No smoking on the bus

Perhaps you were as shocked as I was (and a few readers, if you go by my e-mail) over this ad from the anti-smoking group, Clearway Minnesota that is appearing on area TV stations.

Check out the first kid. That’s a kid who knows how to smoke.

What’s the deal with having kids smoke in a TV ad to discourage kids from smoking?

They didn’t.

“None of the kids were smoking,” Mike Sheldon, the senior communication manager for Clearway Minnesota, told me this afternoon. “We used fog machines for some of the scenes and it’s computer generated.”

The reaction to the ad, presumably, is just what the anti-smoking group wanted.

“We want policymakers to know, youth smoking is still a problem,” Sheldon said. About 77,000 kids smoke, he says, a number which he acknowledges is trending down but which is “unacceptably high.”

“It’s easy to say that because statewide smoking is done, this is something we can cross off the list,” he said.

The ad is one of three the group is currently airing as part of its Still A Problem campaign.

  • Christin

    Smoking is horrible for you, horrible for those around you, and obviously has negative impacts on all of us, including economically. But sometimes I wish these folks who clearly care so deeply for kids would put the funding towards mentoring programs for at risk youth and social workers in schools.

  • Sara K.

    At first glance I thought…oh, wow, they filmed the kid smoking on (my daughter’s friend’s) bus. Now I’ve been shocked several times.

  • Bob Collins

    // these folks who clearly care so deeply for kids would put the funding towards mentoring programs for at risk youth and social workers in schools.

    Well, it’s funny you would say that. They did. Sort of.

    Clearway was funded by 3 percent of the gigantic state tobacco settlement.

    The rest of the settlement — aside from the part that went to BCBS — went to the state’s general fund. Millions of dollars per year.

    But the state legislature used it as part of the effort to balance the state budget and then, in a crowning achievement of fiscal incompetence, sold the settlement for a fraction of their worth in the form of “tobacco bonds” to raise immediate cash to “fix” the deficit.

    At first, the state got $200 million a year under the settlement, but that amount dropped as people stopped smoking. So the state cashed in about $750 million in future proceeds for about $640 million in immediate cash.

    All of which is now gone, of course.

  • Robert Moffitt

    Keeping in theme with the smoking and school meme, my organization (the American Lung Association) is releasing its annual report card on smoking next week (Jan. 16th).

    You may be surprised how Minnesota was ranked, compared to some neighboring states. Or not.

    Good summary of the tobacco bonds fiasco, Bob. We sold the good silver and got pennies on the dollar. Not our finest hour.