We don’t often comment on newspaper content on this blog and we rarely criticise the sainted Guardian group, but …………. The front cover of today’s Observer magazine has an exquisite profile of an impossibly glamorous, ivory-skinned beauty, with a filtr-tip elegantly hanging from her blood red lips. The caption is “The Last Gasp – Why fashion can’t kick the habit” and the cigarette is deliberately drooping, so as to signify its dodgy status.
But, droop or no droop, nothing can eradicate the powerful impact of this image that links glamour to smoking. And there it is, on the breakfast table this Mothering Sunday, for Observer daughters to be drawn to like magnets. Should they turn to the article inside, they’ll find a rather pointless essay on why “fashion is falling back in love with smoking.” True, author Euan Ferguson goes to pains to repeat that smoking is both dangerous and uncool, but the impression that lingers is more likely to be the full page picture of Kate Moss and her cigarette on their recent notorious jaunt down the Paris catwalk.
This matters because, as we all know, the reason why people start to smoke, particularly young females, is through its association with glamour and sophistication. The health dangers are not disputed, but are easily swept aside by optimistic minds. Any possible harm is likely to be a long way off in the future, they tell themselves. They’ll quit well before that. Besides, there’s bound to be a cure for lung cancer in a few years. What matters now is to look cool and glamorous like that woman on the cover of the Observer magazine and Kate Moss being beautiful and rebellious.
The Observer must know this, which makes its actions both cavalier and disingenuous. No one is suggesting they’re deliberately promoting smoking but, by not caring about the consequences of their feature, this is precisely what they are doing. Indeed, if one had a cynical mind, one could be forgiven for wondering if the article itself was a smokescreen for the photos.
PS I should add out that I’m not part of the anti-smoking police, having struggled with the habit myself. Just wish I’d never started when I was that impressionable teenager and hate the thought of others taking the same deluded route.