Fed up with gross-out ads that embarrass everyone in the room? Here’s my latest article from Gulf Coast Newspapers that’s for all those in the pharmaceutical advertising industry.
Even though my Great Aunt never smoked a cigarette in her life, she died a painful and tragic death from lung cancer, the victim of second – hand smoke from her husband, who had smoked cigarettes since he was young. It was a terrible thing for her, and for all of us who loved her.
Having shared this background, I hope you understand that I’m completely sympathetic with victims of lung disease and grieve over the countless lives lost to smoking. But I can also tell you another thing that makes me shudder in horror and that’s the graphic television commercials that are aimed at smokers.
Oh sure, the shock factor works for many who need to see the harsh realities of smoking, but come on – do the rest of us also have to be punished by such nasty, gruesome situations like people removing their teeth, shaving around their trachea, and gulping down the formaldehyde from the frog jar in science class? A few of these ads pull at your heartstrings, which I think is highly effective, but most of them pull on your gag reflex, and those are the ads I find appalling.
When our family sees the first second of one of these squeamish public announcements, everyone in the room, including the tough men, scream and race for the remote control. We can’t turn the station fast enough. It makes me want to find someone who smokes and thump ‘em on the forehead and say, “What are you thinking? Not only are you putting your health in jeopardy by smoking, but now because of your addiction to nicotine, I’m also being subjected to these irritating commercials. Happy now?
There was a time when it was considered vulgar to even say the word, “pregnant” on TV, yet today, the drug companies will tell you in graphic detail what to do to avoid it, encourage it, and enjoy it – while the viewers jump up and run away, suddenly remembering they have to study, walk the dog or poke their eyes out.
Since I’ve always had an interest in science, I usually have a high tolerance for medical information, but it’s not the same thing as these ads. The one time I was ever sent to my room from the dinner table was because I innocently relayed details about that day’s 9th grade biology lab. To my disappointment, no one else at the table was as excited as I was to have discovered exactly where chitlins came from. But discussing dissection over dumplings was tame conversation compared to the rudeness television now brings into my home. There’s a good reason the marketing executives for pharmaceutical companies haven’t been invited to my Mama’s house for dinner.
My son and his friends were piled in the family room, watching a TV movie about aliens. While I passed out the popcorn, a catchy tune started to play and a happy voice delivered a message about women’s plumbing issues. Howling and screaming ensued and the party took an uncomfortable turn as I beat a path, lickety-split, out of the room. Before the movie was over, they also got an earful about dysfunctional man-parts and toe fungus.
First, the government allowed cigarette companies to advertise which made people sick and addicted, which led to banning the ads all together. Now they are spending taxpayer money to get us to stop smoking.
Not learning from the past, our current elected officials have allowed drug companies to advertise, and the public has never been more over-medicated, screwed up, and grossed out. Do you detect a pattern here? The day they ban these types of ads is when I’ll raise a glass and give a toast to yuck-free TV. And I can promise you, my glass won’t contain frog juice.
This story first appeared in my column, “Southern with a Gulf Coast Accent,” whichÂ can be found in these fine Gulf Coast Media newspapers: The Courier, The Foley Onlooker, The Islander, The Times Independent and The Sumter Item in South Carolina.Â