BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Talking Point  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Monday, 10 June, 2002, 15:58 GMT 16:58 UK
Tobacco ads: Do shock tactics work?
European countries could soon be including graphic images showing the dangers of smoking on cigarette packets in an effort to deter people from lighting up.

The images placed on packets could include yellowed teeth, diseased gums and lung tumours if European regulators endorse the hard-hitting ads.

After Canada adopted a similar strategy two years ago, 63% of Canadians questioned in a survey said that the shocking images were effective.

Do you think smokers are more likely to kick the habit if they are faced with a shocking image every time they pick up a packet? Or will such tactics have little impact on nicotine addicts?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

This idea is fantastic and it works! I am an ex-smoker in the country where it all began. Seeing images such as rotting mouths and lungs on every pack of smokes drives home a message and keeps me from starting up again. Significant increases in taxes on tobacco products helps as well. This has proven to deter younger people from starting the habit because of the high costs.
Chris D., Toronto, Canada

It helps to see foul pictures of what might happen to you. I am 41 years old and started smoking at 15 years old. In the seventies you still thought it as a glamorous thing to do! I stopped last year, it is still hard for me, but pictures help me keep off cigarettes.
Suzanne Booth, England

My partner aged 54 has been a heavy smoker since he was 13 years of age, nothing has ever changed his smoking habit or 40-60 a day .Recently we visited a clairvoiyant, who changed him overnight. Within two days he had gone from 40-60 cigarettes a day to 15, and insists he will stop altogether shortly. All she said was that he would not make old bones but that he could put that right. Maybe the advertising should be geared to a 'higher level' then they would listen.
Joan Chapman, England

As a non-smoker who lives in a country where smoking is encouraged as a social activity from an early age. I would like to see any new method even if it shocks used to stop smoking. My son is growing up here and if ideas like this reach this far perhaps he and his friends wouldn't find it so cool when they see people smoking.
Ricky, Japan

I think shock tactics may work, however there are some people out there who don't really take things like this seriously and will just probably carry on using them anyway. It's also really diffucult to actually get off tobacco. Many people find it a real challenge to get "clean" again. Plus, why just tobacco? Alcohol is just as bad as any other drug out there. What about shock tactics for that?
Ash, England

This is nothing more than a PR exercise.

Richard, New Zealand
These tactics are a contemptible and cynical gesture, devoid of meaning. How can a government smugly claim to be acting in your interest by insisting on these tactics, yet still collect highly lucrative taxes on the sale of cigarettes? This is nothing more than a PR exercise.
Richard, New Zealand

Anything that cuts down on the young starting to smoke is a good idea. If shock tactics work for even one person, it will be worth it. I write as an ex-smoker who gave up about 20 years ago and am now starting to get my sense of smell back!
Roger, UK

They'll work, but only for those smokers who are seriously considering quitting. I smoked for years and all the gruesome ads in the world wouldn't have stopped me from giving up something which I found so pleasurable.
Guru S. (proud ex-smoker), USA

Rather than getting people to stop smoking we should concentrate on stopping people starting to smoke.
Caron, England

Here in Ottawa they introduced a smoking ban in all bars, pubs and restaurants last August. Having to stand outdoors in temperatures of -20 C and colder during the winter seemed to have quite an effect and apparently the numbers of people quitting increased!
Zoe, Canada (British)

Anyone that isn't put off by the horrible hacking cough in the morning, the ridiculously high cost or the fact that they will perpetually smell like an ashtray is not likely to be dissuaded by anything.
Tony, UK

Shock tactics may work for people who are just starting to smoke but they are pointless when the government seems happy to give the message that cannabis is perfectly safe and even senior politicians seem to be encouraging its legalisation. Surely all this effort that is going into stopping smoking now will be wasted if a substance that is similar (and smoked with tobacco in most cases!) is introduced?
Rich, England

By all means put the shocking images on packets. It won't work, but it will make me feel even more smug about being an ex-smoker! Nothing will make a smoker stop until he/she really wants to. Until then, nothing makes a difference. Prevention is better than cure: but images of older people with horrible diseases won't stop children taking up the habit because the effects are too far into the future. But there is one message that might get through: smoking makes you smell bad.
Lee, UK

Shock tactics allow the Government to feel less guilty when collecting this tax

Face it. If you're dumb enough to smoke you're too dumb to get the message.
Russ, UK

To Russ UK. I have a PhD and would class myself in all likelyhood to be far more intelligent than you yet I smoke and I'm aware of the dangers. More people die each year getting out of bed than taking ectasy. Look at risk logically before you judge
Jim, UK

I think they could work to a degree in conjunction with other tactics. The Government needs to do something about the availability of cigarettes if it is really concerned about health, but I suspect the tax generated still greatly outweighs the cost to the health service. Shock tactics allow the Government to feel less guilty when collecting this tax. For me personally, the taste of a cigarette and the unhealthy feeling afterwards is enough to put me off.

Humans seem to have some ancient hard-wired need for the use of drugs. Go to untouched societies like jungle tribes and they will be using drugs to some extent - no advertising, no TV deterrents. Both of the main legal drugs (alcohol and tobacco) can cause ill-health and addiction. With our modern understanding of the working of the human brain we should try to substitute these drugs with more beneficial pleasures e.g. sport/recreation, quality foods, even talking to each other rather than watching the box!
P Hobden, UK

The images aren't going to make all smokers suddenly think "Oh My God! I must stop smoking or that could happen to me!" However it may just help those who are considering stopping to take the final step and kick the habit. Most smokers know full well the dangers of smoking but they are also well versed in the art of procrastination. It took me two attempts to stop, and the main incentive was that the price of cigarettes was getting ridiculously high and I couldn't afford to smoke and look after my family effectively. The health benefits are so glaringly obvious as well as the monetary advantages. I feel a million times better, I don't wake up with a sore chest I don't get irritated when I haven't had a smoke in a while, I've more money to invest in my family and I don't have teeth like that person in your photo.
Stephen, N.Ireland

The use of tobacco is far too ingrained in this society for any shock tactic advertising to have any effect. What we need to do is to start banning smoking in public places. The fewer places people are able to smoke the less they will do so. If people wish to smoke, they can contaminate the air in their own homes and destroy their own health, not force everyone else to breathe in hazardous, polluted air.
Phil, UK

One of the things which helped me to give up was a TV programme which showed people with fingers, toes and whole limbs missing as a result of circulation restriction caused by smoking. Shock tactics will not work for everyone but if they work for some then they are worthwhile.
Charles Moore, Scotland

All utterly pointless. I know the ciggies will kill me, but it is my choice. Should all new car sales be accompanied by pictures of horrific car accidents? You take your chances.
Scott Cheadle, Netherlands - English

There are far too many conflicting messages here

I smoke - I try to quit but it is a very hard addiction to beat. Shock tactics don't work when smoking is a crutch. People need assistance to be brought off this government-supported drug. It is highly addictive, fatal and yet bizarrely legal! What is the use of trying to shock people into stopping smoking when it is so readily available for public consumption? There are far too many conflicting messages here and the government should make a statement either way. They either support smoking or they don't.

I started smoking although we were shown shock tactics at school via videos, posters and assembly visits. I started smoking more regularly at university, again shock tactics were all around us and on TV. I'm a scientist with a sister and brother in-law who work in a mortuary who would take great delight in telling me about the latest smoking victim they had to perform an autopsy on. None of it seemed real, even when my granddad died due to smoking related disease. I've now given up the habit for two years. So what made me stop? I was walking down the road when suddenly I hit the floor unable to breathe. All the shock tactics in the world wouldn't have worked because I never connected it to me. The people on the shock ads were other people, not me. I don't think the cigarette packets will have any effect on smokers. Most people know what smoking can do to them, but until they connect it with themselves and understand what it means they will continue to smoke regardless.
Robbie, UK

I doubt if the latest shock tactics will have any greater impact on smokers than the present health warnings. What might work would be for smokers to be taken to hospital wards containing terminally ill patients so they could see for themselves what the effects of their smoking will ultimately have on them. I was present when a friend with lung cancer died a few years ago. It was a horrible death, not something which I will forget quickly.
Graham Rodhouse, The Netherlands

The method is effective in the short term

Rob Harris, UK
As a smoker, I can say that certainly the method is effective, but only in the short term. I'm sure that a tiny proportion of smokers will successfully quit as a direct result of these images, therefore the campaign is worthwhile. Smoking is an expensive, pointless pain in the neck we could well do without, so I'll be entering into the quitting spirit once more no doubt.
Rob Harris, UK

See also:

Links to more Talking Point stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Talking Point stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |