Spreading the 'truth' about the consequences of smoking

You may know them from the television ads: the body bags piled outside tobacco company offices; the man in a rat suit who emerges gasping from a subway station with a sign about the cyanide in cigarette smoke.

The "Truth" campaign is responsible for these ads. And this summer, it's taking its message – that tobacco companies use lies and manipulation to market their products – on the road.

On a blistering hot day in East Boston last week, the INFKT Truth Tour's bright orange van joined the punk rock and metal bands of the popular Vans Warped Tour. In this crowd of rebellious youth, a sea of mohawks, tattoos, and body piercings, the van draws one of the biggest crowds. Who knew that not smoking could be so cool?

Characterizing the campaign as simply antismoking may be simplistic, though. According to Hope Reid, event manager for the Truth Tour's New York region, the tour is "anti-lies, antimanipulation, but not antismoker."

Games such as tug-of-war and the limbo lure teens to the van. Olivier Grange, the day's emcee, sends visitors on a scavenger hunt for partly eaten fries and pieces of fried dough.

At one trailer, aspiring actors make short video clips. Some rap; others just speak their minds. The clips can be e-mailed to friends and may be used in future Truth TV commercials.

The in-your-face attitude of the Truth Tour appeals to visitors, Mr. Reid says, because "the people we're trying to reach are rebellious as it is."

Chris O'Neill, with dyed black hair and a ring through his lip, agrees. He isn't a smoker, he says. But if he were, the campaign would make him want to quit. "They're definitely convincing with their commercials."

The Truth Tour will be visiting most major US cities this summer. To find out when the van will be near you, visit www.thetruth.com.

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