Controversial Anti-Smoking Ad Targets Parents

Filed under: In The News

cigaretteHealth officials in New York City want parents to quit smoking, so they're trying something novel: Terrorizing small children. In a new television ad, a 3-year-old boy walks with his mother in a busy train station. Suddenly, she disappears. The boy's face rapidly goes from mild concern to all-out fear, and he begins to cry. Then an ominous voice says, "If this is how your child feels after losing you for a minute, just imagine if they lost you for life."

It's a powerful message, one that health officials say is necessary to get parents to stop smoking. "A great ad is a one-on-one sales pitch," CNBC's Donny Deutsch tells Matt Lauer on "Today." "Say you smoke. If I said to you, 'Matt, stop smoking, it's going to hurt your lungs.' But if I say, 'Hey, Matt, you've got kids, how about if your boy's team won a Little League game without his dad?', that's going to get to you."

But some people think the ad goes to far. The boy's emotions and tears are clearly real, a point that some think takes this ad from edgy to inappropriate.

"Although I am a former 3-pack a day smoker, now clean for the last nine years," says "Daily News" commenter Diana Romero, "And strongly endorse any legislation which bans smoking in public areas and other means which may discourage people from smoking, I feel using a child and making him cry to stress a point and send a message is totally unacceptable. A fine line has been crossed and should not be allowed to happen again."

Cancer Council Victoria spokeswoman Edwina Pearce argues that the boy wasn't traumatized during filming. "We didn't do anything dastardly to make him cry," she tells the "Daily News," "He did get upset, but it was about a 10-second period that he was upset for and then his mother came back and gave him a big cuddle and everything was happy again."

The ad is part of an ambitious New York City campaign to get 20,000 smokers to quit. It'll be interesting to see if the controversy surrounding this ad boosts those numbers, since no attention is bad attention when it comes to advertising. "Daily News" commenter OldNewYork is doubtful, "They really are beating a dead horse. People holding a cigarette in one hand and a remote in the other will keep the cigarette and use the remote."

Did this ad go too far? And even if it did, was it worth it if it gets people to stop smoking? And finally, do you think the message is an effective one?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.