Is there a quitline we can ring for telephone addiction?
Mobile phones are the new cigarettes.
Not when it comes to cancer, of course. That’s still unproven, according to mobile phone companies which have much deeper pockets than this humble scribe.
No, what I’m talking about is the way we’re ditching the fags for another addictive accessory. Instead of going downstairs for a smoko, we fondle the slimline package in our pocket, relishing the thought of our next text or tweet.
It calms the nerves, makes us look cool and banishes social anxiety. Which is kinda what tobacco companies wanted us to believe when they started pushing cancer sticks onto an unsuspecting public all those years ago.
In the 1960s, the Marlboro Man was the guy every man wanted to be and every woman wanted to have.
Now, Sex and the City’s Mr Big Chris Noth is the brand ambassador for LG’s Secret mobile phone, targeting “fashion-conscious and discerning Australians”. Cast-mate Kristin Davis spruiks Motorola’s RAZR2, while Paris Hilton raves about her Sidekick 3 cell phone encrusted with Swarovksi Crystals. Rihanna launches the Chocolate phone because she’s “fresh, sexy vibrant and a style icon – just what this phone is all about”.
And I thought they were for making calls. I am so last decade.
At a recent mobile phone launch (brand name suppressed for fear of legal action), the scene was reminiscent of a 1970s pool party thrown by Big Tobacco.
The guest list comprised glamorous Gen Y models and actors dressed to kill, brandishing a champagne flute in one hand and a mobile in the other.
The addicts could barely wait a minute for their next hit, obsessively checking their phone or jealously eyeing off someone else’s. One guest, Cheyenne Tozzi, wouldn’t be seen dead without her mobile phone, despite receiving death threats via text.
These stars are role models to teenagers who, according to a report in the British Medical Journal, are smoking less and talking more on mobile phones. Anne Charlton, an emeritus professor at Manchester University, says phone marketing resembles cigarette advertising.
“It’s all about the cool factor. Fashion is so important to this age group,” she says.
Tobacco product placement, which garnered millions for the likes of Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy in the 1930s and 40s, is being superseded by phone placement deals, most notably the Nokia 7110 in The Matrix.
In the US, more money is spent marketing mobile phones than any other object, including tobacco, cars and laundry detergent.
Proof that they are the new cigarettes comes from China in the form of the SB6309 – the world’s first phone with a built-in cigarette lighter. Inside a small door on the back is a red-hot square.
This is one phone that could literally burn a hole in your pocket.
Or why not try the new Dual-band Marlboro phone?
One side looks just like a pack of the death sticks; the other features a high-tech phone with 1.8” LCD screen. As one blogger puts it, “Now you can get brain cancer and lung cancer in one convenient package!”
While the jury is still out on the dangers of cell phones, a study released this year by a top neurosurgeon reveals they could kill more people than smoking.
According to the UK’s Independent newspaper, Dr. Vini Khurana bases his assessment on the fact that three billion people now use the phones worldwide. That’s three times higher than the number of people who smoke.
To paraphrase the Virginia Slims ad from 1968, “We’ve come a long way, baby”.
- Tracey Spicer is a journalist, Sky News anchor, MC and keynote speaker, http://www.spicercommunications.biz
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