Smoking and ‘Safe Sex’ – The Great Hypocrisy

Posted: 22 September 2011

Last month, the Federal Government unveiled draft legislation to introduce plain packaging laws for cigarettes. Health minister Nicola Roxon was unequivocal in her determination to put the final nail in the coffin of the tobacco industry.

Showing off the new compulsory olive green packaging with the vivid images of clogged arteries, cancerous gums and gangrene-infected feet, the minister declared, “We are going to ensure that in Australia there are no remaining avenues for tobacco companies to market and promote their products, particularly to young people. Gone are the days when people can pretend that cigarettes are glamorous.”

I have never smoked, have never had any desire to smoke and nothing frustrates me more than walking down the street and breathing in the secondhand smoke of the person puffing away in front of me, but this latest legislation push does cause me to wonder about the haphazard approach that federal policy takes to the health of its citizens.

What is most frustrating is the hypocritical approach given to other public health issues, in this instance the deceptive and fallacious ‘safe sex’ campaign that is sold to young people via various well designed and sexy governmental websites and videos. The current, official, safe sex, Federal Government website tagline is “STIs are spreading fast, always use a condom”. This is accompanied by a young, naked, attractive couple embracing one another.

The message is all about condoms stopping everything from HIV to Chlamydia to Gonorrhoea. The site contains interactive games and activities to get across the condom message. It even ran a national competition to design a ‘condom tin’ to make carrying condoms “as normal as carrying your mobile phone”. The problem is that the condom is not dealing with the issue, it is just skirting around it. And the issue which no government in the 21st century would be game enough to speak out about is sexual promiscuity.
In 2005, the government banned terms such as ‘light’, ‘mild’ and ‘extra mild’ on tobacco packaging as it gave the false impression that some cigarettes were less harmful than others.

Yet here we are in 2011, still telling young people that it is fine to toy with diseases such a HIV and Syphilis so long as they use a thin rubber sheath. There was a major TV ad campaign run last year in which the entertaining and simplistic message was “Anyone can get Herpes” (anyone who is having promiscuous sex, that is). Before that there was the highly visible campaign promoting the cervical cancer vaccine ‘Gardasil’ which was given out free by the Australian Government to any females aged 12 to 26.

The aspect that was not highly discussed in the popular media was that cervical cancer comes about as a result of the human papilloma virus which is a sexually transmitted disease. So, instead of speaking to 12 year olds about the value of who they are and what sex is, we injected them with a vaccine.

In these campaigns, we see something very different to what goes on in the war against tobacco.

The government is closing down all avenues left for the promotion and sale of tobacco products, yet in the ‘fight’ against deadly sexually transmitted infections the best they can say is, wear a condom and get an injection. What they are not saying is that a sexually promiscuous lifestyle is fraught with the risk of disease and heartache.

What is needed in the ‘safe sex’ campaign is an injection of truth. The safe sex message is all about information; it needs to be about formation. What young person wants to put themselves at such a high risk of disease? Women who use the pill for four years or longer prior to their first full term pregnancy have a 52 per cent higher risk of cancer than those not on the pill. That sort of risk is seemingly acceptable, yet last year Toyota recalled 26,000 cars because 0.3 per cent of them experienced a slow brake fluid leak.

What about the fact that girls who are sexually active are more than three times likely to be depressed as girls who are abstinent prior to marriage? Teenage boys who are sexually active are more than twice as likely to struggle with depression and are more than eight times likely to attempt suicide.

Those who are sexually active prior to marriage have a significantly increased risk of divorce. For a man who marries as a virgin, his chance of divorce is 63 per cent lower than a non-virgin. For girls, it is 76 per cent lower when they marry as virgins.

Sadly, general Western society has fallen into the pit of relativism so we are impotent (excuse the pun) to stand up and actually say that promiscuous sex is not glamorous, that it is better to wait until marriage to be sexually active because there is a far higher chance of happiness on every level and a genuinely decreased risk of a diseased body and diseased emotions. After all, there is no condom for the heart.