An anti-smoking lobbyist has spoken out against a controversial photo of Max Key holding a cigarette, saying the Prime Minister's son could have used other props to make himself look cool.

The 21-year-old posted an outtake from a Remix Magazine photoshoot on Instagram overnight that showed him holding an unlit cigarette.

A similar photo appears in the latest edition of the magazine out today.

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A post shared by ⠀⠀⠀M A X K E Y (@maxkey_) on

The photo comes just a week after Max's father, Prime Minister John Key, launched tough new anti-smoking plans, including plain packaging and tax hikes.


The photo sparked a backlash from some of his 38,000 followers, including one viewer who said, "My father is dead because he smoked."

Read more: Max Key's cigarette snap stokes social media outrage

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) director Stephanie Erick told the Herald that if Max was trying to look cool in the photo, he'd failed.

"Someone like Max Key, who's from a high profile family, (has) a responsibility to stay clear of these things," she said.

"There are other props that are cool now, and smoking is not that cool," she said.

Read more: Max Key: 'Know me before you judge me'
Remix Magazine editor Stephen Fernandez said the cigarette was a prop supplied by one of the shoot's stylists, and confirmed Max didn't smoke.

He defended the photo, saying cigarettes were widely used in the fashion industry. The photos, as well as the accompanying story, were meant to be "edgy".

But Erick said that despite the cigarette being unlit, it still "glamourised" smoking.

"The highest (rates of smoking) are amongst 18-24 year-olds compared to any other age group, and he's smack bang in the middle of that ...

"What's interesting is the number of negative responses to this. People are aware of Smokefree 2025, they're aware of his father's smokefree campaign, I'm wondering if Max Key himself is aware.

"I hope the industry is not involved in this and he's just posing and playing around and maybe it's an oversight."

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

Erick suggested Max could have used any number of props instead of a cigarette, including sunglasses or a Bachelor-style rose.

"He'd look super sexy with a rose," she said.