HHS Kills $250K Public Health Campaign; Deja Vu

HHS Kills $250K Public Health Campaign; Deja Vu, Professor Saved Earlier Campaign Featuring Brooke Shields

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HHS Kills Covid 19 Public Health and Reopening America Public Service Announcements and Advertising Campaign

WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 25, 2020) - The Department of Health and Human Services [HHS] has abruptly dropped a $250 million public health campaign - titled the “Covid 19 Public Health and Reopening America Public Service Announcements and Advertising Campaign” - amid controversy over whether those portraying Santa and his elves in a video should get preference in receiving a COVID vaccine.

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This isn't the first time HHS has bowed to pressure and cancelled a major and expensive public health campaign, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who played a major role in another situation in which the Reagan administration refused to release a very effective antismoking campaign because it might appear to sexy.

HHS under President Jimmy Carter, having discovered that trying to simply scare teens into not trying cigarettes was not very effective, decided to instead try a tactic suggested by Banzhaf and his antismoking organization; poke fun at the popular cigarette adverting message that smoking made a person sexy, suave, sophisticated, and sociable.

Being With People Who Smoke

So the agency paid almost $70,000 to produce video messages in which teen actress Brooke Shields poked fun at the industry's messages by putting cigarettes in her ears and proclaiming that it made her sexy, and by announcing that "If there's anything I hate, it's washing my hair and then being with people who smoke."

However, by the time the messages were supposed to debut, Ronald Reagan had assumed office, and his officials determined that Shields - probably the best known and most influential teen at the time - was just too sexy for this new conservative administration.

So Banzhaf threatened to file a Freedom of Information Act [FOIA] complaint to obtain the video messages, and to then make them available to large public health organizations such as the American Lung Association to broadcast.

His tactic was successful, and the Brooke Shields antismoking messages were aired, and proved to be very effective, says Banzhaf.