Ten years after the release of Basic Instinct, director Joe Eszterhas, who at the time had just beaten throat cancer, wrote a column in the New York Times saying that his biggest regret in the film wasn’t the infamous leg-crossing scene but rather the glamorisation of smoking culture. At times, in the film, cigarettes dangle seductively from the lips of protagonists, equating the cancer-causing habit to a desirable, even attractive, social trait.
Things have however changed since Eszterhas penned his article in 2002. People now accept that smoking is harmful, its cool factor has waned, and today we have the lowest smoking rates among 14- to 15-year-olds since 1999. But despite this downward turn, there is still a trend of younger Kiwis trying cigarettes.
So, in an effort to dissuade these potential smokers from picking up that first cigarette, the Health Promotion Agency has launched a new campaign via GSL Promotus that gives a tongue-in-cheek depiction of exactly how ugly a relationship with cancer sticks can be.
Throughout the course of five TVCs, different characters are depicted as being in a relationship with a delightfully creepy cigarette man that wheezes, coughs and sniggers throughout each spot.
“This campaign communicates with young adults 17 to 24-years-old who are at risk of taking up smoking because of social and environmental influences such as peer pressures and alcohol consumption,” says the HPA website.
“At-risk smokers are those that are not daily smokers but may be experimenting with (social) smoking and risk becoming established smokers. We want to ensure that the campaign resonates with Māori, and subsequent phases will focus on Pacific peoples and pregnant women 17 to 24-years-old.”
According Statistics New Zealand, these demographic groups continue to have high numbers of active smokers.
In addition to the TVCs, the campaign has also been activated online via a specially designed microsite, which features additional information on smoking.
“The aims are to increase he audience’s resistance to tobacco — including offers of cigarettes in social settings, help them understand the nature of tobacco and its harms, and increase the prevalence of pro-smokefree and anti-tobacco attitudes,” says the website.
These campaigns form part of a continued drive by the government to make New Zealand smoke-free by 2025.
According to the HPA, the costs of smoking to New Zealand in 2005 were around NZ$1.7 billion, or about 1.1% of GDP. This includes costs incurred because of lost production due to early death, lost production due to smoking-caused illness, and smoking caused health-care costs.