Take back cool
Posted on December 5, 2010 at 11:34 pm
Cigarette smoking has at least half of the seduction equation nailed – getting people to start. Of course, there’s no shortage of things to credit (or blame) for that – big advertising dollars, that sweet nicotine buzz, Marlene Dietrich, whatever. There’s a cool factor to smoking that has led generation after generation of people to pick up what is categorically an unhealthy and expensive habit.
And while an industry has sprung up around quitting – including Nicorette’s elegantly frank “Makes quitting suck less” campaign complete with Suckometer – it has yet to gain the same cache as lighting up in the first place.
Now the FDA is proposing requiring some very graphic images on cigarette packages – corpses, close-ups of mouth cancer, emaciated patients – paired with foreboding death threats.
Their approach has certainly got people talking. There are plenty of folks (and some data points to back them up) who say that these scare tactics work – taking all the glamour out of smoking and focusing on the consequences. Offering someone a cigarette from a pack emblazoned with a toe tag will certainly kill the mood for some.
But there are others – several of whom commented publicly on the CBS News site that shared the proposed images – that disagree. Some are even offended.
“It appears that the FDA thinks that all smokers are ignorant fools,”
reads one comment posted on the CBS News website. “Unless smokers live in caves with no access to any type of media, smokers are well aware of the possible consequences of tobacco use. A larger, more graphic warning label on cigarette packages is only intended to embarrass and humiliate smokers, as if they are not discriminated against enough as it is…[Smoking] is a personal choice, and they need to back off and leave smokers alone!”
Academic studies back this kind of emotion, too, such as the 1981 Beck and Lund study found that self-efficacy (the belief that someone can do something about their situation) is a more powerful motivator than fear.
So how can we take back cool – make smoking just as seductive to quit as it is to start? Focusing on what being a non-smoker give us, rather than what it takes from us? A couple of the FDA’s proposed images start to get at that, including the woman indulging in a bit of happy-childhood-memories-bubble blowing.
And that Nicorette “Sucks less” campaign with the Suckometer does a great job of sidling up next to someone and offering a sympathetic ear along with a swift kick in the pants. So let’s keep riffing on this idea – it’s an uphill battle for sure, but as the FDA reminds us with these new images, the alternatives ain’t pretty.