THOSE do-good wowsers will stop at nothing in their never-ending quest to control our lives.
They’ve made us wear seatbelts and bike helmets, taken all the fun out of a good old bake in the sun and now they want to stop fast-food institutions from advertising to little children.
Fortunately, somebody is at last standing up to this political correctness gone mad.
If you want to join the fight, the website nonannystate.com.au makes it easy for you to send a message to your local MP.
Provided, that is, you don’t mind having your opinions scripted for you by that well known defender of truth, justice and human rights — the tobacco industry.
The proposal to enforce plain packaging of tobacco products was always going to make big tobacco pull out all stops, though so far they’ve been struggling to gain much traction with the public.
A previous advertising campaign, allegedly instigated by small shopkeepers, was a shemozzle and it’s hard to imagine many people bought industry claims that lack of branding would actually increase smoking (apparently it would make things easier for counterfeiters or some such nonsense).
But this latest “Stop this Nanny State” push is based on loftier ideals — removing the brands from cigarette packets is apparently an attack on our most basic freedoms.
If we let them crack down on cigarettes, one ad suggests, the next thing will be beer. And that’s the end of civilisation as we know it.
This is an industry that has been honing its skills in misinformation for decades.
For a trip down memory lane, check out this 1994 video of America’s top seven tobacco bosses — nicknamed the Seven Dwarves — all swearing on oath before the US Congress that they do not believe nicotine is addictive.
It’d be funny if it wasn’t so tragic.
With the rise of social media sites like YouTube and Facebook, Big Tobacco found new avenues to get its message out and, as I wrote last year, to get around advertising bans and promote its products directly to young people.
As all advertisers know, online marketing can deliver huge returns for a relatively small investment — if it’s clever enough.
Post something that’s entertaining or intriguing, perhaps a bit mysterious and, if you’re lucky, millions of people will forward it to their friends, giving your product a level of exposure that could never be achieved through conventional media.
My guess is that will be what the tobacco industry tries next in its last-ditch stand against plain packaging.
In fact, they may already be doing it. Billboards and online ads from an organisation calling itself the Australian Interior Authority were causing a lot of discussion in the cyber world last week.
What was this organisation from the future — its logo is dated 2021 — doing, issuing proclamations that public gatherings were banned and all pregnancies must be approved?
Maybe it’s just a clever marketing campaign for a new car, but I’m getting a whiff of cigarette smoke here.
What’s the bet that this is the tobacco industry warning us of the apocalyptic future we’ll face if we let the government get away with taking their brand names off cigarette packs?
Jane McCredie is a Sydney-based science and medicine writer.
Posted 4 July 2011