October 28, 2003
"If you can't smoke underwater, no one will swim again!"

smokefree.gifPresumably, those of you living in New York have by now been bombarded with these public-service ads from the American Legacy Foundation, founded in the wake of the tobacco industry's settlement with 46 states in 1999 and "dedicated to building a world where young people reject tobacco and anyone can quit."

That's a fine and noble mission, and certainly warrants some form of applause. But they're making it so hard for me to get behind their message. First, they unveiled the truth® campaign, which utilized an uber-didactic narrative and "cutting-edge" filmmaking methodology to try to persuade the MTV generation that smoking is bad for you (natch) and the tobacco industry is run by a bunch of greedy, calloused motherfuckers who never saw a Michael Mann film they could really embrace.

Within the past year or so, the relatively austere tone of the original truth® campaign morphed into the "Crazyworld" campaign, which seemed to channel HBO's absurdist "Carnivale" television series, but populating the cast with hipsters rather than circus freaks (those terms are in fact mutually exclusive).

Now comes our very own New York-tailored campaign, "A Smoke-Free New York Works", which was ostensibly created in the wake of a vocal protest campaign by those who decried Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Pataki's recent ban on smoking in bars and nightclubs. Again, a fine and noble mission. Anyone living in Los Angeles or California in general knows this can work just fine, despite many TimeOut New York cover stories whining to the contrary.

The problem, however, is that this new American Legacy campaign seems to throw out (alongside the didacticism, thankfully) the avant-garde pretense of its predecessors in lieu of pure and simpleminded idiocy. Here's the gist: whether sitting on a subway car, or waiting at a bus stop, or leafing through the Village Voice, a bold white ad with hand-scrawled red text leaps out at you, often bearing the most hilariously asinine phrases imaginable. Here are some real, actual samples, unlike our "absurd" headline:

"If they ban smoking in college classrooms, it will destroy higher education!"

"If they ban smoking in office buildings, no one will ever work again!"

"If they ban smoking in churches, it will wipe out all religion!"

"If they ban smoking at JFK, nobody will ever fly again!"

"If they ban smoking in stores, everyone will quit buying stuff!"

Bear in mind these are all actual ads you may have encountered. But I have to ask, who the hell would ever utter such stupid, contemptibly moronic assertions? And if these people really exist, are they really worth listening to, much less quoting?

So, once again, the lofty goals of the anti-smoking industry -- despite my being otherwise inclined to endorse any and all of their efforts -- have left me to consider supporting efforts and initiatives that would remove their funding. Well, not really, but...something needs to be done, because if I ever step into a bathroom and see this hanging on the doorway or near the stalls, I'll snap and ask someone for a light. Again, this is a real and actual ad:

"If they ban smoking in bathrooms, it will kill the urinal cake industry!"

Do I even care about the urinal cake industry? It's the tobacco industry that needs to be reined in, chumps, and ads like this are completely counter-effective.

Posted in a Grave fashion.

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