Pubdate: Fri, 30 Dec 2016
Source: Willamette Week (Portland, OR)
Copyright: 2016 Willamette Week Newspaper
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


What's up with all those lame "Stay True to You" anti-pot billboards all
over the city? I hear when Big Tobacco had to run anti-smoking ads, they
used market research to deliberately create the worst ads possible. Is
that what's going on here? -- Not Impressed

I assume you're referring to the Philip Morris company's infamous "Think.
Don't Smoke" campaign, which I think about often and totally did not have
to look up in any way.

A 1999 comparison of anti-smoking ads rated "Think. Don't Smoke" dead last
in effectiveness, and cynics suggested the tobacco giant had cooked up a
toothless ad on purpose.

Did they? "Think. Don't Smoke" does tend to present the issue as a binary
choice between smoking and doing something many Americans would rather not
do. (Other options might have included "Floss. Don't Smoke,""Eat Kale.
Don't Inhale," and "Why Smoke When You Could Be Getting That Long-Overdue
Prostate Exam?")

Sincere or not, science shows that even the best anti-smoking propaganda
usually doesn't work. Pictures of decaying gums merely trigger smokers'
well-developed "la la la I'm not listening" reflex -- and if you do manage
to scare us, the stress just makes us want a cigarette.

All of which suggests that the "Stay True to You" ads have an uphill climb
- -- especially with squishy tag lines like, "Being a teenager is hard
enough. I'm not sure pot would help." Not sure? But it's worth a shot,
right? You never know until you try!

In any case, the ads are real. They're paid for by the Oregon Health
Authority, which is worried about research showing that young teens and
preteens who use marijuana are more likely to have trouble with learning
and memory.

Still, there's a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem here -- how do we know
that the kids who smoke pot weren't dumb to begin with? Maybe that's a
more effective message: "Don't worry, kids! Pot doesn't make you dumb --
it's just something that dumb kids do. Want some?"
- ---
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