The state of California has launched a $28.6 million ad campaign it hopes will help its citizens kick the smoking habit.
It's too early to tell what effect the campaign will have on smokers, but it already has the tobacco companies hopping mad.
The television ads don't pull any punches. One shows a group of tobacco company advertising executives discussing the need to lure 3,000 new smokers every day to replace smokers who quit smoking or die from tobacco-related illnesses. ``We're not in business for our health,'' one executive sneers.
The tobacco companies are crying foul, calling the ads propaganda aimed more at hurting tobacco companies than getting people to quit smoking. California officials say the campaign is intended to counter cigarette advertising they say targets young people and portrays smoking as a glamorous, sexy thing to do.
Tobacco companies counter that adults should be allowed to smoke and that tobacco companies have no interest in enticing young people to smoke. Yet, wasn't it just a few months ago that tobacco companies abruptly pulled from the market a special brand of cigarette targeted primarily toward young, black men? Another brand of cigarettes reportedly was to be aimed at young, white women with low-paying jobs and no more than a high school education.
The California advertisers are trying to beat the tobacco companies at their own game. The only valid complaint the tobacco companies could make is that the playing field isn't quite fair. That's because the California campaign includes television advertising, which has been banned for tobacco companies for a number of years.
The California situation presents many new questions about the proper role of government injecting itself into the lives and activities of its citizens. For example, if it is proper for the state to impose a tax to try to discourage smoking, is it just as proper for the state to impose a tax to try to encourage people to stop driving automobiles?