Max Key has been photographed in his underwear holding an unlit cigarette, just weeks after his father, Prime Minister John Key, announced tough new anti-smoking plans.

The photo of Key with a cigarette appears in today's edition of Remix Magazine, alongside an indepth interview with Key, 21.

Read more: Max Key: 'Know me before you judge me'

Max posted an outtake from the photo shoot on his Instagram page overnight, sparking an outcry from some of his 38,000 followers.


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"Why are you holding a cigarette, a couple weeks after your father's budget announced a 10% increase in cigarette prices over the next 4 years in order to act as a deterrent to smoking? Kinda weird to glamorize it," wrote one viewer on Instagram.

"I hate it because of the cigarette," wrote another. "My father is dead because he smoked," wrote a third. "Cool cigarette bro," said a fourth.

The controversial photo comes just a week after tough new anti-smoking plans were announced by the National government, led by Max's father, Prime Minister John Key.

Prime Minister John Key discusses the plain packaging plan for cigarette boxes.

Those plans included plain packaging and larger health warnings on cigarettes, and further tax hikes.

"Nothing kills you with greater predictability than smoking," Mr Key said at a Smokefree event in Wellington at which the plans were unveiled.

"It will take some time before you actually see it on the shelves [plain packaging]. My expectation would be early next year," he said.

Remix Magazine

editor Steven Fernandez defended the shoot, telling the


cigarettes were widely used as props in fashion photography.

"The cigarette was one of the stylists'. They kind of tucked it behind his ear and he was kind of playing with it as something to hold. Cigarettes are, for better or worse, quite a big part in fashion shoots. They crop up as nothing more than a prop. There was no conscious placement," he said.

"He definitely does not smoke and it was not Max's cigarette."

Fernandez said the shoot took place before Key's anti-smoking initiatives were announced, and the story and accompanying images were meant to be "separate from the politics".

"My agreement with Max when we did it was that these were not going to be images that you'll post on your Instagram. If we're going to do it it needs to be edgy and it needs to look like what's actually happening in men's fashion. We're not just here to shoot something for your marketing," he said.

"From the get go he was really open to what we wanted to do. He said, '... At the end of the day if you guys tell me that it's really cool and you think it's cool, we'll go with it'. He didn't have any other restrictions on it."

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) director Stephanie Erick said the image glamourised smoking, and suggested Max could have used any number of different props - including a Bachelor-style rose - to make himself seem cool.

Read more: Max Key 'would look super sexy with a rose'

The Prime Minister's office said John Key was unavailable to comment this morning. Max Key declined the opportunity to comment.

At Max's 21st birthday last month, held at the Keys' Parnell mansion, the Prime Minister requested that nobody smoke.