While young people around the world were watching MTV's Video Music Awards show Sunday night, they got an eyeful of entertainers with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths.
The less-than-glamorous images flashed by in a new anti-tobacco ad that premiered Sunday and will be airing nationally.
The ad features Rihanna, Orlando Bloom, Lady Gaga, Kiefer Sutherland and a montage of other celebrities who were photographed smoking in their off time. As edgy music plays, the label 'Unpaid tobacco spokesperson' flashes up repeatedly. The ad urges celebrities to quit helping foster the outdated notion that smoking is cool.
'Every time one of these photos gets posted, big tobacco gets tons of free marketing,' the ad says.
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said Monday that he helped get the new ad campaign on the air. Miller is a board member of Legacy, the anti-tobacco group sponsoring the ads. The group is financed with money from a $206 billion settlement that tobacco companies made with Iowa and 45 other states in 1998.
Miller noted that public health surveys have shown sharp declines in smoking, including among young people. In 2012, 11% of Iowa high school juniors and 3% of eighth-graders admitted in surveys that they had smoked in the past 30 days. In 2008, those figures were 24% and 5%, state reports show.
Miller said the Legacy group is spending $50 million of that money on its stop-smoking campaign this year. The new series of ads will be the centerpiece.
Miller said the new ads are similar to ones the group aired several years ago, called the 'Truth Campaign.'
The ads don't lecture teens about the perils of smoking. Instead, the ads aim to harness young people's inclination to rebel against authorities who they believe are taking advantage of them, he said.
'The 'Truth Campaign' took the approach that the tobacco companies are manipulating you, the tobacco companies are using you,' Miller said.
Iowa used to use some of its tobacco-settlement money to create and air graphic ads created by a youth group called 'Just Eliminate Lies.' That campaign ended several years ago, after the Legislature slashed financing for anti-tobacco efforts.
Jeneane Moody, a board member of the Iowa Tobacco Prevention Alliance, said federal experts recommend that Iowa spend $30 million per year on anti-tobacco efforts. Instead, she said, Iowa is spending just $5.1 million.
'A mere pittance' of that amount is being spent to counter the $90 million per year that tobacco companies spend on marketing in Iowa, she said at a news conference Monday with Miller.
Moody said her group would continue to push lawmakers to spend at least the $12.3 million per year they were spending several years ago. She said Iowa is receiving $60 million to $70 million per year from the tobacco settlement and should use more of that money to counter smoking.
Miller agreed with Moody's call for more state spending on the effort. He said studies show the anti-smoking campaigns are helping dramatically decrease tobacco use among teens and adults. Miller said the number of cigarettes sold in the United States has dropped 40% since 1998.