Wednesday, June 6, 2012

I Am Not A Smoker - Don't Punish Me!

It's time for me to say something.

Now don't get me wrong, I would be happy to see everyone who smokes give it up and live a longer life, although I believe they have the right not to do so. However, in the past few years, there has been a TV campaign to graphically scare smokers into quitting.

The first TV commercial urging users to quit smoking here in the US was aired after the death of Yul Brynner who died in 1985 from lung cancer due to smoking. It was sponsored by the American Cancer Association, and was quite appropriate and acceptable.

But in the past decade, anti-smoking commercials have reached the proportion of horror films, showing the most dire consequences of smoking short of death. And not only have we been producing our own horror clips, but we have even been importing them from overseas as in this one - just one of many which we have taken from Australia. (Warning - this clip contains graphic images!)

And what you see below is typical of the latest round that has started to appear on US television ... during the dinner hour!! Do I really need to see this before, during or after a meal? (Once again, this clip contains very disturbing images.)

My mother passed away due to the effects of a lifetime of smoking, and I am all in favor of people being educated about the side effects and long term consequences of smoking, but I don't smoke. My wife doesn't smoke. My children don't smoke.

I feel as if I am being taken to task and suffering the consequences as if I were a smoker, and I resent it! I don't feel I need to be subjected to these constant (and they are shown often!) images in the sanctity of my own living room!

What do you think? Am I being too sensitive? Or do I have a right NOT to be subjected to this? Even if you have never commented on a blog before, please take a moment to comment below on this issue. I need to know if I am the only one who feels this way.


  1. I don't particularly like the ads either.

    Since the early 1960's cigarette packs have told us that cigarettes may be harmful to your health. Clearly that had little impact.

    The obesity epidemic was “discovered” and we were told to eat less and exercise more. Many of us keep eating too much and not exercising enough.

    We are warned about the dangers of unprotected sex. Yet HIV, gonorrhea, and chlamydia, are still big problems.

    People get fined, arrested, and put in jail for drunk driving every day. But we keep having one (or two or five) “for the road” before driving.

    Power tools come with big warnings: WEAR EYE PROTECTION. UNPLUG BEFORE SERVICING. KEEP FINGERS AND TOES AWAY, SHARP EDGES. Nevertheless there are plenty of blind, burned, and fingerless people who didn’t heed the advice.

    As all parents and teachers know: You can advise, suggest, recommend, and instruct … but a lot of people simply don’t listen. We all want to do what is fun and easy; but all that advice is to NOT do stuff that is fun or easy.

    So not only don’t I like the the anti-smoking ads … I doubt they work. Which brings up a different question … how does advertising work?

  2. Smoking is rife in Qatar and I'm yet to see an anti smoking ad but I don't watch a lot of tv here so there may well be. In Australia, anti smoking ads are on ALL the time, I really noticed them last year when I was home, as did the little travelers. I haven't watched the two clips that you've posted for the exact reason you've stated above - I don't really want to be grossed out. I guess the real question is are the ads effective? Now why are watching ads when you live in the land of TIVO?

    1. You are the second one who has asked me that. We do have and use our DVR, but not for the early evening news or pre-prime time programs generally. That seems to be the time these commercials are shown the most.

    2. Oh, and for what it's worth, the most graphic of the TV anti-smoking commercials are the ones from Australia.

  3. This is interesting territory. I am going to be in favour of pretty much anything that works to reduce rates of smoking - my guess is that these ads have been shown to be effective.

    BUT I would be worried about my kids watching these ads (I haven't clicked on them as I am public space right now) and I totally get why you are not keen on being bombarded with them.

    I tweeted the other day about an American who visited Australia and virtually stopped smoking for his entire trip because cigs were just too expensive. So price points seem to be a very effective strategy - particularly for young people who tend not to have a lot of $$.

    Similar campaigns are run around skin cancer in Australia and again, I applaud anything that actually works but for some kids I know of it has led to outsized anxiety - I know of one boy with Aspergers who took to hiding under his bed after school he was so scared of the sun.

    I do like the very proactive approach Australia has taken to public health campaigns. If the research said that the ads were truly having an impact on lowering rates of take up or increasing rates of quitting I would probably had to err on the side of supporting them even though they cause discomfort.

    That was all a bit longwinded! V interesting and something for us to mull over. I will try to watch the ads later.


    1. Thanks Michelle. And I hope they are proving to be effective. But I worry about my grandtwins seeing the commercials. They might not understand what it is all about, but the images are very disturbing and I can see them being very scary for the young ones.

      Price points are perhaps an effective approach. When I was very young there was a cigarette machine in our apartment building. My mom would give me a quarter to go buy her a pack. Of course, in those days there were cigarette commercials on TV and doctors advertised how healthy cigarettes were for you. I don't know what a pack of cigarettes cost now, but I know it is in the dollars range.

  4. I have just one thing to say, if it's as bad as they say, why is it still legal to buy them? I hate all advertising, especially this kind. My parents were both smokers when we were kids. Dad has now quit but Mum still smokes, and she recently had a heart attack! Yes, I think we all need to know the dangers. No, I don't think we need to see horror stories at dinner time. Great post!

  5. My mother died from emphysema - I took care of her those last few weeks. A deeply felt priviledge, however I'd still rather she was here. She used to be embarrassed about kids/teens looking at her portable gas cylinder. I'd speak up and say her father gave her cigarettes at 14 and look what happened, so dont smoke now because this could be you. Gradually she began to speak up. It's an addiction. She didn't choose to start, they were given to her for her nerves. So I swing both ways Mark. Run the ads if they turn one person off the habit. Good. For you I understand. But just flick the channel, send a tweet ignore it. Yes the ads here are graphic. I don't watch them I watched my mother. I don't smoke. The heart surgeon said I'd be dead if I had. I'd like to know who funds the ads; who funds the anti smoking lobby. People demand their rights and then make such stupid choices. To smoke, drink n drive etc etc. how about this new idea in NYC to decrease the size of soda cups?