Even if condoms are advertised 24/7, there is unlikely to be much impact on the teenage pregnancy rate. Girls who get pregnant usually know about condoms already; so do their boyfriends. Ignorance is not the excuse. Condoms also have a relatively high failure rate – often because people fail to get them out of the packet and on to the necessary part. But they are far better than nothing, and their prime-time advertising should not have been banned until now.
Using condoms has no adverse health effects, unlike consuming chocolate – they will not make you fat or rot your teeth. And they are not shocking any more. The pregnancy charity which claims advertising them throughout the day is going to encourage young people to have sex displays a touching and naïve faith in the power of advertising. If only toothpaste adverts throughout the day encouraged kids to clean their teeth, it would make bedtime rituals a lot easier.
The risk is not that condom ads will inflame the passions of the nation, but that they will pass unnoticed. But let's not rain on the parading of prophylactics. If ads encourage people to use condoms more, then great. If they encourage more living-room chats about contraception, so much the better. My fear is that the condom makers will be so desperate to demonstrate respect for taste and decency, they will make utterly dull ads. The first advert for the morning-after pill on national TV last April provoked outrage from pro-life campaigners and yawns from everyone else. Will ads for condoms make kids want to use them? We should hope they will – and fear they won't.
The writer is chief executive of Bpas, formerly the British Pregnancy Advisory Service