This anti-smoking ad posted on Gawker caught my attention. It shows children approaching adults who are smoking and asking them to light a cigarette the children are holding.
The adults react by telling the children that smoking is bad for them. And then the kids hand them a pamphlet about how smoking is bad for them. The ad is being used by the Thai Health Promotion Foundation in its anti-smoking efforts.
This isn’t the first time children have been used in anti-smoking campaigns. In 2009, the New York City Department of Health created this ad displaying a child sobbing. The message: “This is how your child feels after losing you for a minute. Just imagine if they lost you for life.”
My first question: Do these ads work? Gawker reports that the Thai Health Promotion Foundation saw a 40 percent increase in phone inquiries from smokers who wanted to quit. If that number is true, then some would argue the ad is effective.
A few years ago, the British National Health Service launched its “I’m not scared” anti-smoking TV campaign. Here’s one of the ads (creepy clown alert):
Apparently, there were a few complaints placed with the United Kingdom’s Advertising Standards Authority after the advertisements ran. The organization decided that the advertisements should only run after 7:30 p.m.
After 7.30pm, young children who were still watching TV were likely to be in the company of their parents or older family members, who ought to be able to take action to reassure the children if the ad had upset them.
Do you think ads like this work? I’m not going to argue whether they do, but I do think there’s an interesting ethical debate about whether children should be used in anti-smoking (or any anti-adult behavior) advertisements.