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My brush with Vice and its help to quit smoking project, Change Incorporated

You may recall that back in January I was interviewed by a freelance journalist working for Vice magazine

He had been commissioned, he said, to write a feature about the ‘smoking lobby’, whatever that is.

This wasn’t a quick ten-minute interview on the phone. He came up to London from Oxford, I travelled in from Cambridgeshire, and we met, at my suggestion, at Boisdale of Belgravia.

We talked for the best part of two hours and parted on amicable terms.

I was under no illusions though. I knew enough about Vice to be wary. The tone is often pretty snarky and I didn’t expect the ‘smoking lobby’ to be painted in a positive light.

Anyway, February and March came and went and the article didn’t appear. I emailed the journalist and he said he thought it was going to be published in April.

That didn’t happen either.

Instead Vice launched an online project called Change Incorporated. Funded by Philip Morris International for a sum rumoured to be £5 million, the project is supposed to help people quit smoking but I’m not sure who would be influenced by its relentless propaganda.

Here are some headlines:

It Broke My Heart to Watch Them Die
Are Festivals Doing Enough to Phase Out Smoking?
Can You Really Cough Up Your Lungs?
How Smoking Increases Chances of Genital Warts
This Is How Smoking Makes Your Penis Shrink
How Smoking is Ruining Your Sex Life
Is Smoking a Deal-Breaker on Tinder?

Anyway, it’s now July. The Vice magazine feature for which I was interviewed in January has still not been published (I guess it never will) but last Friday I received an email from someone working for ... Change Incorporated.

It was from a ‘casting producer’ who explained that she was ‘working on a series of short films for Change Incorporated ... which follows the journey of comedians who want to quit smoking’.

I wondered whether a representative from your organisation might be interested in chatting with one of our comedians about your views around smoking? 

Once again I said yes and on Monday I got a call from a second person working on the same series of films and we had a chat.

I struggled frankly to understand what my role would be but I couldn’t fault his enthusiasm. He sounded like Jack Whitehall which made me wonder if the whole thing was a spoof.

I was told that if they used me they would pay me a fee. I thanked him but said I didn’t want payment.

I added that while I was prepared to consider taking part I had serious reservations about the Change Incorporated project and the anti-smoking stance of its sponsor PMI.

That was on Monday. I haven’t heard a peep since.

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