The Sklar Brothers/"Become an Ex" Strike Positive Chord in Fight to Quit Smoking
The smoking-is-bad talk from my parents went something like this: They sat me down on the family-room sofa, much the same way they did when they told me about an uncle's imminent divorce and when we watched the Cheers finale. They cleared their throats a bunch of times and approached the topic from a point somewhere north of Nova Scotia ("there are things that are bad for you, and can have terrible consequences, but we trust you to make good decisions"). This led me to believe that I was about to get a second birds-and-bees primer; the first one, delivered by dad alone, consisted of a few words about the previous night's Yankee game and the ceremonial conveyance of my first bar of deodorant. Then dad declared that smokers' clothes smell stale and smoky, while mom backed up that assertion by saying that she had never ever never nuh-uh nope tried a cigarette, but that she too found the smell of smokers' clothes distasteful.
Thus a 12-year-old Larry, convinced that smoking had no noxious effects beyond diminishing the aromatic appeal of his hoodie sweatshirt, proceeded to sneak cigarettes behind the Baskin-Robbins for the next few weeks. Ultimately I arrived at the conclusion that smoking makes me cough - and that given the choice between coughing and not coughing, I come down hard on the side of not coughing - but I did so without parental or peer counsel. I believe this is what developmental psychiatrists refer to as a "climactic self-actualization milestone."
So while I've never had much personal use for anti-smoking ads or PSAs, I've always viewed them with some amusement. Over the last few decades, their tone has devolved from gently scolding to incoherent and trippy to hyperbolically alarmist. The idea seems to be that if straightforward conveyance of the facts doesn't work, browbeating and scaring the bejeebus out of smokers might. Hell, maybe that's the way to go: It's not possible to watch an anti-smoking PSA nowadays without coming away thinking that a single puff will render you hypertensive and toeless.
That's why I'm a fan of "Become an Ex", a new program from the National Alliance for Tobacco Cessation designed to help smokers quit. Its reasoned approach is long overdue; it downplays scare tactics in favor of judgment-free support. In essence, the campaign says, "Okay, you smoke. So does the President. This doesn't make you a bad person or him a job-slaying Kenyan national. Let's beat this thing together." For once, a tagline gets it exactly right: "Become an Ex" is absolutely, unequivocally "a new way to think about quitting."
Most of the campaign consists of educational resources, with the sporadic "Beat Your Craving" panic button and contest to win nicotine patches thrown in for good measure. But "Become an Ex" diverges mostly sharply from previous anti-smoking efforts owing to the presence of The Sklar Brothers, who host a weekly social-media wrap-up on the site: "The Tweekly News," in which they "break down the week through the frivolous prism that is Twitter."
It doesn't have a whole lot to do with smoking, frankly; tonally, it's more "I Love the 90s" than if-you-don't-ditch-the-smokey-treats-your-lungs-will-calcify. But the brothers have more than a paycheck connection to the campaign - they talk in the first clip about a grandmother lost to cancer - and provide the exact diversion the campaign promises ("it's tough to smoke when you're laughing").
Produced in conjunction with My Damn Channel - the most ambitious and consistently funniest of the online comedy repositories - "The Tweekly News" coasts by on the brothers' repartee. They've refined their finishing-each-other's-sentences act: Relating an item about a poorly worded Gwyneth Paltrow tweet, one Sklar delivers the set-up ("it's best not to use the N-word if you're white…") and the other drives it home ("…bordering on translucent").
I'm generally not a fan - the less said about "Back on Topps," the better - but they're perfect in this role, delivering quips and the requisite anti-smoking plugs ("we're here, we're sponsored - get used to it") with an easy rhythm. Whoever made the call to add them - to add humor - to a campaign of this ilk deserves a nice pat on the back for his/her audacious thinking.