Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Butts Are Bad

Cigarette butts that is.

My wife was watching her Indian soaps the other night and I noticed a message across the bottom of the screen in bright, bold lettering: "SMOKING IS INJURIOUS TO HEALTH"

The scene in the show had a woman puffing on a butt in the hospital (Let's forget about how unhealthy this might be to patients in the hospital). It's interesting to see this message displayed. It's something we'd never get in the US. I guess it's the Indian censor board's (or ZeeTV's) attempts at letting viewers know what's up with smoking. I remember there was a mild controversy around Bollywood actors lighting up on screen all the time and making it look cool.

And that's what this is about. The main reason people start smoking is because it's cool. They get messages about how bad it is for one's health, but they smoke nevertheless (I should note that I'm a very occassional smoker, usually only lighting it up when I'm very drunk...last time I lit one up was New Year's Eve...and before then? Who knows...) So I figure that these logic-based approaches to anti-smoking campaigns can't do much good. In Canada and Europe they have pictures of diseased lungs on cigarette packs. I guess that might revile people more than a simple warning message on the side of the box. But again, my guess is that people already know about all the diseases that smoking causes and seeing a picture of it isn't going to bring it home any better.

So switch to current American anti-smoking ads. Have you seen those ads for The Truth? These are pretty slick. The latest one is a fake comedy show about cigarette execs coming up with new ways to entice young people to smoke.

So I won't go into my whole analysis of this. Have a read of How To Get Teens Not To Smoke (Seth Stevenson, Slate.com). I think his analysis is pretty dead on. Reading his piece is what made me think about the relative non-utility of the usual anti-smoking campaigns we're used to. I wonder if other countries will pick up on this campaign method. Hope so.

No comments: