Smoking is still the fashion

A RASH of fashion images depicting models smoking or holding cigarettes or cigars is being investigated for possible breaches of the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act.

Quit Victoria executive director Fiona Sharkie said images produced by fashion brand Ellery and internet magazine Tangent were referred to the Department of Health and Ageing for investigation and could lead to prosecution. The act prohibits ”any picture that gives publicity to or otherwise promotes or is intended to promote smoking”.

”It’s disappointing that they’re promoting highly aspirational products with a product that kills up to half of users,” Ms Sharkie said.

Other images out of the reach of the act because they were circulated from other countries include Chanel, Marc Jacobs and Jean Paul Gaultier.

”You have to ask, ‘Would [the images] be any less appealing or beautiful without the cigarette?’ Ms Sharkie said.

In recent years, despite aggressive anti-smoking lobbies and regulations in many countries, fashion stylists have continued to use smoking imagery to shock, or evoke historic ideas of glamour or power. Maverick designer Tom Ford started the current wave in 2004 with a procession of suave young blokes for Gucci: slicked hair, lean playboy suits, clinking whisky tumblers and fat cigars clutched in manicured fingers. Gaultier is also a frequent offender, notorious for the cigar and cigarette props on both his women’s and men’s wear catwalks. And, more recently, Marc Jacobs of Louis Vuitton hired Kate Moss to puff expertly along his catwalk.

”It can be part of their creative process,” says Graeme Lewsey, CEO of the Melbourne Fashion Festival. ”It’s not meant to promote a lifestyle choice, but there’s a very fine line.”

During the early years of Australian Fashion Week, Mr Lewsey and that event’s founder, Simon Lock, established an industry-wide initiative to discourage glamourised smoking images. Tobacco sponsors were also deemed unacceptable partners.

Model Natalia Vodianova Smoking

Model Natalia Vodianova Smoking

”We do have to be mindful, though, that we’re a platform of creative expression,” Mr Lewsey said yesterday. ”A designer trying to create a mood, or an era when people smoked freely, might be part of that expression.”

It might also be a prosecutable offence. Peter Bartlett of Minter Ellison lawyers said: ”It comes down to this … people showing images of people smoking are walking a tightrope because if in any way [it] seems to glamourise smoking, it could be seen to be in breach [of the act].”

A lack of malicious intention won’t negate the problem. ”It might be some stylist not aware of the law,” Ms Sharkie said, ”but, that’s not an excuse.”

Model Smoking a Cigarette

Model Smoking a Cigarette

Sydney brand Ellery is counted among fashion’s most desirable and recently signed to Myer’s stable of exclusive labels, but the opening page of its fall 2011 campaign features a photograph of a model smoking. When the possible breach of the act was noticed, designer Kym Ellery was in Paris and could not be reached for comment. However, her PR agent Emma Van Haandel immediately announced the image would be removed.

Tangent magazine, also regarded as one of fashion’s coolest platforms, posted several video and photographic editorials of topless or scantily dressed models smoking cigarettes and cigars to its current issue. One shot includes a jacket by Alex Perry. ”No, not cool,” said the designer. ”Artistically, they are beautiful images but they’re misleading, especially for a younger market.”

Perry said he did not have artistic control over stylists who borrow samples for media such as Tangent, but he would contact this one, ”for a chat”.

It is an issue close to his heart since 2007, when one of his photos, of a bride smoking a cigarette, was found to be in breach of the Australian Association of National Advertisers Code of Ethics by the self-regulatory Advertising Standards Bureau. ”I did think it was a beautiful image; sort of Helmut Newton, 1940s, movie star,” he said. ”And I was a smoker then, so I don’t think I even thought about the cigarette. But I woke up that it was a silly thing to do. I felt really negligent. I would never use a cigarette in an ad again.”

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