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'Truth' takes shots at tobacco's friendly face

A singing corpse. A wink at death, a nod at cancer. The new spot spoofs big tobacco's charitable ads.

©Associated Press

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 31, 2001

A singing corpse. A wink at death, a nod at cancer. The new spot spoofs big tobacco's charitable ads.

ORLANDO -- The Florida Department of Health is releasing a new antismoking commercial that spoofs Philip Morris' recent ads highlighting the company's charitable acts.

The new ad, titled "Focus on the Positive," features a singing corpse, dancing tobacco executives and lyrics such as "Every eight seconds a smoker dies -- it's becoming routine! But let's stay focused on the positive. Those seven seconds in between."

A two-minute version of the commercial starts airing Thursday in 40 AMC movie theaters around Florida. A one-minute cut will be aired in Florida television markets and on MTV and BET starting Friday. The commercial cost $618,000 to make and will run through the end of December.

The commercial is part of the Health Department's "truth" advertising campaign created from an $11.3-billion settlement with tobacco companies.

The minimusical opens with teens questioning tobacco executives about tobacco products. The executives then burst into song and dance, telling the teens to "focus on the positive."

"So what if they removed a lung?" a tobacco executive sings to a patient in an operating room. "You shouldn't be depressed."

"It's really for the best," adds a nurse.

"It's something off your chest," a teen sings.

Others then sing: "And yes we know that tobacco causes cancer of the bladder! It doesn't really matter -- they make diapers for adults!"

The campaign is a takeoff on a Philip Morris Companies Inc. advertising campaign that focuses on the company's charitable contributions for college scholarships and free meals. A subsidiary, Philip Morris USA, is the nation's leading cigarette manufacturer.

Philip Morris USA spokesman Tom Ryan said the company supports efforts to curb youth smoking and that the commercial ignores the fact that the company recently has publicized the health problems caused by smoking.

"It certainly is funny, but unfortunately it's not true," Ryan said of the commercial. "We're committed to dealing with the complex and controversial issues related to cigarettes."

The company's Web site has a section called "Health Issues for Smokers" that states, "We agree with the overwhelming medical and scientific consensus that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and other serious diseases in smokers."

The Health Department also will place promotional materials tied to the "Focus on the Positive" campaign in movie theaters and place billboards in theater lobbies. A "truth" truck also will visit participating movie theaters. Teens will be able to play video games and receive free T-shirts in the truck's lounge.

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