5 Idiotic Health Campaigns That Backfired (Hilariously)

#2. California's "Healthy Lunchbox" Program, Now with Lead

Breaking news: Kids are fat! Many of them anyway. If you remember the days when a small group of overweight kids roamed the halls having their lives made miserable at the hands of the svelte majority, it's been a long time since you were in school. These days, the fat kids are the majority. That's what happens when your school lunch menu boasts items like "White Chocolate Macadamia Foodloaf" and "Chewy Runt Nachos."

Also delicious on salads.

Facing a potentially drastic plunge in the amount of hot ass strolling the future streets of Los Angeles, the state of California decided to take action against childhood obesity with the Healthy Lunchbox Campaign. The idea behind the program was pretty simple. Hundreds of thousands of lunch bags emblazoned with various reminders to eat healthy were handed out to California school kids.

Did the kids read or pay any attention to the messages on the bags? Probably not. Did they use the bags to haul Cheetos and cans of Jolt Cola to school? Most likely. But that's not the problem here.


We consulted with our team of scientists and they did confirm that giving kids bags to haul goodies around in probably won't help with the problem of childhood obesity. We had to do that because California never got to the "is this shit working?" stage with their program. Just a couple of months into the school year, the Sacramento County Public Health Department ran tests on the free lunch bags and found that they were tainted with lead. A shocking development, considering the bags were made in China.

With the knowledge that their lunch bags were filled with unhealthy levels of sweet, delicious, brain damage-causing lead, government officials leaped into action. Just joking, they actually waited two fucking months before issuing a recall. They defended their delayed response by saying that they had to wait for "more confirmation tests." And who are we to judge? Maybe those first few tainted bags belonged to those weird kids who smell like piss and sniff markers all day.

When the additional testing excuse failed to please irate parents, the Consumer Product Safety Commission fell back on a stone cold classic excuse: Blame George Bush. Because of budget cuts by the Bush administration, they claimed to be short on funds and staff. Apparently, typing up a letter informing people that their kids are hauling around lead lunch bags and shooting it off to news agencies is a pretty labor intensive effort. We can sympathize, it took eight Cracked staffers 17 months just to write this one paragraph.

#1. A Tobacco Company's Anti-Smoking Campaign Somehow Fails

Launched in 1999 by the tobacco company Phillip Morris, the Talk: They'll Listen campaign was intended to encourage parents to talk to their kids about smoking. An anti-smoking campaign run by a tobacco company? Brilliant! What could possibly go wrong?

According to Phillip Morris research, the program was a success. A survey of 1,000 parents of kids aged 10-17 showed that 60 percent of the parents were aware of the ads. Of those parents, 54 percent had discussed smoking with their child. The statistics don't indicate how many of those discussions involved parents asking to borrow cigarettes from their kids.


Tobacco companies are a sly bunch. While the intent of the program seemed legit, critics argued that the real purpose of the program was to encourage teen smoking. As anyone who has ever raised a teenager can confirm, telling a teen they can't do something usually just makes them want to do it even more. Also confirmed, telling high school chicks they are absolutely forbidden from celebrating their 18th birthday by sleeping with well hung Internet comedy writers is a sure way to summon the police. Especially when you follow it up with a wink and the double barreled finger point.

"Bang bang!"

Anyway, it was exactly this type of reverse psychology that was at work in the Talk: They'll Listen campaign. Instead of relying on the mountains of health reasons why smoking is bad, the basic message here was "teens shouldn't smoke... because they're teens." Exactly the kind of shit kids like to hear. According to a study of youths in the 10th-12th grade range, they were 12 percent more likely to smoke for each parent targeted ad they had seen in the last 30 days.

Phillip Morris representatives would not comment on the findings, presumably because they were preoccupied with booze soaked celebrating and harvesting souls for the devil.

Adam writes for ScenicAnemia.com, it's the shit.

For more laws and campaigns that failed miserably, check out 5 Government Programs That Backfired Horrifically and The 5 Most Popular Safety Laws (That Don't Work).


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