No children smoked in this ad

It’s a strange statement on media, or pop culture, or something, that I can watch the brains-bashing “Walking Dead” without breaking a sweat, and then be grossed out by this commercial.

Some things are just too awful to watch. The sight of kids smoking cigarettes, though repulsive, is a powerful component of the “Still A Problem” ad campaign being waged by ClearWay Minnesota.

Spokesman Mike Sheldon was quick to reassure me on the phone Tuesday that the child actors on the school bus only appear to be smoking. “All the smoke you see is computer-generated,” he said. Even if only a special effect, the image is shocking – as is the statistic that 77,000 kids will use tobacco in Minnesota this year.

ClearWay Minnesota was established in the 1990s as part of the state’s tobacco settlement. It’s a research and advocacy group with money to spend and a limited lifespan; the organization is scheduled to disband in 2023. The tobacco industry, by contrast, intends to keep operating, just as long as it can get people to use its product.

Sheldon said the school-bus ad, produced by the local advertising agency Clarity Coverdale Fury, cost about $125,000. “To be effective, we need professional and well-done ads,” he said. You can see others on the ClearWay website, but here’s the one I like the best. It attempts to establish a link between smoking and the universal fear of carnies:

— Eric Ringham

  • BJ

    carnies (carnival folk) not canaries (birds).

    Watched it twice before I realised my mistake. I wondered who had a universal fear of canaries.

  • Robert Moffitt

    Sylvester, the Warners Bros cartoon cat, had some “canary issues” as I recall.

    If the ClearWay spots are getting people upset, then they must be working. Kids smoking should get people upset.