Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Hollywood Review

Go Grease Lightning…

In 2013 NBC took a big risk announcing they were going to mount a live TV production of the classic “Sound of Music” starring Carrie Underwood. The critics weren’t the most receptive but the ratings proved otherwise with a staggering 30+ million tuning in. After a producing two more TV musical hits it didn’t take long for other networks to jump on the bandwagon. FOX joined the fun by producing a live musical version of the classic “Grease.” Critics were impressed with the A-list cast, impressive camera work, and innovative staging but I was impressed with something else. We all remember and know that famous scene where Olivia Newton John steps out and says “Tell me about it…stud.”,  to then toss her cigarette on the ground. Well in this version it was non-existent. Shout out to the halls of Rydell High for being tobacco-free!

And the award goes to…

Moving along, the past few months have been filled with glitz, glam, and gowns! You know what that means?! We’ve successfully wrapped up yet another Hollywood awards season! But as you can expect as celebrities gather together do their tobacco products. One repeat offender? Mr. Leonardo DiCaprio who set the Twitterverse ablaze when he was caught on camera vaping at the Screen Actor Guild Awards. Of course e-cig companies took it as an unofficial endorsement while Twitter users took it as a chance to troll one of the biggest names in Hollywood. One of my favorites was Twitter user @QuinnKeaney who said, “I hope to one day have the kind of relationship with my boyfriend that Leonardo DiCaprio has with his vape pen.”

Speaking of award shows and vaping…

Leonardo might have swept every major award this award season but the real winner of the year? The Academy itself for taking a major stand against electronic cigarettes in more ways than one. After the press had a field day with Leo vaping at the SAG awards the Academy quickly took action making it known that the Dolby Theatre (where the Oscars are held) has a very serious no smoking or vaping policy and there would be absolutely no exceptions. Those that were determined to get their nicotine fix would be ushered outside to a smoking area adjacent to the theater. Drum roll please! The award for most progressive award show in tobacco prevention goes to…. The Oscars! 

Joseph O'Hern is the QuitDoc Foundation Community Health Advocate in Columbia County, Florida 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Hollywood Review

Tyra Knows The “Truth”

Make no mistake about it; Tyra Banks is one of the most successful, powerful, and influential supermodels in the world. Whatever she touches turns to gold, which might be a good thing as Banks has recently partnered with the Truth Campaign to inspire women to stop smoking. The cause is personal one to Tyra as she lost her grandmother to a battle with lung cancer. Tyra Beauty (Banks makeup company) and Truth have teamed up for the “Smoke Your Eyes, Not Cigarettes” campaign that features a holiday make up kit called the “Sexy Smokeshow.” In the announcement for the collaboration Tyra stated, “During my modeling career, never did I once light up a cigarette.” She went on to say, “There was enough ‘smoke’ around my eyes, I didn’t need any in my lungs.” 

Celebrity Wedding Ceremony Goes Up In Smoke?

Mary-Kate Olsen stole your heart when she made her TV debut sharing the role of Michelle Tanner on the hit 90’s show “Full House.” She and her twin sister Ashley launched an incredibly lucrative business after that. Movies, music, make up, clothes, fragrances and much more helped make the Olsen twins net worth a reported $300 million dollars. So you would think when one of them got married they’d have the best caterer in the business? You’d expect lavish spreads, the finest cuisines and much more right? Wrong.  When Mary Kate married French banker Olivier Sarkozy in November, Page Six reported the guest were treated to “bowls and bowls filled with cigarettes, and everyone smoked the whole night.” If cigarettes were the catering I wonder if the wedding favor was emphysema?

“Hello…It’s Me….”

She’s baaaaaaack. After having the biggest selling album of the last decade with “21” Adele has returned to the music scene in a huge way. Her follow up album “25” sold a record 3.8 million albums in it’s first week and shows no signs of slowing down. After a vocal cord injury forced her into a hiatus many questioned if Adele and her powerful voice would ever return. The biggest question was, is her voice up for a comeback and could she handle it? The first step was getting her voice healthy. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone magazine Adele announced she had given up smoking much to the credit of her young son Angelo. “I absolutely loved it, but it’s not that f------ cool when I’m dying from a smoking-related illness and my kid is, like, devastated.” Whatever it takes for Adele to stop I support. We need Adele’s music just like her son needs his Mom. 

Another Brit Kicks The Butt!

Speaking of British singer songwriters, Ed Sheeran is another celebrity who has kicked the habit.  During his visit with The Ellen Degeneres Show in November Sheeran commented, “I realized that I'd been smoking for 10 years and that’s bad. I started smoking when I was younger and I’d always say, like ‘I’m gonna quit. I’m gonna quit.’ And then, 'Oh well, I haven’t been smoking for that long. It’s been, what, four years like that...' and then when it got to 10 years, I was like, 'Oh... I’m probably getting to the point of no return here." Not only is Ed healthier, he’s sure to be happier as he just received Grammy Nominations for Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year.

Other Honorable Mentions…

Lady Gaga received a Golden Globe nomination for her work in “American Horror Story: Hotel.” The not so honorable part is her character is a smoker and the press photo that’s been sent out is sure to show that. 

Joseph O'Hern is the QuitDoc Foundation Community Health Advocate in Columbia County, Florida

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Welcoming October, Midterms and Big Tobacco

Right Decisions Right Now

This photo is from here.

After a grueling two weeks of exams, college students can finally take a (very short) breath.  The crisp air reminded us to stay inside and cram like our lives depended on it study.  October brings many battles with the falling leaves*.

It seems that everything Buzfeed tells us is reminiscent of fall is made for students.  Pumpkin spice latte?  Only to help students stay awake.  Apple-scented candles?  Only to soothe students when we need a breath of something other than musty textbooks.  Scarves?  Only to cover our tear-streaked faces when we get back our grades.

Life begins over in the fall, with low GPAs, six-hours-of-sleep-to-function nights and dry skin.  October is a month of new beginnings, and Big Tobacco agrees with me.  This month, RJ Reynolds (RJR) partnered with the National School Boards Association (NSBA) to implement the Right Decisions Right Now program, according to RJR's press release.

It makes absolutely no sense to have a tobacco company create tobacco prevention materials for kids.  That's like an adult who sells fire-breathing, human-eating dragons telling students, "I sell fire-breathing, human-eating dragons, and I love what I do.  But you really shouldn't do it because it's bad.  But I'm going to do it because I think it's great."  ...What?

I am genuinely appalled that the NSBA would even consider promoting these materials.  Just as with "The Juice Box, from a Child of the Juice Box Era" segment, I will be pulling pieces of advice from RJR's prevention materials this month to show what crazy advice RJR is giving to teachers, parents and students.

The following is a direct excerpt from Right Decisions Right Now Parent/Guardian fact sheet.

Tips for Talking with Your Child About TobaccoThe more you talk with your child about a wide range of issues —schoolwork, friends, sports, TV shows, etc.—the easier it is to talk about specific topics such as tobacco. The most important thing you can do for your child is keep the lines of communication open. Talk to them on a regular basis.  If your child is not approaching you with questions about sensitive topics like tobacco, take the initiative and start the conversation.
Here are some ways you could bring up the topic:
  • Say, “I understand you’ve been talking in school about peer pressure and the health consequences of tobacco use. Tell me about some of the things you’ve learned.”
  • If you see smoking portrayed in the media, say, “I wonder why the director had that one guy light up a cigarette in the last scene. What do you think?”
  • If you and your child see a young person smoking, use it as an opening by saying something like, “How much tobacco use are you seeing in your I wonder if it’s the same as when I was your age.”

Big Tobacco isn't necessarily giving parents wrong advice, but they are certainly making these Parent-Kid Chats as awkward and uncomfortable as possible.  RJR encourages parents to "take the initiative and start the conversation" about tobacco, a "sensitive" topic.  This sounds very much like talking about getting your first period, but it's tobacco.  It's really not supposed to be awkward or uncomfortable.  It's supposed to just be something that's just your everyday health advice, kind of like, "Don't share drinks with strangers," "Don't touch other people's blood," or "Don't use your friend's brush if they have lice."  It's basic, elementary-level stuff.

RJR makes it even more awkward with their conversation starters, particularly those concerning peer pressure.  It's a weird term for kids, mostly because peers aren't pressuring them the way school makes it seem.  Never have I ever been cornered and told, "Smoke the cigarette.  Do it, or I won't be your friend.  DO IT."  While it's true that most of my friends didn't even think about using tobacco, it's also true that I wasn't pressured into doing anything terrible.

Instead of a stiff conversation about this "sensitive" topic, we should be advising parents to talk to their kids like they're the smart human beings they are:  "What did you learn today?  Oh, you learned about tobacco?  Interesting.  Tell me about it."  Be natural, be open and be aware that children are more than capable of making decisions without consulting their peers.

It's time that Big Tobacco stopped underestimating children and their ability to make decisions.  It's time that school boards looked at what they're bringing in to schools.  And it's time that students stood up against the tobacco industry.  'Tis the season, after all.

*In Florida, leaves (plural) may signify three total leaves falling, not an abundance of leaves falling.  Still, these three leaves'  journey down is a reminder that it must be snowing in Chicago/the season of fall.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

UF welcomes Big Tobacco on campus

Chiefland graduates question reasoning

By Ansley Pentz © Sept. 28, 2014
     GAINESVILLE -- Mark Tolentino would lie wide awake each night. Even laying in a pile of money, he’d be unable to sleep soundly.
     That is, if Tolentino, Chiefland High School’s 2011 valedictorian, worked for a tobacco company. Then, he would toss and turn, knowing that his company “was responsible for these people’s addictions and these people’s health problems.”
     The agricultural operations junior studies at the University of Florida, where Altria, a tobacco company that owns brands like Marlboro and Skoal, hosted an information session on Monday, Sept. 22.

Read the rest of the story here.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Juice Box, from a Child of the Juice Box Era, Pt. IV

Friends who eat frozen treats

"Ohmygosh, you have to go to Mochi on your birthday because they give you FREE FROZEN YOGURT!" This is what I tell people.  I believe that the quickest way to make new friends is to tell them where to get free birthday food.

Yesterday was my housemate's 19th birthday, and, in true broke college student fashion, we were intent on getting Kelsey free food.  We dressed up.  We ate pizza at Leonardo's.  And then, after taking a Polaroid picture, taking a cellphone picture, and meeting two new sets of strangers that we asked to take our pictures, we Mochied (new verb, submitting it to Webster for his new dictionary) in Midtown.

My housemates and I celebrate Kelsey's birthday.

As is the custom in all frozen yogurt shops, we were given two sample cups, which we the girls used to try every flavor and weird flavor combination.  This included red velvet cake, kiwi, red velvet cake with kiwi (ew), Thin Mint, mango and strawberry shortcake (the best).  After deciding flavors, we loaded our cups with toppings like flavored boba beads (ew again), chocolate chips (yes, please), crushed Oreos and shaved coconut.  Of course, the best part was eating it outside, facing UF's campus, and spending time with friends yada yada yada.  Mostly, though, I liked the froyo.

It appears I'm not the only one with a proclivity for craving frozen treats.  With sweetly deceptive Facebook posts that promote their "cessation" products (repeatedly using cartoons and sometimes kittens), The Juice Box likes to make analogies to our main squeeze, Ice Cream, and his hipster cousin, Froyo.

Photo cred:  The Juice Box

The Juice Box makes an effort to incorporate Ice Cream and Froyo into various aspects of their marketing (see above) and their product's flavors.  

They, however, deny this.  This makes them either incredibly stupid na├»ve or incredibly clever as they claim to market to one audience for plausible deniability (S/O to Blair Waldorf for teaching me that term) while really marketing to another.  Their Facebook page boasts the word "cessation" repeatedly, but there is a distinct disconnect between true cessation products (like patches and gum) and The Juice Box's Cartoon Network advertisements and candy-flavored juices.  

The Tobacco Prevention Network has called The Juice Box out on its crap, and a sales representative at Vapor Products Inc quickly retorted.  According to the rep, adults are much more willing to use e-cigarettes over traditional tobacco products if a bright yellow van and a My Little Pony character show up on their Facebook feed.

If adults were interested in breaking away from their addiction, though, I would bet all of my T. Swift CDs that they wouldn't be enticed to do so by an e-cigarette-selling ice cream truck.  I have a very hard time imagining my mom running barefoot down her driveway to get a jungle juice-flavored e-cigarette, partly because she's supposed to be the mature, responsible one, and mostly because that would be so weird because she's my mom.  It is also difficult to think of my mother giggling around the frozen yogurt dispensers at Mochi and pulling out a mint chip-flavored e-cigarette.  She would appear out of place in Mochi.  

Adults are not supposed to be scrambling to find a few bucks to bring to a sweet shop on wheels, nor are they supposed to be with college students getting excited about coconilla yogurt.  Moms should not be in Midtown, surrounded by my housemates, sorority girls, and young couples finishing their dates.  It's a No Mom Zone.  

Why, then, does The Juice Box continually advertise to young people--  the ones who do get pumped about ice cream trucks and Midtown and Mochi?  Youth and young adults are not current smokers, so cessation products (and The Juice Box claims that e-cigarettes serve can be used as such) do not apply.  How can The Juice Box claim to market to and sell to adults who need to quit if they are targeting kids who haven't even started?

If The Juice Box were really marketing to my mom, I'd recommend that they hire the Property Brothers and Paula Deen as spokespeople.  If they are marketing to high school and college students, they should keep up the A+ work.

Just in case they really are just terrible marketers who don't know how to grab their real target audience (remember, they claim that it's a cessation product), I'd like to give The Juice Box a few tips on how to market to people like my mom/people old enough to be smokers looking for a way to quit/people who do not want to run to the ice cream truck or sit in Mochi:

1)  Get Dr. Oz to promote The Juice Box.  Old people love Dr. Oz.

2)  Send out emails with coupons that customers can use to be on TLC's Extreme Couponing.

3)  Use slogans like, "Perfect for moms on the go!" and "Did you know that you can lose up to 10 pounds?"

4)  Advertise in that magazine that looks like a tabloid but is really called Woman's World.

5)  Don't run late-night commercial loops on SNL or New Girl.  Run them on the DIY Network.  Extra credit if it's during Holmes on Homes.

The glorious catch to all of these tips is that e-cigarettes don't actually help you quit.  Haha!  Gotchya!  They're still nicotine delivery devices (hello, jargon), so they still delivery nicotine to your brain and you still get addicted.  Double gotchya!  Therefore, teens and young adults really are the best audience for The Juice Box's ads.  Tobacco stores and companies don't want customers like my mom.  They want me, someone who could be addicted to e-cigarettes (and still buying e-cigarettes) for the next 80 years. 

As a quick recap in case you're quizzed on The Juice Box's evil genius marketing strategy, here's what my role models some awesome journalist (Celia Shatzman) at Teen Vogue wrote:
"At press time there were no legal age limits to buy e-cigarettes in many states, and no federal advertising restrictions— meaning that unlike with real cigarettes, which aren't allowed to intentionally appeal to young people, makers of the new kind can try to get you interested however they want. From sponsorships at Bonnaroo to celebrity endorsement deals to fun flavors like cherry, vanilla, and peach, e-cigarettes want to be your new best friend."
The best news is that I already have some pretty great friends (have I blabbed enough about my man, Ice Cream?  Ben?  Jerry?  Edy?).  I'll be swerving The Juice Box, and I encourage you to do the same.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

E-Cigarettes: Coming Soon to a Theater Near You!

Well, it was just a matter of time before the e-cigarette profiteers started exploiting another strategy from Big Tobacco’s marketing playbook: product placement in major motion pictures.

Reports have surfaced this week that Canadian-based SmokeStik International has paid the producers of Cymbeline to place its drug delivery system in the lips of actress Milla Jovovich throughout the film.  Early word is that signs promoting the brand are also visible in the film.  This is particularly ironic since e-cigarettes are banned in Canada, so this Canadian company has to ram their poison down U.S. throats in order to profit from people’s addiction.

The fact that this type of promotion is making a comeback is partly becasue the FDA has dragged its feet to finalize minimal regulations on the products.  In addition, the ban on tobacco product placement in movies that was contained in the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement does not extend to emerging products.

That doesn’t mean that tobacco use disappeared from movies.  In fact, tobacco use is still incredibly common in youth-rated movies (G, PG, and PG-13), and Big Tobacco continues to find clever ways to get brand names into the hands of celebrities (movie posters, photos supplied with national interviews).  While the practice of making direct payments to studios to include tobacco brand names in movies has been banned, there is no doubt that indirect payments are being made to slide this brand name imagery into this type of collateral media.

Tobacco is displayed in photos provided for marketing materials for the movie "Fight Club", including a film review (left), a national interview with Brad Pitt, and the DVD cover.  Notice the product placement for Marlboro lights included in the photo of Brad Pitt.

In all likelihood, this practice has already started with e-cigarette manufacturers.  Since the original purchase of Blu E-Cigarettes by Lorillard in the spring of 2012, those products have appeared in multiple platforms.  This includes the high-profile use by Julia Louis-Dreyfus during the 2014 Golden Globe Awards, and the use by Kevin Spacey during a scene in House of Cards.

Other characters have used electronic cigarettes in major motion pictures, including Dennis Quaid in Beneath the Darkness, and Johnny Depp in TheTourist.  This type of use helps to normalize an addictive drug.  However, the six-figure contract to promote the SmokeStik brand name within a movie takes the marketing of these drug delivery devices to a new level… a level that was so successful with traditional tobacco products that the activity was banned nearly two decades ago.


Those of us that are working on the issue of tobacco use in movies realize that these media depictions of smoking have an incredible impact on youth tobacco initiation. In fact, in January 2014 the United States Surgeon General went so far as to suggest that films depicting smoking deserve an automatic R-Rating:

“Actions that would eliminate depiction of tobacco use in movies that are produced and rated as appropriate for children and adolescents could have a significant benefit in reducing the numbers of youth who become tobacco users. It has been suggested that the movie industry modernize the Motion Picture Association of America voluntary rating system to eliminate smoking from youth-rated films by awarding any film with smoking or other pro-tobacco imagery an R rating (with exceptions for real historical figures who actually smoked or films that actually depict the dangers of smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke). Further, if such a change in the [MPAA] rating system would reduce in-theater exposures from a current median of about 275 annual exposures per adolescent from PG-13 movies down to approximately 10 or less, adolescent smoking would be reduced by an estimated 18%.”

Here’s the thing:  strategies that have been used by Big Tobacco to encourage youth tobacco use are now being employed to encourage youth electronic cigarette use.  Those strategies include use by characters in movies and specific brand product placement.  We know that it worked in the past, otherwise the next generation of nicotine profiteers would not have bothered to recycle them.

“I don’t see a problem with glamorizing something that saves lives,” said Bill Marangos, Smokestik’s Chief Executive Hypocrite. "I think we're, as an industry, trying to show people that there is a different way and it's an acceptable way to smoke."

That's the goal.  Make addiction acceptable, especially among kids.

The long-term morbidity and mortality of electronic cigarettes has not been established, and it will not be for 2-3 decades. Mr. Marangos claims that we should promote his product in movies because they are live-savers are at their best disingenuous; at their worst, his unsubstantiated claims will be responsible for addicting another generation of young people to a dangerous chemical with undetermined consequences.

And remember:  by the time all of this is sorted out, Mr. Marangos will have cashed the checks.

For more information on the issue of movie smoking and its impact on youth tobacco initiation, visit SmokeScreeners, Smoke-Free Movies, and Scene Smoking.