Real Anti-Smoking Ads

Luis Cayetano lives in Australia and writes this excellent blog and this one also.

Luis noticed the recent TCT post commenting on how purportedly anti-smoking advertising in the United States is a pathetic joke, if not slyly pro-smoking. Luis commented:

Here in Australia the anti-smoking ads are way more serious. They show people with mouth cancer, puss coming out of intestines, and lungs with black ooze seeping out of them. It would be an interesting exercise to do a comparative political-economic analysis of tobacco in the two countries.

Here is some proof, as relayed by Luis:

This ad could never run in the USA. Our commercial media outlets would wail that it is too disturbing and clashes with their programming, which is designed to maintain the fatuous mental state that is most conducive to shopping/capitalist ad watching. Indeed, this ad would never get produced in the USA, as our ad-makers know all this and wouldn’t even try to rock the boat.

Luis and I are hoping to put together something longer and more substantial on this topic, but suffice for now to say that Australia has two things the United States does not: a Labor Party and a serious public broadcasting entity.

Unseriousness is Everywhere

Under market totalitarianism, only unserious solutions to problems are eligible for consideration.

Consider the Clintonian tobacco settlement, which uses corporate tobacco money to hire corporate capitalist ad agencies to make advertisements nominally devoted to discouraging smoking, then purchases time to run those ads within commercial media.

Not only does this mean that foxes end up making the supposedly anti-fox-in-the-henhouse imagery, but the results are created with a careful eye to not upsetting the commercial media outlets in which they run.

Results? Instead of searing pictures of people being treated for and dying from lung cancer and COPD, this:

Making Munichs for Marketers: The Limits of “Consumer” Activism

Remember the much-ballyhooed tobacco lawsuits of the 1990s, the ones that were supposed to cripple Big Tobacco and then slowly starve it of new smokers?

Guess what?

1. Since the end of the publicity blitz surrounding the lawsuits, the U.S. teen smoking rate, the key to the industry’s future domestic profits, has stopped falling, and stayed steady at a substantially high level.

2. The U.S.-based tobacco corporations are about finished restructuring themselves to shield their extremely profitable global operations from U.S.-based penalties.

This is what happens when “consumer” activists do what they normally do, which is struggle mightily to summon the courage to offer their opponents what Neville Chamberlain offered Hitler. Afraid of connecting the dots between the three c-words — class, capitalism, and “consumers” — the aspiring anti-powers-that-be invariably fail to acknowledge that the weeds they are trying to pluck have roots. As a result, they invariably yield mere appeasements, rather than adequate, lasting changes.

Consider the similar case of “consumer” activists’ efforts to draw corporate food marketers to meet them in Munich about eroding childhood nutrition. A couple years back, the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood threatened to sue the Kellogg Company over its unyielding peddling of a wide variety of marketing-friendly (high flavor, low nutrition) foods to the increasingly obese U.S. population of children.

The threat extracted a settlement.

Q: How much better has this settlement proven to be than Chamberlain’s famous piece of paper?

A: None.

The document itself begins by permitting Kellogg to promulgate extreme falsehoods about itself:

“We remain first and foremost committed,” its opening paragraph reads, “to meeting our consumers’ changing needs.”

This massive lie begs two questions:

1. If “consumer” needs are king, why is it necessary for “watchdogs” to police Kellogg’s behavior?

2. If putting “our consumers'” (note the possessive formulation) needs ahead of Kellogg investors’ interests were ever actually adopted as actual company policy, how many minutes it would take Kellogg shareholders to eject their derelict board of directors?

In reality, as any glance at kids’ TV will confirm, all the settlement did was tweak Kellogg’s advertising strategies slightly. Most often, they simply tack on some unrealistic pep-talk about “getting outside” for 15 minutes, as if that will either work or compensate for their shameful promotion of junk foods.

One other effect of the Kellogg/CSPI/CCFC settlement has been voluntary adoption of similar marketing “guidelines” by other corporations.

The meaningfulness of such progress can be gleaned from one of the products that Kraft Foods’ Post Cereal division now sells as part of its “Sensible Solutions” program. Here you go, health food enthusiasts:

Part of a “balanced” society? Go ask Adolf…