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Teachers: Citizenship: Media and society

Last Updated: Friday September 14 2007 15:55 GMT

Shocking images

Media and society
Damaged and healthy lungs


The latest idea to stop people smoking is plastering a series of nasty-looking pictures of what can happen to people if they smoke on packets of cigarettes.

Images of diseased lungs and rotten teeth are among those that may be used, alongside warnings in words about lung cancer and heart disease.

This activity gets students thinking about the effectiveness of using 'shock tactics' in advertising.

Learning aims
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of 'shock tactics'.

  • Learn some of the risks and consequences of smoking.

Look at coments from the page 'Will nasty pics stop people smoking?'

Other advertising campaigns use similar tactics, such as shocking pictures of car crashes or victims of drugs.

Ask the class:

  • Do you think that shock tactics work?

  • Is this a good way to tell young people about the dangers of smoking?

  • Or does it upset more than it informs?

Main activity

Divide the class into small groups and give out some copies of the comments from our website. Each group only needs about ten comments to work with.

Get them to rank the comments in order of how much they agree with them.

They could cut out each comment so that they can move them around more easily and then stick them on a sheet of labelled A3 paper.


Recap on the main teaching points. Can they recall times in their own lives when their behaviour was changed by something that shocked them? Was the change a permanent one?

Teachers' Background
  • Images highlighting the dangers of smoking will be printed on all tobacco products sold in the UK by the end of 2009, under regulations being set out.

  • After a public consultation 15 images, including ones of diseased lungs, have been chosen to accompany text warnings about lung cancer and heart disease.

  • Anti-smoking campaigners welcomed the move but smokers' lobby group Forest said they were being "victimised". Health Secretary Alan Johnson told BBC News there was evidence from other countries that the new images would help people quit.

  • The minimum age for buying tobacco in England and Wales is increasing from 16 to 18, bringing it in line with alcohol.

For all links and resources click at top right.

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