June 14, 2006


The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is making me nuts. How much do you hate their disgusting "hole in the throat" anti-smoking commercial? If you look at any television at all, you've seen it because it is all over the place. It is on every channel. It may even be on the food channel. There's no escaping it.

It opens with a beefy Hispanic guy taking a shower. He speaks in a voice that sounds like Robby the Robot or the mechanical voice in a McDonald's drive-through that asks for your order. The man in the commercial is wearing a white bib around his neck and lifts it and starts to clean the inside of the open hole in his throat. UGH! He speaks:

"I was 39 when I got throat cancer from smoking cigarettes. I almost died. Now there is a permanent hole in my throat. Nothing will ever be the same again. Not even the simple things."

The copy is fine. The drama of the mechanical voice talking to you is jarring but effective. I'm intrigued that he is talking with a Spanish accent. My son J.T. asked, "How come his mechanical voice still has a Spanish accent? Do mechanical voices that replace the vocal cords still have an accent? Could there be some hocus pocus here to try to reach Hispanic smokers?" It's not a question I can answer.

What bothers me and everyone else I've spoken with is the video. It comes without warning into our living rooms. It's offensive. I'm terribly sorry that the man has cancer. He must have smoked a lot of cigarettes to get that sick that young. What frosts me is that they show him cleaning out the hole in his throat.

Wait a minute. I don't want to see the hole in his throat. Yes, I turn away. Yes, I put my hands over my ears, but I don't want him coming into my living room. Again, I'm sorry that he has a hole in his throat, but I don't want to see it. The other night it came on when I was just about to put a forkful of food into my mouth. I lost my appetite. I think it is a completely ineffective commercial. Everyone I know turns his or her head away from the television set when it comes on. Shock for shock value alone turns people off no matter how noble or well meaning the message may be.

At this point I'd better do the anti anti-smoking Miranda Act lest you think I am under the influence of the tobacco lobby.

I don't smoke. I was a three-pack-a-day-smoker and quit cold. Haven't smoked a cigarette for the last 30 years. I don't have or ever intend to have a cigarette advertising account, and, I believe, along with some of my good friends who are fighting lung cancer right this minute, that the U.S. government is doing too little research to end lung cancer because they believe that people with lung cancer brought the disease on to themselves by smoking, and they will just have to pay the price. This is a stupid shortsighted policy that will result in the premature death of thousands of innocent people.

It ignores the tens of thousands, like the late Dana Reeves, who never touched a cigarette, but died from lung cancer anyway. It blames the victim instead of the disease.

What can we do to get this commercial off the air? Write a letter to the stations that carry the commercial. Write The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. And while you're at it, write to the makers of Lamisil, that stuff for the fungus under your toenails. They have this disgusting commercial showing a toenail being pulled back off the toe to reveal these tiny little fungus devils living under the nail. That's an image I could live without, too.

Yes, there may be devils in me. But let me tell you, they are not living under my toenails.

If you wish to comment on "Jerry's Ink," send your message to jerry@dfjp.com.

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