Smokey Bear, longtime mascot for the United States Forest Service, came under fire this weekend for advocating that children start using chewing tobacco.
His new slogan, “Only Snuff Can Prevent Forest Fires,” is beginning to fill billboards, TV commercials, and magazine advertisements across the country. The new campaign, though promoting the same goal of preventing wildfires, takes a drastically different angle on the issue.
While previous crusades have promoted moral behavior as the ideal way in which to prevent fire, Bear says that this approach is simply not applicable to modern youth.
“When I first started doing this 60 years ago, America was a different place,” Bear lamented on NBC’s Dateline. “Children were more polite, the greater good was of higher concern, women weren’t allowed to leave the house, and kids could be beaten for even thinking of their parents divorcing. It was easy to convince people to practice fire safety.
“Now, we find ourselves in a different age. The only way to get through to this new ‘Ke$ha and cocaine’ generation is to give my message in a different way.”
The billboards specifically feature Smokey Bear’s trademark ranger hat replaced with a flat baseball cap, his name belt buckle swapped for a golden dollar bill, and his shovel discarded in exchange for a ghetto blaster. In the ad, Smokey discusses the positives of chewing tobacco while making disparaging comments about cigarettes.
Parent groups from around the country have come together to decry the new campaign.
Smokey, however, has remained committed to his new message.
“What do you expect me to do? This is the way the world works now,” a clearly agitated Smokey said. “I can either change with the times, or die out like the rest of America’s 50’s icons. And, let’s be honest, I’d be a much greater loss than those racist Bugs Bunny cartoons.”