 2009 theme for World No Tobacco Day. “

He also notes that: “Picture-based warnings are especially important in developing countries where there are higher rates of illiteracy and low literacy. How useful is a text-only warning to a person who cannot read? And some people might not be able to read the official language(s), such as some immigrants, temporary workers and individuals from minority language groups.”

These changes may not affect seasoned smokers, but it might remove some of the glamour associated with smoking cigarettes for younger smokers.

A look at the history shows how glamorous smoking was seen to be. Movie stars in Westerns would be depicted smoking. James Bond, in the early Bonds, often is lighting up a cigarette. Columbo smoked, of course, but his cigar was invariably out, and anyway he would hardly be a role model in the way Bond would.

It is interesting that Gerry Anderson’s science fiction show UFO had a moon base, in which the astronauts when not on duty, would be sitting around, drinking coffee and smoking heavily. Smoking was so much a part of culture that no one – producer, writer, director – thought it might be rather odd that in a moon base, with limited oxygen, smoking would be permitted. It was opaque to them, it is obvious to us!

The psychology of smoking and the way in which glamour could sell smoking can be seen very well in the celebrated case of women taking up smoking.

This was the brainchild of Edward Bernays (1891-1995) who is largely considered the founder of using depth psychology to “engineering consent,” as he called it. A nephew of Sigmund Freud, Bernays was the first to demonstrate that people could be made to want things they don’t need by appealing to unconscious desires.

After WWI, Bernays was hired by the American Tobacco Company to encourage women to start smoking. While men smoked cigarettes, it was not publicly acceptable for women to smoke. Bernays staged a dramatic public display of women smoking during the Easter Day Parade in New York City. He then told the press to expect that women suffragists would light up “torches of freedom” during the parade to show they were equal to me, with the slogan ““Women! Light another torch of freedom! “

This was a shock because until that time, women were only permitted to smoke in certain places such as in the privacy of their own homes. He was very careful when picking women to march because “while they should be good looking, they should not look too much like models, and hired his own photographers to make sure that good pictures were taken and then published around the world

The women’s walk was seen as a protest for equality. The targeting of women in tobacco advertising led to higher rates of smoking among women. In 1923 women only purchased 5% of cigarettes sold, in 1929 it increased to 12%, in 1935 the percentage of cigarettes purchased by women was 18.1%, this percentage peaked in 1965 at 33.3% and remained at this level until 1977.

The use of an ideal of female emancipation to appeal to women smoking has since been used in other campaigns by cigarette manufacturers throughout the world. It is clever, if pernicious, because it uses smoking as a means of demonstrating female equality, and appeals to the feminist movement.

But perhaps it sometimes goes too far. Mel Smith was banned for smoking a cigar on stage as he portrayed Churchill – that is surely taking matters too far. However, I remember a performance of Carmen at the Opera House around 20 odd years ago by the Jersey Amateur Dramatic Club.

Now in Carmen, the women – including the heroine – work at a tobacco factory, and leave in one scene smoking cigarettes. I remember in the stalls you could certainly smell that volume of smoking, and the air on the stage was hazy. The opera’s first act takes place in a Seville square outside a cigarette factory, and features smoking in the setting, action, direction and the libretto, or text.

When Carmen arrives on the scene in Act I, with the other factory workers after their siesta, the workers, or “cigarette girls,” as they are often called, sing the praises of “la fumée”, likening it to a lover’s passionate declaration:

In the air, our eyes follow the smoke.
Watch it rise towards heaven,
smelling sweetly.
It billows around your head
and gently carries you away.
A lover’s sweet words--they’re smoke!
Their passions and speeches--smoke!

So where does that leave Carmen? In 2014, the West Australia Opera company decided to drop Carmen from its repertoire because it features smoking!

Perhaps if they make a film version of Carmen, they could use the marvels of CGI to add cigarettes afterwards.

This is the story which I mentioned that Health and Safety concerns have cause concern at the University of East Anglia. The instructions were sent out to students after the institution in Norwich reportedly said that a number of graduates had been hurt by falling hats in recent years.

Instead students are told to mime the actions, and images of the headwear will be digitally added afterwards – for around £6 per student!

Health and Safety has also been making mad inroads into the early years of education, as Deputy Doublet noted. A school has banned whistles to signal the end of playtime as staff are worried the “aggressive” noise will scare children. This is the story that staff at St Monica's Catholic Primary School in Milton Keynes must now raise a hand in the air to get the attention of pupils at the end of break time.

Professor Alan Smithers, of Buckingham University criticised this decision, telling the Sunday Times: “We have become extraordinarily over-sensitive. Does this mean children are not going to be able to play football and hockey because the referees use whistles?”

No comments: