- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 13, 2005

A new anti-smoking ad campaign compares secondhand smoke to the most offensive human emissions.

“Don’t pass gas” is the slogan of the campaign announced this week by the American Legacy Foundation, a Washington-based anti-tobacco organization.

“That is so foul,” a young boy says in one of the public-service television spots, which shows a family watching television. “Whoa, Grandpa. … You’re killing us over here,” says the boy’s sister, after the camera shows the grandfather smoking a cigarette.

The provocative campaign — which includes an ad in which a teenager says “something’s funky” after his father lights a cigarette in the family car — warns that secondhand smoke contains “poisonous fumes that can contribute to asthma and pneumonia.”

Described as “funny” and “irreverent” by the campaign’s producers, the ads are intended to “remind the public of the real consequences” of secondhand smoke, said Cheryl G. Healton, chief executive officer of the foundation.

She cited a study published by the organization earlier this month, which found that more than 13 million American children younger than 18 are exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes. In 82 percent of the cases in which a young person lives with a smoker, the smoker is a parent — a problem that the “don’t pass gas” ads were meant to highlight.

“We wanted to break down some of the barriers that may exist in families with smokers … and start the dialogue between kids and parents,” said Scott Linnen, creative director of award-winning Miami-based agency Crispin Porter+Bogusky, which produced the three TV ads:

• Children complain about their grandfather’s smoking as the family watches television while an announcer says, “Passing gas in the presence of others is not only inappropriate … it can be deadly.”

• “Eww, honey, not in the car,” a woman exclaims in reaction to her husband’s smoking while the announcer explains, “Passing gas releases a plume of toxic vapors … like ammonia and hydrogen cyanide.”

• An infant is shown crying in a bassinet while the announcer warns: “Passing gas around infants can be deadly … especially harmful to an infant’s developing lungs.”

Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, at least 11 of which cause cancer, according to the foundation.

In addition to TV and radio ads, the campaign includes a Web site (www.dontpassgas.org) and a toll-free phone number (888-NOPASSGAS) through which people can get more information about secondhand smoke.

Some of the short-term effects of secondhand smoke, the foundation says, are eye irritation, headache, cough, sore throat, dizziness and nausea; long-term consequences include increased risk of a range of smoking-related diseases. Exposure to secondhand smoke impairs lung function in children and contributes to such diseases as asthma, bronchitis and pneumonia, as well as ear and respiratory infections, and sudden infant death syndrome, the foundation warns.

Secondhand smoke is responsible for about 3,000 lung cancer deaths every year among U.S. nonsmokers, the foundation says.

Peggy Conlon, chief executive officer of the Advertising Council, said that before final approval, the ads were shared with parents who smoke and their family members, who reportedly called the campaign “attention-getting” and “very funny.”

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