Max Key has broken all the rules on being a politician's son: Don't embarrass Dad. Keep out of the media. Stay out of trouble.

But not Max Key. He courts publicity. And Dad - far from wagging his finger - plays along. It's tremendous.

Max's presence is propelled by the ability to publicise his life with Instagram and the modern desire for fame for its own sake.

We once shunned fame. Our war heroes, All Blacks and other sporting champions were reluctantly in the public eye. Fame was something that sat uncomfortably with them. People now seek it out. We have celebrities who are famous simply for being famous.


Max is a perfect candidate. He's young, good-looking and his dad is Prime Minister.

And so Max has a glamour shot taken of himself in his undies. Holding a cigarette.

The cigarette. Marketing genius. The shots would have been a one-day story. The cigarette spread them over several news cycles. Cue the outrage. Twitter lit up.

There were stories of what else he could have held. The Government's Budget increased tobacco taxes and oh my goodness, here is the Prime Minister's son holding a cigarette making our youth susceptible to rushing out to buy a packet.

Action on Smoking and Health director Stephanie Erick wondered if Big Tobacco might be secretly behind the photo shoot. "I hope the industry is not involved in this and he's just posing and playing around and maybe it's an oversight."

If it was an oversight it was a clever one. A red rose would not have kept the photos in the news.

And Erick opined, "Someone like Max Key, who is from a high-profile family, [has] a responsibility to stay clear of these things."

He doesn't, actually. The bossy fanatics haven't completely taken over. Max can still hold a cigarette and wave it about. He can even hold a cigarette and have his photo taken. He can even have his photo taken holding a cigarette and have it published. He could even smoke it.

Would Erick seriously declare he should not be smoking because he's the Prime Minister's son? Should we be interrogating MPs about their children's smoking?

Here's the thing the Prime Minister appears to understand that others struggle with. Max is an adult. He can choose how he wants to live his life and what he wants to do and how he wants to do it. I am pleased he doesn't feel in any way inhibited because his dad's Prime Minister. He shouldn't.

And Max has as much responsibility for Government policy and the tobacco tax as I do - none. There's much downside to being the Prime Minister's son. I am pleased to see Max has found an upside.

But he needs to harden up: you can't court fame and expect the commentary to be always nice and polite.