Is the media still indirectly promoting smoking?

Everyone knows smoking is bad in today’s times. But why are people still smoking? I don’t believe the reason is due to lack of awareness in the dangers from smoking as there are many adverts and campaigns around that talks about that, even the packets of cigarettes themselves have pictures and labels of warning. You still see young people smoking like it’s something cool. If the campaigns and education on smoking being bad are effective, we shouldn’t be seeing this at all. So where is the new contributor of misinformation, that smoking is good, coming from then?

Most advertising and product placements are in television and movies. Maybe 10 years ago it would be strange to have so many adverts in a single show, but today, you cannot avoid adverts even if you want to. They are not only in television and movies, there are everywhere on the street, on websites, on your phone, on newspapers, and especially in music videos. One can only be led to believe that such product placements work, that’s why these advertising methods have prevailed over the years.

Now, when it comes to smoking, many governments have openly admitted it is bad. But do they stop or remove the tobacco industry? Nope. The tobacco industry is a very rich and powerful one, maybe that’s why. Outside of anti-smoking campaigns and adverts, there are movies and television shows that reaches the mass public regularly. Television is there 24 hours a day, everyday of the week. Movies are no longer something that is a treat, people have access to movies any time and every where they want. So is it that surprising to think the media is indirectly sending messages that smoking is fine?

When you think of movies with people who smokes in it, what kind of characters come to mind? It’s usually the bad guys, cool, aloof characters, lone rangers, the very misunderstood underdog character in the movie right? With young children to teenagers, those characters appear cool and enable teenagers to relate to themselves. These kids, with minds susceptible to what they are exposed to, often grow up accepting smoking as a character trait rather than a health risk. It is only when they get older that they are exposed to the information on bad effects smoking have on the body. But because the knowledge of smoking as a bad thing comes later in their understanding of that activity, it becomes harder to change their perception on it.

Educating children on the bad effects of smoking is the responsibilities of parents, not the country, I agree with that. However, how is all the educating in the world going to work if the media keeps portraying smoking as nothing harmful? To some, the difference is distinct between entertainment you see on television and in the cinema, but to children, they see both as one.

The new drug of the century: Junk Food

The struggle with preventing and controlling obesity is nothing new. In Singapore, more and more people are having health problems even before they reach obesity. It doesn’t take an obese person to be unhealthy in today’s times. An average sized person who eats badly, can be inviting a host of physical problems very quickly in the near future.

Some of the main reasons people cite as to why they are not as food conscious as they should be, points at the lack of time in their lives. Processed, packaged foods are much faster to prepare and requires almost no washing up after, according to busy working adults. It seems like convenience is the key to the choice of foods these days. 

Apart from convenience in preparation, taste could be a factor in buying these junk foods, as they often contain high sodium and sugar levels. Working adults aren’t the only ones consuming more junk food, it seems that children are exposed to consuming junk in younger ages and in larger amounts in recent years.

Researches have found that burgers, chips and sausages have built the human brain into craving more sugar, salt, and fat laden foods as our taste buds adapt. It is found that overconsumption of high calorie foods actually trigger an addiction-like response in the brain that is similar to that of drugs.

A three year research on rats have presented “the most thorough and compelling evidence that drug addiction and obesity are based on the same underlying neurobiological mechanisms”.

The rats were divided into three groups. The first were fed healthy amounts of food to eat, the other was given restricted amount of junk food, while the third had unlimited amount of junk food. The third group, as you would imagine, got fat very quickly and started bingeing.

Apparently, eating junk food registers as ‘pleasure’ in the brain, and the more they ate over time, the larger the quantity it takes in order to reach the same amount of ‘pleasure’ registered by the brain. The brain practically got immune to the intake of junk food, and needs more to reach the same ‘high’ it felt the first time, just like drug addicts. This pretty much sums up the act of overeating, and may very well be the cause of obesity.

The addiction to junk food, whether we acknowledge it or not, has even been compared to the famous tobacco history, as smoking was not always admitted as a health risk especially the misinformation through advertising and marketing by the large companies.

However, not everyone thinks the research results are enough. Lobbyists for food industries insists there’s no such thing as a food addiction. Richard Adamson, consultant for the American Beverage Association said, “I have never heard of anyone robbing a bank to get money to buy a candy bar or ice cream or pop.”

Well, yeah sure, those people are too busy getting fat and stuffing their face with foods to do that, in case you didn’t notice, Mr Adamson.