Legalization has arrived in Canada but not that long ago, no one would have believed it possible. That is glaringly obvious if you remember the ’80s and the ’90s when Canadian television aired anti-drug PSAs that were especially strange and fear-mongering.
Take a walk down nostalgia lane with us and revisit some of the most traumatic commercials of your childhood.
From the creepy music to the menacing voice-overs, jagged camera work and the very young girl smoking–everything about this commercial is meant to make you feel like you just witnessed something very, very disturbing.
The message: your kids are watching your every move and will copy everything you do, so you better be a perfect angel in front of them or you’ll end up raising a future stalker who will force your bad habit on her teddy bear. Never before or since has a little girl seemed so destined for evil.
If you watched Canadian TV at all in the ’90s you will remember this ad that seemed to air more than commercials for Coke and Pepsi combined. It proposes that with each hit you take, another wire in your brain is cut, until all the wiring is completely destroyed. It plays on the fear that if you do drugs at all, your brain will be permanently irreversibly damaged, which is far from the truth.
In a PSA literally titled “Losers,” this PSA shows us that smoking weed will make you a big dumb loser. “Yeah, we like to party. Did I say that already?” Trying to convince Canadians that cannabis makes you stupid was a common tactic to discourage use. Remember when kids used to use the word “dork” as an insult?
This MTV ad is a whopper: not only will smoking cannabis make you gay–it’ll make you incest! Imagine something this shamey and gross being aired today? It’s shocking this ever made it on the air, but then again, when this aired, the idea that cannabis would be legalized in Canada would have sounded like a joke. Apparently, the point of the commercial was to convince users not to smoke and drive… though we’re not sure how guys sitting in a car making out really makes that point.
In this lovely work of anti-drug fiction circa 1993, a puppet resembling Lou Reed at his most strung out offers two very young child puppets drugs, by opening his hands and showing off a whole bunch of used needles, joints and pills. Why were two little kids walking down a dark Canadian alley in the first place? Why would a dealer sell to five-year-olds? Why would he have his hands full of a random assortment of drugs? Why are they flashing photos of Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, John Lennon, and other beloved rock stars on the screen as though little kids would understand the reference?
It makes no sense, but when he takes off his glasses and reveals the scariest eyes you’ll ever see on a puppet, we know the purpose wasn’t to make sense, but to give Canadian children nightmares to last a lifetime.
Because there are kids who need to take medically prescribed drugs for health conditions, we assume the thought behind this one was to help kids stop fearing all the drugs all the time. Had Canadian kids witnessed so many scary anti-drug PSAs that they no longer wanted to take their banana flavored penicillin? It seems probable. Though flashing drug paraphernalia and telling five-year-olds those drugs could get them in trouble with the law seems a bit much. “Drugs drugs drugs, which are good which are bad? Drugs drugs drugs, ask your mom or ask your dad.” You’ll be singing this tune for the rest of the day. You’re welcome.