The Truth About Truth: The Anti-Smoking Propaganda

Truth, the anti-smoking campaign that has been around for some years, unleashed a new fury of misinformed advertisements titled “WHUDAFXUP?” The new series of commercials stick with the agenda of educating children and parents on the dangers of cigarettes and the misdeeds of the companies produce them. The original series of Truth highlighted important statistics and facts, and then presented them in such a way as to make the viewer think “whoa.” However, the creators of “WHUDAFXUP?” seemed to have stretched themselves a little too far in an attempt to find new ways to convince the public of the hazards of big tobacco companies and their products.

The “WHUDAFXUP?” campaign focuses on decades-old marketing and research documents obtained from big tobacco companies. The creators pick out specific facts that they can easily manipulate on-screen with unlikely scenarios performed by the “WHUDAFXUP?” spokesperson, Derrick.

The latest commercial (and by far the most misinformed) starts by saying that big tobacco companies create fun, fruity cigarette flavors, while insisting that they are not marketing to children. To “prove” his point, Derrick goes to a park and sets up a brightly painted lemonade-type stand with words like “Mocha Taboo” and “Midnight Berry.” It’s no surprise when several children, and no adults, approach him.

The most misleading piece of information offered by Truth and “WHUDAFXUP?” makes viewers think that big tobacco companies massively advertise to children. How is that possible when tobacco is prohibited from being advertised on television, possibly the biggest source of information for children? In addition, tobacco ads are rarely seen on billboards or on the Internet. The only sources left for big tobacco are magazines, and there is no way a children’s magazine would allow tobacco ads to grace its pages. So just how are children finding out about fun, fruit-flavored cigarettes? WHUDAFXUP.

A trip to the “WHUDAFXUP?” website leads to even more inaccurate propaganda. One feature of the site feeds off the claim that a tobacco company alleged that milk was more hazardous to an individual’s health than cigarettes. The site prompts its viewers to ask their lunch ladies if they agree with the claim, and then add their answers to the website. Most of the answers disagree with the claim because milk is generally considered healthy. However, other answers point out the obvious: the site did not specify whether it meant whole or skim milk. Whole milk is loaded with fat, which contributes to heart disease, obesity, and high-blood pressure, all of which are some of the biggest health problems faced by the United States. Truth and “WHUDAFXUP?” seem to be incredibly concerned about the health of the public, right? However, they have no campaign that addresses these issues or others that are equally harmful.

If tobacco companies are limited in their advertising sources, then what is taking up all the marketing space left behind? Just turn on the television and surf the channels for a few minutes; it’s easy to figure out. Commercials featuring people having fun, dancing in clubs, surrounded by bright colors and lights, and holding a drink in one hand. Alcohol is everywhere: television, magazines, billboards, radio. They couldn’t possibly be marketing to children and teenagers. Kids don’t like to have fun and dance with friends while colors and lights blanket their troubles.

Smokers don’t crash cars or engage in risky behaviors because of a nicotine rush. Cigarettes don’t cause broken homes or make people commit domestic violence. Smokers don’t end up on the street because they spent all their money to get a rush. Alcohol is easily more dangerous than cigarettes. Where is the campaign against alcohol advertising?

This is not to say that smoking is good for anyone. It does have its risks: emphysema, cancer, fatigue, and heart problems, just to name a few. Almost everyone knows about the dangers of smoking, from the Surgeon General’s warning neatly printed on every box of cigarettes to the original Truth commercials. However, the “WHUDAFXUP” campaign seems to be running short of ideas to convince people of these hazards. It poorly disguises its propaganda as a trendy new anti-smoking agenda seeking to make big tobacco look like fools. Maybe “WHUDAFXUP” is the fool for using propaganda to wage war against big tobacco’s propaganda. Someone should let them know you can’t fight fire with fire.

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