Traumafessions:: MaryR on Fire Safety & Anti-Smoking PSAs

Like most ‘70s kids, our television selections were the three networks and PBS so my television viewing was pretty well limited to educational stuff like Sesame Street and Electric Company with the occasional avant garde kids shows like the almost counter-cultural Zoom and the elusive Hodge Podge Lodge. Since children’s educational programming was in its infancy, things that have since been deleted or would never even make it past the censors was common fare. Psychedelic scenes, barely toned down music and dances (I remember one African themed dance group that would have made Katie Perry‘s short skirt and cleavage look tame- this one prompted my grandmother to change the channel) and frankly scary clips dominated this new genre of television.

The one clip that scared me the most featured the word “Burn” with a spooky female voice saying, “Burn” and then the letters bursting into flames. I don’t know why this terrified me so much but since I had accidentally seen a show about spontaneous human combustion that had kept me awake with screaming nightmares for weeks, anything with fire in it was horrifying to me. I’m actually not sure if “Burn” was on Sesame Street or Electric Company but I would close my eyes and plug my ears when it came on. A YouTube search hasn’t produced any results either.

A fire phobia didn’t stop me from smoking as a teenager and young adult. That is until the horrific anti-smoking PSAs started coming on around the mid 1990’s- by then Joe Camel and any advertisement that could possibly induce kids to smoke was banned but commercials better suited to the horror genre started showing up. As an adult I felt sorry for the horribly afflicted people but I was still horrified by the ads, which generally showed up after 10pm.

One showed a lady (now deceased) smoking a cigarette through the hole in her neck which gave me cold chills and another featured a lady who had numerous surgeries and treatments that left her with a bizarre sounding robotic voice and sadly disfigured face. One night I woke up to the spot- thinking it was some sort of sci-fi horror film, something like a human machine hybrid like the Borg on Voyager or something- to my half asleep brain it was terrifying. I was almost disappointed to find out it was a sad terminally ill human who has since exited from her pain. I quit smoking after that.


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8 years ago

Awesome write up!

While it’s not old, this PSA from Canada on domestic abuse rattled my chains 8 years or so ago…

8 years ago

that link is wrong, THIS one…