You may have noticed that there’s a film at your local cinema about motoring racing in the 1970s, called Rush.
They were great if rather dangerous days, but the film has ruffled some feathers. It wasn’t just the marginal safety record of the circuits and the cars that is of concern to some pressure groups, apparently if you followed Formula One back then, or even watch Rush at the cinema, you are putting your own health at risk.
I have yet to see Rush, but according to an anti-smoking pressure group there are graphic scenes of cigarette advertising and even scenes of people having a fag or two. According to ASH, “To counter the inevitable tobacco imagery shown in the film, health campaigners in the UK are calling for warning ads about the health impact of smoking to be shown in advance of the film.”
And they go on, “The film shows how far we have come since the days when cigarette manufacturers shamelessly promoted their brands through sport. The sub-text of the companies' near monopoly of F1 sponsorship was that their brands were as alluring and exciting as the sport itself. And it worked. Evidence shows that children were more likely to start smoking after being exposed to tobacco imagery through advertising and sponsorship.”
Trouble is, that’s not actually true. I was not alone in the late ‘60s and ‘70s when I loved racing and identified cars by their brand. Gold Leaf Team Lotus. The JPS Lotus. Marlboro McLaren. Embassy Hill. I loved the logos, colours and everything about the sport back then.
Where I am unique is that one of my dad’s clients back in those days was Rothmans. He built exhibition stands and installed those displays in airport duty-free areas. Our house was full of all sorts promotional material with the name of a fag written on it. The punchline is that neither I, or my sister, smoke. My mother never did and my dad had given up puffing by then. Obviously smoking was compulsory back in the ‘40s and ‘50s and incredibly both mum and dad worked in a cigarette factory in those decades.
The problem is that pressure groups think they know best. They don’t believe that people have a choice to do or not do something. Telling people what to do is silly, unless it is to wear a seatbelt in a car or a helmet on a motorcycle. And that, I suppose, shows the difficulty of the issue. But then smoking is a lifestyle choice, whereas choosing not to belt up is genuinely stupid.