Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Quit Smoking, Or They'll Abandon This Kid

Here in New York, the price of a pack of cigarettes is now, I think, $15.95 plus a mandatory 10-minute time-out in the think-about-what-you're-doing-to-your-body corner—which is expensive and time-consuming, yes, but a small price to pay for looking so cool standing beneath a leaky awning outside of a restaurant in a rainstorm. (That's why people smoke, right? For the look?) But if the hefty price of cigarettes and being forced outdoors in inclement weather isn't enough to make smokers quit, New York also has set up a variety of public heath hotlines that smokers can call and presumably be admonished over and over again until they agree to stop. (I'm guessing, obviously. But I imagine it's either that or they tell the smoker, "You know smoking is bad for you, right? Maybe you should try Nicorette." To which the smoker inevitably responds, "Nica-what now?" or "If I wanted to chew gum, I wouldn't be a smoker." Resources.)

The anti-smoking PSAs in New York City are unavoidable, and nearly all of them are aimed at scaring smokers into quitting: There's Maria with her missing fingers, and creepy plumes of smoke that eat you and your kids alive, etc. As a non-smoker, I don't know what effect, if any, these PSAs have on smokers, but there is one recent anti-smoking PSA that is so relentless and heavy-handed I will gladly take up smoking and then quit just to make it stop: 

In NYC, they've re-done the voiceover and swapped in info about the NY state smoker's quitline at the end, and they run this ad about 100 times a day. Every time I see it I wonder what they did to that poor kid to get that reaction. Did they actually abandon him in a train station? Just make him think he was abandoned? Tell him his mom was never coming back? Rip apart his favorite stuffed animal limb from limb right before his eyes? Strangle a guy dressed as the Easter Bunny in front of him? Tell him that nobody loves him, then cackle malevolently and run away? Throw sawdust in his eyes and grab a camera? Either he's the Meryl Streep of child PSA acting, or some serious manipulation was going on behind the scenes.


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