In an effort to curb tobacco use among youths, ClearWay Minnesota has launched a commercial that depicts school bus passengers lighting up.
An ad that aims to curb youth smoking is under fire for its provocative approach: showing students lighting up cigarettes on school buses.
The commercial, from anti-tobacco organization ClearWay Minnesota, started airing in the state in January.
The Minnesota School Bus Operators Association (MSBOA) took issue with the ad and has been working to get it off the air.
“While the MSBOA appreciates the efforts to reduce youth smoking, we believe the use of the school bus is wholly inappropriate,” the association wrote on Facebook. “Viewers who see this commercial may believe that children are permitted to smoke on the school bus or be exposed to secondhand smoke, something that is patently false.”
MSBOA’s attorney sent a letter to ClearWay Minnesota asking it to cease circulation of the commercial.
In late January, ClearWay modified its media buy to have the ad air only after 8 p.m., noting that its intended audience is adults.
In response to criticism on Facebook, ClearWay wrote that “the spot does not attempt to depict a real school bus experience; school buses were used because of their instant associations with children and because of their ability to suggest the large numbers of youth who use tobacco products.”
Shelly Jonas, executive administrator of MSBOA, told SBF last week that the ad is still running at night. She said that a few legislators have joined their efforts to stop it.
ClearWay's use of the yellow bus isn't limited to the commercial. Another element of the organization's campaign is a diagram that has school bus icons representing the number of middle school and high school tobacco users in Minnesota. Each of the 77 buses in the chart represents 1,000 tobacco-using students — 77,000 total.
MSBOA wrote on Facebook that ClearWay’s ad campaign “defames the hard-working businesses and personnel working in the school transportation industry who strive to provide schoolchildren with the safest transportation possible.”
The commercial can be viewed here.