Most of us have seen the new anti-tobacco campaign launched by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this spring. The ads feature graphic depictions of people who’ve suffered Tobacco-related health issues and eulogies for those lost to smoking-related disease.
Back in 1997, Florida launched its own graphic anti-smoking campaign, created by the Office of Tobacco Control, which targeted the state’s youth, as well as efforts targeted to adult tobacco users. The program was funded through an $11.3 billion settlement between the state and the tobacco industry.
By 1998, the campaign evolved into Florida “Truth,” and included a budget of $200 million for an anti-tobacco campaign directed at young people.
The Florida campaign was a statewide professional and grassroots education blitz. Sarasota actor and singer Michael Waldron of PJ Productions produced and directed a local award-winning anti-smoking video for the Artful Truth—Healthy Propaganda Arts Project. The project, funded by Florida "Truth", was designed by Florida International University’s Wolfsonian Museum. Waldron’s production, which I also worked on, was shot in a graveyard and heralded the ultimate danger of tobacco use—death.
I’m pretty proud my involvement in producing Mr. Waldron’s Artful Truth campaign, and touted it to my youngest child as an example of why he should avoid smoking. (Confession: I smoke, though I wish I didn’t because I understand the dangers.)
I’d expected my kid to chastise me for the lunacy of my being an anti-smoking smoker. But, instead, he raged me for having come late to the anti-smoking effort back in 1999.
Apparently, my kid informed me, the most important anti-tobacco campaign was launched by England’s King James, back when the early settlers in Virginia took up the crop for profit. At this point in our conversation, the kid dropped his history book in my lap and directed me to an early 1600s quote from King James:
“Smoking is a custom loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs.”
So, essentially, our nation’s anti-smoking campaign has been a 400-year effort.
Which begs the question: Why is it so difficult to convince people to quit using tobacco products? Should the government be in the business of deciding what is and isn't healthy?