Smoking kills?

A ccording to new research undertaken at Stirling University, stamping individual cigarettes with the phrase ‘smoking kills’ might prove off-putting enough to help smokers to curb the vice. I’m not so sure. Perhaps for the older generation this might work, but if my 22-year-old son and his chums were anything to go by, this would prove the ultimate in cool marketing.

When Spanish cigarettes started issuing packets with revolting images of tumours, infected lungs and rotting hearts, he and his friends collected the packets, comparing images in the way that swopping cigarette cards were apparently all the rage in the fifties. One despairs! A few years ago I interviewed one of Switzerland’s leading respiratory experts, a consultant with many years experience trying to persuade smokers to kick the habit.

He used a number of devices including meditation, hypnosis and psychology and had proven results. I took comfort in his view that young people could get away with being mobile chimneys until their late twenties as they had enough healthy cells to cope with the potential damage. He said that from thirty onwards it was time to rein in the habit quickly and to find a permanent solution.

My son tells me that he’ll stop smoking but for now shows no signs of abating and in Budapest where he lives, fags are as cheap as chips. So I shall have to sit patiently in the wings hoping that one day he’ll give up tobacco or perhaps see a cigarette with ‘smoking kills’ on it and throw up his hands in horror. Somehow, knowing the nature of the beast, he’d pocket it as if an exotic exhibit to show to his Hungarian friends – mostly fellow smokers.

Amazon in flames

One of the most depressing news reports last week was surely regarding the out of control fires raging in the Amazon? In the midst of the horror, arrogant and opportunistic Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, began a war of words over the handling of the crisis, with French president Emmanuel Macron. Rejecting the help of G7, Bolsonaro engaged in a vile social media attack instead against Macron’s 66-year old wife, Brigitte. He himself has a wife 29 years his junior and seemed to mock the age of Macron’s spouse. Hopefully there’ll be a backlash from Brazil’s female population. Whatever public argument the two presidents might have, to enter into such personal attacks against a third party is totally reprehensible.

Having been criticised universally, Bolsonaro has reluctantly sent military forces into the area to tackle the blaze but he has made his dangerous views abundantly clear: That rainforest protections are an obstacle to Brazil’s economic growth. I have visited the Amazon countless times, but on a recent visit to Colombia I was heartbroken to see concrete huts being placed along the riverbanks for the indigenous people, in place of their beautiful stilted wooden homes. The locals are lured into thinking a replacement is a good thing but soon learn that without air circulation, coupled with inherent plumbing problems and flooding, they’ve been sold a pup. The huts then lie abandoned and become slums and unlike natural materials they cannot be broken down.

The Amazon rainforests cover an area of 5.5 sq km, and provide 20 per cent of the world’s oxygen. We do not need deranged would-be pyromaniacs such as Bolsonaro in control of such a crucial area of the globe. Macron is right. Brazil needs a new president. And fast.

Diversity chocolate

The Cadbury brand has rather recklessly launched a four-coloured bar of chocolate (dark, blended, milk and white) in India, called Diversity. The aim, said the company, was to celebrate people of all colours and Indian Independence Day. Seen as a cynical move to appear ‘woke’ the company has been panned and ribbed mercilessly via social media as helping to solve world ‘racisim’. As India is top of the list for social segregation and now has an appalling track record regarding female rape, particularly of those in the lower caste system, the advert seems highly inappropriate and unpleasant, trivialising serious social issues and stigmas in the country.

It comes in the wake of other disastrous ad campaigns such as the equally ghastly toxic masculinity advert produced by Gilette razors to capitalise on the #metoo campaign. Sales dropped significantly and competitive brands cleaned up, with P&G experiencing an 8$ billion non-cash write down. And let’s not forget the cringe worthy Pepsi advert with Kendall Jenner in the midst of a demo, handing a can of Pepsi to one of the police officers – all in the wake of police brutality allegations in the States.

Marketing is marketing and it’s right for brands to ‘catch the moment’ and attempt to be on trend but using such vile and cynical tactics does them no credit and as ever, the greater public will see through it all and call them out.

Pensioner disco divas

In Seoul a new pilot scheme to get the over 65s disco dancing in exclusive daytime venues has so far proven a huge success. In a bid to prevent old age loneliness, fatigue, depression and illness, the Korean government hit on the initiative after much research. The very concept of regular meet-ups with existing and new friends and being able to dance away to favourite old and new soundtracks has seen a massive rise in cheerfulness and positive vibes among those participating.

Some elderly people actually opined that they’d stopped taking medication and anti-depressants so fit and motivated had they become. The discos are also run as themed events with a festive atmosphere and bar. Only those of 65 plus can join in, lending the affairs an air of exclusivity. Korea intends to roll out the scheme elsewhere in the country and thus help keep old age loneliness at bay. Long live cheery, happy, bopping pensioners. Time to bring the initiative to the UK, me thinks!