“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.

2 replies on ““If you can’t smoke underwater, no one will swim again!””

For those of our readers who love behind-the-scenes information on low culture, here are the headlines for this post we rejected:
“If you can’t smoke in space, man will never walk on the moon”
“If you can’t smoke in bed, no one will ever be burned to death”
“If you can’t smoke after fucking a hooker, men will be forced to fuck their wives”
“If you can’t smoke during Boy Scout meetings, Communists will take over America”

you guys did a good job pointing out how stupid those ads are. not that it’s that hard. for your next report on the subject, perhaps you can analyze the grafitti that’s appearing on these posters (i’ve noticed it on 70% that i’ve seen), and the lessons to be learned (if you’re gonna put up a really stupid poster, making it 90% white is just like begging to have it defaced).
on a related note, you mention how smoking bans in california do work, and i agree that they do, in a sense. i could be wrong, but my impression of the california smoking bans was that they came about as a result of popular opinion, not the wishes of individuals in government. this is important, because there’s a big difference in how the ban is enforced in california versus new york.
if you go to a dive bar (or an asian bar) in california you can usually smoke, albeit unofficially. i think this is because the state was happy to have the law, but not particularly interested in enforcing it. the end result there is that you basically have bars catering their smoking policy to their clientele. in new york it’s very different because we’re seeing enforcement across the board.
does it work in california? well, you can choose if you want to go to a smoky bar, but there are still employees suffering from secondhand smoke (although they could enforce the ban, i suppose). does it work in new york? i dunno. if i’m sitting at freddy’s waiting for the bartender to come back in from a smoke break so i can get a drink, i think i’d rather be in l.a.

Comments are closed.