Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health member Jim McCune told the board Wednesday that he objects to the department’s use of the anti-tobacco slogan “suck on this” on T-shirts, saying it’s “very seductive and sexual in nature.”
With the high rate of sexually transmitted diseases in Pierce County, the phrase “is not good wording,” said McCune, who’s also a Pierce County Council member.
Other board members praised the use of the slogan to capture young people’s attention.
“I don’t think it’s sexual in nature,” said Dr. Steve Cook, a family practice physician in Tacoma. It’s confronting young people with the message: “This is what you’re doing, you’re sucking these toxins into your body,” he said.
“It’s an urgent campaign,” Cook said. “More and more kids are smoking cigarettes.”
The campaign was launched last month when youth volunteers for the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department wore neon orange and green T-shirts with the slogan at the Pierce County Fair in Graham.
The logo is printed on T-shirts and decals, followed by unpleasant information about smoking.
“Suck on this,” the shirt says in large letters, followed by smaller print: “One hour of hookah = 150 cigarettes.”
The Health Department plans to have volunteers wearing T-shirts with the slogan outside the gates of the Washington State Fair in Puyallup, which starts Friday. They’re also appearing outside local concerts.
Rusty George Creative, a Tacoma advertising and design firm, came up with slogan and others for the campaign. The $50,000 spent so far came from the Health Department’s budget for 2012 and this year.
Of six board members at Wednesday’s meeting, McCune was the only one who objected to the slogan. The Graham Republican said he’s received complaints by email and at church.
Last week, McCune wrote a letter of complaint to Health Department Director Anthony L-T Chen. McCune sent copies to all his fellow members of the health board and the County Council.
Board member Patricia Johnson said the slogan is necessary to grab people’s attention.
“If it makes people stop and think, that’s what we paid for,” said Johnson, mayor of Buckley. “I just think it’s a great campaign.”
No one from the public showed up to comment Wednesday.Steve Maynard: 253-597-8647 steve.maynard@ thenewstribune.com @TNTstevemaynard