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And the (stop smoking) winner is...

May 6, 2008 | 12:02 pm


Tune into "American Idol" on Tuesday night and you'll view the grand winner -- nope, not of the "Idol" contest but the California department of health's anti-smoking TV ad competition. Jeff Rubin of Los Angeles, who gave up smoking four years ago, won first place with an entry called "Other Ways to Use a Cigarette" that "highlights the toxic chemicals found in cigarettes," according to the California department of health. Rubin's other uses include paving roads (with tar), cleaning toilets (with ammonia) and killing rats (with arsenic) -- all are inhaled when you smoke a cigarette. The winner was selected by a combination of an online vote by more than 10,000 Californians and a panel of four judges.

Rubin's ad will debut during this Tuesday's "Idol" show in L.A. and Sacramento. You can view it, and other finalists, here.  I took a look: Rubin's ad was snappy and smart. The funniest of the top five (it came in fourth) was "Lonely Cowboy," in which a cowboy out in the fields stubs out a cigarette, informs you that men who smoke are 60% more likely to experience erectile dysfunction, and asks, "Why do you think I spend so much time out here alone?"

The people's choice -- and I found this one the most powerful, too -- was "Left Behind," which came in third. It portrayed a variety of happy family scenes -- such as dad playing ball in the backyard with his son, and a husband and wife at a celebratory dinner with their grown children. Then the scene fades to a boy standing alone in his yard (his dad presumably dead from smoking) and the husband alone, sans wife, at a far more somber dinner table (the wife presumably gone from smoking, too.) One might think the guilt the ad invokes would be more apt to get someone to act than something far more bouncy. But maybe not: Some studies have found that positive messages work better than negative ones in fostering behavior change.

For tips on how to stop smoking, go here.

--Rosie Mestel

Photo: Barbara Walton / EPA