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NYC Unveils More Hard-Hitting Stop-Smoking Ads

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New ads from the New York City Department of Health try to convince smokers to quit for the sake of their children. But some observers say the ads — which feature a crying child lost in a train station — are a little too realistic, MSNBC reported April 2.

“This is how your child feels after losing you for a minute. Just imagine if they lost you for life,” says a voiceover in the ad, part of a stop-smoking campaign that includes public-service messages and high tobacco taxes that have helped push the price of a pack of cigarettes in the city over $9.

Advertising executive Donny Deutsch praised the ad in a conversation with Today Show host Matt Lauer. “Say you smoke. If I said to you, 'Matt, stop smoking, it's going to hurt your lungs.' But if I say, 'Hey, Matt, you've got kids, how about if your boy's team won a Little League game without his dad?', that's going to get to you.”

Critics, however, questioned whether the child could really be acting given his seemingly sincere anguish, and some said the ads were manipulative. “This kid can't be more than 4. Isn't it fair to assume they actually put the kid in a situation like that, and people are angry about that?” Lauer asked Deutsch.

“Kids are very good actors,” said Deutsch, who was not involved in producing the ad. “Maybe sometimes they make a kid cry, but if it saves 20,000 lives for five seconds of crying, I'll take it.”

Deutsch added that British health officials had aired a much tougher ad showing children talking about their parents dying from smoking. “I don't think you need to go that far to get the message across,” he said. “The ads airing here don't scare kids — but you can't watch them and not be affected.”

“What we're trying to do is bring home to people the results of smoking,” said New York health commissioner Thomas Freiden. “For this ad, you get the sense that not only might you suffer and die, but you're going to leave your family behind.”

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