Monday, March 5, 2012

Quitting smoking

NY State is sponsoring a gross commercial to get people to stop smoking. It was certainly stomach turning but turning my stomach at dinner time will do nothing to make me stop smoking since I never started. So the state

I had this exchange with the state agency that produced the effort.

First, I do not smoke and never have. I write in strong opposition to your TV commercial. I refer to the one that shows I guy with an oxygen mask wheezing and gasping for air. It is gross and disgusting. That is presumably your aim and you have succeeded. However, most of the people subjected to this atrocity do not smoke. Imagine the effect that "successful" commercial had upon me while I was eating dinner and watching the Met game. In case your imagination is weak, it made me sick. There is no opportunity to change the station, the commercial breaks into full gross out immediately. This is in poor taste. What is the next media crusade? Pictures of manged bodies aimed at drunk drivers? Aborted embryos? We agree that people should not smoke. We should also be able to agree that there are limits to how offensive commercials should be. Sincerely, Bill Lau

Dear Bill:

We regret the advertisement was personally upsetting to you. The approval process for our ads includes testing with NYS smokers and extensive review at the Health Department. Potential ads are pre-tested with smokers and ads that test well in terms of motivating smokers to quit are recommended for approval by the Health Department. While the majority of citizens in New York State are non-smokers, smoking has a tremendous impact on everyone in our society. Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in New York State and smoking-related illnesses cost the state over 8 billion in medical costs alone each year. To put this in perspective, every pack of cigarettes sold in NYS costs taxpayers $10 in smoking-related medical costs. The ads we run are tested to ensure that they have a strong impact on public health by encouraging current smokers to quit and discouraging young people from ever starting. Evocative ads, such as the ones currently airing, have contributed to reductions in adult and youth smoking which are both at their lowest levels on record in our state.

Thank you for sharing your feelings. I will be happy to log your complaint stating you feel this commercial is too graphic and offensive. While you agree for the need for people to quit smoking, you object to how our message was presented.

The New York State Smokers’ QuitLine

You tested this on smokers and the true believers in the Health Department. So you put out a campaign to the general population that is was tested against the small percentage of people that you are trying to reach but not against the majority of people - people who do not smoke and never will – even if this commercial is never shown. It makes no sense.

It is a given that other people smoking costs billions in health bills and that costs all of us money. But your solution costs all of us more money for these ads to get other people to stop. How about directing your campaign at the people who are smoking and leave the rest of us to be able to have a peaceful dinner?

Even better, if you are going to hit the entire population, do it to enlist everyone in your cause. Get people do not smoke (the majority) to realize what smokers are costing them; then you will have the majority on the bandwagon. Start a campaign to move the health care costs to the smokers: If someone gets cancer or another disease from smoking, why should their insurance cover them (and rates go up because of it)?

Your information about testing its effectiveness is unconvincing. Does anyone ever follow with all those motivated smokers in the test base to see if they stopped? Did they just say what they thought you wanted to hear? Were they motivated to quit before seeing this ad? Or were they motivated to stop was it expensive and stupid?

In the meantime, please pull this nauseating commercial.

The good news is that they no longer run the commercial. Must have run out of money.

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