The sim­ple, cost-free way to stub out obe­sity

Irish Daily Mail - - News -

THE term ‘no fil­ter’ had a very dif­fer­ent mean­ing, when I was a teenager, than it does for my own teenage chil­dren. Now, ‘no fil­ter’ can mean be­ing di­rect, say­ing out pre­cisely what’s on your mind re­gard­less of the con­se­quences. Or ‘no fil­ter’ can be a hum­ble­brag – an­other term that would have bam­boo­zled my teenage self – mean­ing that your In­sta­gram pic­tures haven’t been touched up and, yes, you re­ally did wake up like that.

Back in the last cen­tury, though, ‘no fil­ter’ wasn’t about hum­ble­brag­ging, or virtue-sig­nalling, and it def­i­nitely wasn’t for snowflakey sissies.

‘No fil­ter’ meant Sweet Af­ton cig­a­rettes, in their dis­tinc­tive yel­low packet il­lus­trated with an etch­ing of a pure moun­tain stream and a quote from the Scot­tish poet, Rob­bie Burns: ‘Flow gen­tly, Sweet Af­ton, among thy green braes/ Flow gen­tly, I’ll sing thee a song in thy praise’.

Those were the days, when you could be moved to po­etic rap­tures by an un­tipped cig­a­rette, its con­tent com­pared to crys­tal spring wa­ters from the Scot­tish High­lands, and no­body bat­ted an eye­lid.

Fil­ters were for the sort of men who ate quiche (ask your grand­dad), but the se­ri­ous smok­ers took their car­cino­gens straight.

Fil­ters sep­a­rated the soft­ies from the hard chaws, at a time when your brand of cig­a­rette spoke vol­umes about you. Pa­thetic lightweights, for ex­am­ple, smoked ‘John Player Blue’, usu­ally hav­ing cadged one at a party.

No-non­sense pint-drinkers chose Ma­jor Ex­tra Size, while Camels or Gauloises spoke of lan­guid after­noons sip­ping pastis in Parisian side­walk bistros, even if your only ex­po­sure to French café cul­ture was from the win­dow of your school tour bus.

Sweet Af­ton and Wood­bines, though, were for the hard­ened smok­ers who’d weaned them­selves off fil­tered cig­a­rettes around the same time they gave up mother’s milk.

As­ton­ish­ingly, so a straw poll in this pa­per re­vealed ear­lier in the week, many mod­ern twen­tysome­things couldn’t even name a brand of cig­a­rettes, never mind dis­tin­guish their traits or their mar­ket.

And the only judg­ment they tend to make about smok­ers of any brand, th­ese days, is that they’re all in­dulging a dan­ger­ous and un­pleas­ant habit.

Years of warn­ing smok­ers about the haz­ards of to­bacco fell on deaf ears, it seems, but a few sim­ple and prac­ti­cal mea­sures have al­most stamped out smok­ing in a new gen­er­a­tion.

Be­tween the smok­ing ban, the graphic health warn­ings on cig­a­rette boxes, the ad­ver­tis­ing taboo and the in­tro­duc­tion of plain pack­ag­ing, smok­ing has lost what was, it seems, the most addictive of all its com­po­nents: fash­ion­abil­ity.

Smok­ing has been ren­dered un­cool, to im­age-con­scious younger folk, and is now per­ceived as the pre­serve of yel­low­toothed, stinky-breathed, pre­ma­turely wrin­kled old dupes.

Brands have no chic as­so­ci­a­tions, celebs are rarely seen with a cig­a­rette, and since you’ve got to step out­side to have a fag, there’s no ca­chet in the habit any­more.

Obe­sity is now a much greater health con­cern for the younger gen­er­a­tion than smok­ing, prompt­ing the ques­tion of whether a sim­i­lar of­fen­sive against the mar­ket­ing of junk foods might de­liver sim­i­lar re­sults.

If all choco­late came in iden­ti­cal plain wrap­pers, printed with pic­tures of clogged ar­ter­ies and wob­bly tum­mies, would we eat less of it?

If fast-food restau­rants weren’t al­lowed ad­ver­tise, would we snack on car­rots and cel­ery stalks in­stead?

If it was con­sid­ered gross to break out a box of choco­late doughnuts in po­lite com­pany, and you had to take your­self and your sat­u­rated fats out­side in the cold, would a sweet tooth be­come a #fash­ion­fail?

THE dif­fer­ence, per­haps, is that while your first cig­a­rette al­most al­ways made you ill, we’re hard­wired from in­fancy to crave sweet foods. So pack­ag­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing are only a part of our re­la­tion­ship with un­healthy good­ies but then, as the reg­u­lar queues out­side the Krispy Kreme store in Blan­chard­stown prove, they’re a rather sig­nif­i­cant part.

Krispy Kremes are very tasty, but no more so than any num­ber of dough­nut brands you can buy with­out a lengthy drive-thru wait: they just hap­pen to be fash­ion­able right now.

So it’s clear that we’re just as sus­cep­ti­ble to fash­ion in our snack choices as a pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion was in their choice of cig­a­rettes. And fash­ion, by its na­ture, changes. Habits and trends, like brands and la­bels, go in and out of style.

And fash­ion can be ma­nip­u­lated by clever mar­ket­ing.

The risks of drink driv­ing were al­ways well known, for ex­am­ple, but it wasn’t un­til sus­tained ad cam­paigns made it shame­ful and un­cool that be­hav­iour re­ally changed.

Curb­ing fast food and con­fec­tionary ads, and not just those aimed at chil­dren, could well work to cut obe­sity lev­els by mak­ing un­healthy fare un­fash­ion­able.

To those of us who re­mem­ber a time when a packet of Sweet Af­ton in your Levi 501s made you an edgy rebel with­out a cause, it cer­tainly seems to be worth a try.

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