Ads run by the New York City Health Department to combat smoking and obesity can be harsh, depending on whether or not you bruise like a banana in a stiff breeze. Following the relative failures of national anti-cigarette and anti-drug campaigns, the Times asks, do scare tactics work? And do the city's ads qualify as "scary?" "The definition of a scare tactic is a non-credible risk message," Steve Pasierb, the president of the Partnership at Drugfree.org says. Can someone please tell the people at Five Gum that?

The city's Health Department maintains that because smoking and diabetes are in fact responsible for horrific consequences, the ads are accurate. “When science tells us that smoking does not cause lung cancer or that obesity is not driving an epidemic of Type 2 diabetes, we will stop depicting those facts in ads," the agency says in a statement.

"Until then we are going to accurately convey the facts in our advertising—advertising that has helped to successfully reduce smoking in New York City to a historic low of 14 percent, saving thousands of lives.”

Absent is any mention of the insane price of cigarettes or the fact that you can't smoke them anywhere. Still, this refocusing of the debate towards the effectiveness of scary ads versus the ridiculous implication that the Health Department exploits the models who appear in them strikes us as a marked improvement. Worthy of a Twitter battle between Times reporters and Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson.

“You need a multitude of approaches,” Mr. Pasierb adds. “No one ad is right for all people.” This seems sensible to us!

On a related note: does anyone know where to get any of the weed that this girl is smoking?