A news item out of Chicago reports that the American Cancer Society has decided to launch a new advertising campaign entitled, "Smoking Stinks," aimed at teen-agers who are buying cigarettes. The campaign will publicize the fact that smoking causes bad breath.
The reason for the switch is that studies showed that while most teen-agers do not fear death, they are, thanks to TV, frightened silly of bad breath.
I believe the Cancer Society is on the right track. Anyone who watches television knows that death is not the ultimate put down in our American culture.
Teen-agers are fed a daily diet of murders and killing on television programs every day. And most of them accept it as one of those things. But, they are aware, from watching the commercials, that bad breath is no laughing matter and no matter who you are you could be a victim of it.
I know this from personal experience. I was watching a TV program the other night with some young people in which there are a knifing, a rape and shootout. I lost count after five were killed.
No one in the room except me seemed bothered by it.
The commercials were something else.
In one, a young man took his date home and refused to kiss her. She went inside in tears.
The two young ladies watching with me were riveted to their seats.
Fortunately, the young woman's mother was still up and she explained to her daughter what the problem was. It was bad breath. The daugther protested that she already had used a mouthwash. But the mother said. "This one is different. It freshens your mouth for 24 hours."
In the next scene, the same boy took the daughter home and kissed her fully on the mouth. "Can I see you again?" the boy asked.
Inside the house, the girl rushed into her mother's arms. "How was your date?" the mother asked. "Wonderful," the girl replied. "Thanks to you and - ."
My two young lady visitors breather a sigh of relief. They identified with the poor girl and it seemed that the problem had been resolved to everyone's satisfaction.
A few commercials later it was the boy's turn to squirm. The scene took place in a locker room. The star basketball player had just scored the winning play but all his teammates were ignoring him.
The young men in my living room stared intently at the screen.
Finally, the coach came over to the boy, saying, "Nice game," and handed the star a can of underarm deodorant. The boy took the can and sprayed it under his arms. In seconds the entire team gathered around him and congratulated him on his game.
"All right!" one of the young men in the living room said, which is, as I understand it, the highest compliment teen-ager can pay to anyone or anything."
"Do the knifings and rapes and killings bother you?" I asked. They all looked at me as if I was crazy.
"It's only a TV show," one of the teen-agers said.
"But the bad breath and underarm deodorants are for real?"
"Well, yeh," someone replied. "I mean, that's life. No one likes anyone who smells bad?
Unfortunately, the next commercial had to do with constipation. It showed an old man who didn't want to go fishing until his wife gave him a new mint-flavored laxative.
The kids laughed at this one.
What's so damn funny?" I wanted to know.
"Who ever heard of a guy who wouldn't go fishing until his wife gave him a new laxative?" a teen-ager said.
It suddenly dawned on me that these kids were in a world of their own, and the American Cancer Society's new lbad-breath campaign just might work.