It was the 10,000th spin of the same Nastiya video on YouTube enthralling my five-year-old. I was just about to gag when the now more and more frequent sign of “ad in five seconds” popped up and we both saw a young man prancing around, smiling and dancing for no reason and peppering the canvas on the floor with resultant splotches.
I sat speechless as the interminable ad peddled something that, after reading the finest of fine prints, turned out to be “nicotine patches”, while a label at the bottom helpfully declared “only for people aged 18+”. Which is exactly as effective as our local channels showing graphic content with the sign “Bachay na dekhen” (children should not watch this). How naive is the assumption that children (or their parents) heed these warnings?
The wrongness doesn’t stop there. We all know that tobacco cannot be advertised in any shape or form and on any media. We also know that most habitual smokers take up the habit way, way earlier than we care to admit. That is why Pakistani law dictates that there should be no cigarette marketing activity within 50 yards of a school or seminary.
So, graphic content should not be consumed by the young. Nicotine and alcohol too. Does that mean that the second someone turns 18, they are free to destroy their lives? Moreover, nicotine patches are essentially a product for someone who is trying to quit smoking.
The brand has also hopped on the bandwagon of sponsoring a music show, which is all over social media, with the helpful warning, “only for people aged 18+”. I can write a book about how appalling the show is. From the flickery, stuttery, trying-too-hard visual to the mediocre songs to the insufferably artificial crowd in the galleries - hey, ever heard of COVID-19? - but that’s not the point. The point is: the show is selling what is essentially a cigarette substitute. It is in fact a consequence of smoking since no one willing to smoke will decide to shift to nicotine patches straightaway. Therefore, this product is encouraging smoking! And that is why, its advertisements do not belong on social media. Especially on channels that are targeted at youngsters.
Talha bin Hamid is an accountant by day and an opinionated observer of pop culture, an avid reader, a gamer and an all-around nerd by night. firstname.lastname@example.org