Trying to gross us out some more

Singapore's Cigarette Box Campaign
Image by Adam Chamness

Every year, the government launches a “new” anti-smoking campaign. Ever year, it tries to gross us out (smokers and non-smokers alike) with ever more graphic images of The Bad Things Smoking Does To Your Body. We’re still living with images of people with throat cancer and rotting teeth on our cigarette packaging, but from what Channel NewsAsia reported last night, the latest campaign will be even more “hard-hitting” and feature graphic TV ads with cancer sufferers.

I’m not surprised that the anti-smoking campaign is sticking with the scare tactic, since to approach it any differently would appear to soften their approach. But does it work with the 12 per cent or so of Singaporeans who smoke? The percentage has gone down by only 3 per cent over the past 6 years (according to the statistics cited in the CNA report).

Anecdotally, I’d say that all my friends who smoke don’t even notice the graphic images on the cigarette packaging anymore. If it’s remarked upon, it’s only to make a dark joke about how one should start collecting the full set — hardly what the anti-smoking campaign intended. Which is the thing about using graphic images for any purpose: after a certain point, the eye simply becomes inured to the image, no matter how initially revolting it was, and then doesn’t “see” it anymore. Plus at a certain point, they’ve simply crossed the line and could be considered as simply bad taste.

Let’s see how much the new TV ad campaign antes up the gross-out quotient then.

1 Comment so far

  1. shoestring (unregistered) on March 22nd, 2007 @ 5:16 pm

    While I do agree that those ads are gross, they aren’t completely ineffective. 3% out of 15% (based on your figures) is reduction of 20%.

    As a non-smoker, those ads are much more tolerable than having to bear with the smoke every time I walk out of an airconditioned building, eat at coffee shops and have to take a longer route just to avoid trailing behind a smoker who is oblivious to the non-smokers around him.

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