Sometimes you can't hear yourself think for the noise of special-interest groups. A Health Sponsorship Council anti-smoking campaign, which starts on television tonight, was to have featured All Black halfback Piri Weepu bottle-feeding his baby. The imagery - advancing the campaign's key message about rejecting a future of smoking - emphasised the role of parents in bringing their kids up as non-smokers.

But the ad was re-edited after a furious response from breast-feeding advocacy groups, led by the La Leche League and the New Zealand College of Midwives, who said it undermined campaigns to promote and support breastfeeding, particularly among Maori.

It was probably a blunder that the HSC was not sufficiently up to speed with the orthodoxy on breast-feeding to have ensured that a bottle-feeding shot - one of many the film crew had gathered in a day of filming Weepu's father-child interactions - didn't make the final cut.

But the naysayers' reaction has a rather distasteful whiff of patch-protection about it. On occasions in the past, when an ad about something other than cycling has shown someone cycling without a helmet, helmet advocates have screamed blue murder. But no one else would have noticed.


The substantive message that viewers would have taken away from the sequence that has been edited out is of a tough-guy father showing tenderness - an image rich in beneficial implications, in an age when men's physical abuse of children is a constant heartache. No one who does not spend all day worrying about breastfeeding, would have seen it as undermining of the idea that breast is best.