Advertising is a formidable force helping to persuade unmade minds. 2003 was a landmark year for health and wellbeing, the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002 was enacted ensuring advertisements for tobacco and smoking products were outlawed.
Alongside smoking and its detrimental consequences for health and healthcare services, next in line of sight is the automotive industry. A report compiled by the New Weather Foundation, KR Foundation and Possible UK calls for a ban on SUV adverts to counteract the damage caused by 4×4 transport. The document looks at past lessons from successful campaigns to outlaw advertisements for harmful tobacco products and notes how 1.6 million billboard adverts were seen each day and the number of children who began smoking was 450 every 24 hours.
Following a detailed history of smoking, the industry, its cause of ill health and how tobacco corporations used doctors and lobbied government, it compares how the fossil fuel industry uses and applies the same tactics. The authors demonstrate how the fossil fuel industry (in particular ExxonMobile) knew of climate change as far back as the 1980’s but failed to act on its findings.
Of the many dangers fossil fuels pose, polluted air from cars are by far, a more dangerous prospect. The report notes:
“The parallels between smoking and advertising climate-damaging activities like driving gas-guzzlers are, if not exact, oddly close. Tobacco causes damage to the consumers, and tobacco companies benefit from the way that they hook their most loyal customers, and while, for example, SUVs are marketed as providing protection for drivers, their physical size, weight and pollution levels create a more dangerous and toxic urban environment for both drivers and pedestrians.”
The WHO discloses 9 out of 10 people breathe polluted air every day and 7 million people die as a consequence of exposure to fine particles that penetrate deep within the lungs. A further 4.2 million deaths were reported in 2016 caused by ambient air pollution.
So is a call to ban advertisements for SUVs or even cars in general a strict move? Not when you assess the aforementioned statistics regarding premature deaths from air pollution. Outlawing SUV advertisements will be a step in the right direction, and may even force the automotive industries into applying their manufacturing line to develop better, stronger electric vehicles.
If tobacco advertisements have the power to normalise smoking to people of all ages, then the same can be said for environmentally damaging dirty car designs. It is only logical to ban them considering the climate crisis, which is making short work of invertebrates, mammals and people alike.