New Nicorette commercial perpetuates anti-shark stereotypes

A new commercial for Nicorette gum has been on the air for the last few weeks.

I understand the point that Nicorette is trying to make. Smoking is addictive, quitting smoking is hard, and when you try to quit smoking you might have trouble focusing on the world around you. Products that help people quit smoking are a good thing and I’m hesitant to criticize them in any way, but this commercial is troubling.

After “Jaws” came out, millions of people were afraid to swim along beaches, but at least they felt safe on land. In this commercial, a shark leaves the water entirely to attack a person and continues to bite the poor smoker’s arm.

Obviously, this commercial portrays shark behavior in a completely unrealistic way. Sharks do not go out of their way to attack people. Sharks do not venture out of the water to hunt (though dolphins do). Most shark “attacks” stop immediately after the first bite as the shark realizes that we are not food.I learned this as a toddler, which means it isn’t exactly breaking news. It’s reasonable to expect people to know this.

Perhaps I am overreacting to what was clearly supposed to be a joke and not a documentary about shark behavior. However, as I’ve stated many times, shark conservation requires that people care about sharks. As people realize that sharks are ecologically important and threatened, sharks will be better protected. Perpetuating false stereotypes about sharks as mindless killing machines who exist only to attack people who go in (or near) the water detracts from this goal.

Nicorette is a great product, but it simply isn’t necessary to perpetuate fears about sharks to sell gum that helps people quit smoking. You can help people without hurting sharks.


May 14, 2010 • 4:32 pm