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Smoketober October 8, 2012

Posted by normanmonkey in Consumer PR, In the news, Uncategorized.
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The writer Michael Pollan, in his polemic against the hijacking of nutrition by food marketers, advises readers to avoid all foods which are sold with health claims. (Sugar and corn syrup loaded products sold to the gullible as an essential part of you five a day). We can now add months to that as well.

I’ve smoked now for 20 years and I was on the verge of giving up. Leaflets have been seized and stored in kitchen drawers, hypnotists Googled and I even know that Raynes Park is the location of nearest Alan Carr quit group. The latter, I hasten to add is named after the ex-smoker who developed the one-day programme, not a lobby to get the comedian Alan Carr into retirement although I concede I’d eagerly sign-up to that for a fortnight and give up smoking to make it happen.

I was on the cusp, the verge, teetering so close to the edge of giving up smoking that any further I’d be in free fall. I don’t want to be a smoker all my life. It’s bad for you and I’ve ridden my luck. This will be for the good of my health. Yet, there are other causes worth sacrificing for and that is the state of the nation and respect for the English language.

If there is anything more likely to send me sprinting to the grey screen kiosk that passes for a tobacco stand gasping for air, it is being asked if I am planning to give up smoking for Stoptober. The first time of asking I hadn’t the vaguest what they were talking about and had to have the concept explained to me. Give up? For what? They’ve changed the name of October to Stopober so I will stop smoking? Not a fucking chance. I will spark up, light pyres of Marlboro Lights atop Ben Nevis and the Brecon Beacons and do whatever it takes to avoid yet another absurd soundbite movement with a creative developed by some slice in Shoreditch straight off his crack pipe.

The malignant assault on the senses started some time ago. First there was TV advertisement featuring a giant swollen red inflatable that looks like a sort of benign alcoholic’s nose with STOP written on the side of it. The STOP inflatable was rolled around a field, hugged, squeezed, photographed by some youths on their smart phones in a shopping centre, fingered by a fishmonger, cropped up in a call centre and then inexplicably appeared on a boat going out to sea, where, in any ideal world it would be punctured and sent to the sea bed with lead weights. Such wishful thinking.

This morning it wasn’t possible to listen to three John Cooper Clarke tracks in a row on Spotify without being ironically interrupted by an ad featuring a cheery array of folk with raised regional dialects (it’s the one nation coming together) talking about how much they were looking forward to giving up. They were giving up for their partner or their kids.

Well, I just surveyed my current surroundings and all I can see is Aggy, my Polish cleaner and a QPR season ticket. Hardly the call to action I was hoping for. Profound as she is with the marigolds, I don’t see a future with Aggy and  the latter is nothing but a further cause of self-harm. Believe me, if that STOP bubble had appeared outside the ground after the opening day 5-0 defeat against Swansea, people wouldn’t have been hugging it. Mind you, it could’ve done a job for us in goal.

The Department of Health marketing team clearly hadn’t factored in those of us who live alone, use South West Trains and support a team without a win all season and now facing a two-week international break prior to the next 90 minute shambles. But what we also have to face is people asking us if we have given up for Stoptober even with evidence to the contrary – a hangdog expression with a fag hanging out of one’s mouth – to suggest that no, I have not.

If all goes to plan Stoptober will be a fixture every year with increasing momentum, additional prods and prompts and little chance of escape. Put your house on the Military Wives Choir getting to number 1 with an awareness raising Stoptober cover of Smoke On The Water this time next year. Don’t forget we are less than 25 days away from the start of Movember! The possiblity that we’ll be invited the chance to do nothing to save the Gregorian calendar is ebbing with every bright spark with a marketing budget. By the end of the decade we’ll have to do something every month for something else: grow our toenails to fight piles, sing for a cyst or braid our pubic hair to replenish cod stocks.  We may be a healthier nation for such causes, but we become more irritating company for it during the cocktail hour.

So giving up smoking will have to wait for at least another month. Probably November and, for that one month, I can assure you, I shall be shaving every day.