Last July 1, 2008 marked a victorious milestone for anti-smoking advocates. On that day, the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003, or Republic Act No. 9211 banned cigarette ads on television, radio and print in our country.
This significant legislation seeks to radically arrest the health risks that smoking brings to many especially the youth. The World Health Organization estimates that there are about 80,000 to 100,000 young people, half of which are from Asia, who pick up the habit every day. And many are strongly influence by cigarette advertisements.
Cigarette manufacturers will have to be more creative and entrepreneurial in finding ways to advertise and sell cigarettes. They have come a long way since the Second World War, –through carefully studied and manipulated marketing–, in converting smoking into something socially acceptable and a status symbol for successful men and women. Now all their efforts are going up in smoke!
Many parents will be more than overjoyed to say goodbye to the scenic and breathtaking ads of Marlboro Country and the enticing sportive worlds of Winston Cigarettes and Philip Morris.
Elders can now sit back and relax as another harmful influence is removed from their children’s path towards physical and psychological growth. Indeed, it would be a consolation to think of a new generation of children who will be fortunate enough to be born and raised in a smoke and nicotine-free world.
Still something seems amiss! As the smoke is cleared and the tar is brushed away, society seems to be unaware –or even indifferent in some public sectors– of the vicious and shameless invasion of indecency and immorality seething through both subtle and glaring modes through many billboards, advertisements, newspapers and magazines.
Imagine overhearing parents –coming out of a movie or after seeing an ad on T.V. and magazines– saying: “That was a great show! No one was smoking!” On the other hand how strange it would be for them to say, “The kissing and necking were really so romantic!” or “The bed scene was so realistic!” and worse, “Kids, don’t you think the young lady acted quite naturally wearing nothing?” If you think these reactions are only imaginary, you can think again.
It won’t be long before they become a reality in the form of increasing subtle attacks against the family’s intimacy and values.
For example, are we going to keep on guessing what GUESS conveys with its children’s fashion frequently displayed back-to-back with an adult counterpart? Are they saying they want to ‘start ‘em young’? Do you think that MOSSIMO, FOLDED & HUNG or BENCH are simply going to warm the benches by copying GUESS? Nope, they’re not. It’s all about competition, even to the point of playing ‘hard-ball’ with their soft-erotic billboards. Were you hoping that some Filipino teen idol or heartthrob could be our children’s model or heroine? Think again! Heroes never really get paid for being movie heroes until they start to publicly display the skin underneath the costume.
All these audio-visual moral garbage are polluting every inch of intimacy in our personal, social and religious spheres. Perhaps, advertisers and producers hope that the faint but intense bombardment of such type of ads and trends will gradually paralyze and eventually ruin the person’s moral defenses and remove from his vocabulary words like modesty and decency. These well crafted sensual ads and messages are among the many causes of today’s moral and social cancers degrading the dignity of the family and the youth.
In order turn around the red tide of indecency invading our society, parents, educators and children must first overcome the great obstacle of indifference. We cannot simply remain silent and wait for “what the Church has to say” or “what the authorities will do”.
We must strive to be the moral catalysts within our respective social spheres where we may exercise a certain amount of authority or influence (i.e. clubs, organizations, committees, etc.). This can positively begin at home, where we sow the proper ingredients of decency, modesty, sincerity and diligence. Our approach must be productive, for example, fostering the good use of time, having a sense of service, and helping kids to be sincere and loyal.
Afterwards, we have to study possibilities on how to extend our influence from the family towards broader social circles (i.e. school, office, malls and recreational centers). This can be done by writing letters to the board of directors, marketing heads, and even complaining to the local authorities so that the dignity of the person and the family are respected and promoted in every social level.
Finally, our concern must be constant and optimistic. Our efforts aren’t really meant to totally remove immoral pollutants from our world –since the devil, the world and the flesh will always attempt to lure man away from God– but it would already be a great victory for our children to develop the strength to say “no” to temptation and sin, and “yes” to loving God and neighbor more.