Video of the Day: Thank You for Smoking, From Big Tobacco

By David A. Graham

A tongue-in-cheek ad extolls the reasons Californians can be thankful for cigarette companies.

Back in the fall, a team put together a spot for interim San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee -- featuring MC Hammer, Twitter's Biz Stone, the Giants' Brian Wilson, and will.i.am -- that Chris Good rightly dubbed "the best campaign ad of the year" in this space. Lee went on to win the mayoralty on a permanent basis, becoming the first Asian-American to hold the job.

Now the same ad team (though sadly not the same cast) is back with a spot in support of Proposition 29. For non-Californians, that's a ballot issue that seeks to increase the tax on a pack of cigarettes by a dollar to $1.87, raising a projected $735 million in revenue and paying for cancer research, smoking-reduction programs, and tobacco-law enforcement. The hike would move the Golden State well up the list of per-pack taxes, but still place it far behind New York ($4.35) and with a lower rate than a host of other states, such as Alaska, Maine, and Michigan ($2.00). The measure is backed by the American Cancer Association and American Lung Association, and opposed by anti-tax groups like Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform.

Unsurprisingly, it's also opposed by tobacco companies. That's where this ad comes in, with tongue-in-cheek endorsements: "I support Big Tobacco because I their ads ... and so do my kids," a mother intones. A farmer deadpans, "I support Big Tobacco because they killed my wife, and that's one less mouth to feed."

A much larger increase failed in 2006, but polling suggests Prop 29 may pass. As for the ad, our verdict: It's a fun, sharp way to make a point, and issue ads are inherently harder to make funny than candidate spots. Still, needs more hammer pants.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/05/video-of-the-day-thank-you-for-smoking-from-big-tobacco/257581/