Why Twitter Users Are Calling For The Removal Of A Lollipop Ad From Times Square

"... we can't expect young girls to 'know better' when a billboard is telling them it's safe and cool to use appetite suppressants."

New York City's world-famous Times Square features countless billboards. However, when one advertisement went up for Flat Tummy Co.'s appetite suppressant lollipops, Sophie Vershbow knew she had to speak up.

"The billboard popped up a couple of months ago, and after weeks of seeing young tourists looking up, I knew something had to be done," Vershbow told A Plus.

Thus, Vershbow took to Twitter to share an image of the billboard in question and request that the company remove its ad from this central, high-traffic area.

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Having battled anorexia as a teen, Vershbow has an intimate understanding of how such advertisements can impact those who are already vulnerable to such messaging.

"Life is full of triggers, and my personal recovery has been about acknowledging them, and learning to walk away," Vershbow explained. "There's always going to be a too-thin girl in my workout class or certain fashion magazine at the hair salon to bring up memories of self-harm, but I'm far enough in my recovery to not let those things ruin how far I've come."

"What upset me about the billboard is knowing how effective it would have been on me at 16," she added. "I now have the resources at 28, after years of therapy, to ignore Flat Tummy's advertisements, but we can't expect young girls to 'know better' when a billboard is telling them it's safe and cool to use appetite suppressants."

Vershbow's tweet quickly caught Twitter's attention, prompting outrage from other users who know just how detrimental this sort of messaging can be for young women and girls.

The Good Place actress Jameela Jamil also reposted Vershbow's image of the Times Square billboard to share her disgust over the prominence of this promotion.

"This is maddening and heart breaking, and daylight robbery and abuse of women's self worth," Jamil wrote in a follow-up tweet. This isn't the first time Jamil's taken a stand against Flat Tummy Co., however. Earlier this year, Jamil created an Instagram account dedicated to body positivity after calling out Kim Kardashian for promoting the exact same products on her Instagram.

She subsequently encouraged women to pursue goals beyond getting a flat stomach. ""MAYBE don't take appetite suppressors and eat enough to fuel your BRAIN and work hard and be successful," Jamil tweeted. "And to play with your kids. And to have fun with your friends. And to have something to say about your life at the end, other than 'I had a flat stomach.' "

Jamil's recent post ultimately amplified Vershbow's message, opening Flat Tummy Co. up to further criticism and scrutiny. 

Vershbow noted that, while there's more societal pressure for women to be thin than for men, 10 percent of eating disorder sufferers are, in fact, men, making it clear that no one's free from societal pressures. However, Flat Tummy Co.'s approach has definite sexist undertones, Vershbow explained.

"What strikes me most about Flat Tummy Co's ads isn't that they talk to women, but how they talk to women," she said. "When you visit their website a chat box immediately pops up to say: 'Hey babe, got any questions?' They're trying to manifest as your best friend with an easy new dieting tip, rather than a corporation selling you a product. Ads for men rarely say: 'Hey bro, let me tell you how to get ripped for beach body season.'"

Women's Health explains that, while the lollipops, teas, and other products sold by Flat Tummy Co. are technically supplements, which means they don't require FDA review to go to market, there's no scientific evidence regarding whether they're truly safe to use or if they could trigger health issues in the future. Regardless, it remains to be seen whether or not the public's pressure will force Fall Tummy Co. to remove the billboard much like their outcries inspired Kardashian to remove her Instagram ad.

A Plus has reached out to Flat Tummy Co. for comment.

Cover image via Sophie Vershbow / Twitter

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