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Killer packaging

19 January 2015

Smoking kills. Yep, it’s pretty obvious. About 100,000 British people die every year from puffing on cancer sticks. That sucks.

So when you see a fag packet or tobacco tin wearing the Smoking kills slogan in big, bold lettering, what’s your first thought? Is it, “Oh my God, smoking kills! I didn’t know that! I’d better quit immediately!”

Is it, “What? Smoking kills? I knew it could clog the arteries and cause heart attacks and strokes, but I didn’t know it could kill. I’d better Google that and make an informed decision.” Or is it, “Smoking kills. So what? I like smoking.”

Perhaps you don’t even notice the label. You’ve seen it plenty of times already. Maybe it washes over you like a cloud of cigarette smoke wafting gently into a toddler’s tears.

You’re not missing any clever marketing. It’s just there in black and white. There’s no subtlety to these tobacco packaging warning messages. No magic. They’re simply designed to discourage consumers from sucking on the ol’ coffin nails by employing a variety of shock tactics and straightforward facts.

In some cases, the warnings are intended to cast a sooty, sticky, death-encrusted shadow of guilt into smokers’ ever-fattening hearts. They’re reminded that they’re not just killing themselves – they’re harming their families too.

So we see snappy slogans such as Smoking seriously harms you and others around you. We’re told Protect children: don’t make them breathe your smoke, and Smoking when pregnant harms your baby.

Effective? Possibly. Threatening their loved ones might be enough to make some smokers stop and think twice. Much like the plot of Stephen King’s sublime short story Quitters, Inc.

Besides, anti-smoking campaigners say smoking is a selfish pastime; that smokers are dirty creatures who think only of themselves and not their surroundings. Glance at the piles of tab ends and cigarette packet cellophane on any high street, and you’ll probably agree.

You can’t deny Smoking causes fatal lung cancer is short and succinct. Smoking can cause a slow and painful death is hard-hitting, and our personal favourite. It ought to at least raise an eyebrow.

In contrast, Smoke contains benzene, nitrosamines, formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide reads more like it was designed to be a desk mascot in GCSE chemistry exams.

Talking of which, isn’t it a shame to see so many teenage girls and young women still smoking? Not because of the health factors (oh no, we’re really quite shallow), but because fags leave an unpleasantly stale stench and seriously off-putting stains on otherwise pearly-white teeth.

So, yes, vanity-based warning messages are perhaps best of all: Smoking causes ageing of the skin sits nicely alongside wrinkly don’t-use-sunbeds ads. But could Smoking can damage the sperm and decreases fertility double up as a pro-contraception campaign?

The thing is, no matter how many catchphrases we read; no matter how many shrivelled-up lungs we’re shown, we don’t really think the warnings work.

Smokers know the risks. Every time they pick up a packet, they accept that, chances are, tobacco could easily end their lives.

But so could driving fast. Heavy drinking. Parachuting. Playing sports. Blindfolded chainsaw juggling on a unicycle through hoops of fire while sword-swallowing and chanting Candyman three times.

Yes, it’s dangerous. Life is dangerous. Do we really need health warnings on everything remotely exciting or pleasurable?

No. If we want people to stop smoking, perhaps we should make the process of purchasing and using those fags slightly more embarrassing.

Honestly, would you buy cigarettes with a picture of Jimmy Savile on the packet? Would you sit with tobacco on the table in front of you declaring the words, I’m a paedo? Would you suck on a cigarette shaped like a diseased penis? Would you puff on a fag that smells like rotten eggs? Would you smoke a pipe that spits sticky, tar-soaked blood into the air every time you take a puff?

Well, maybe you would. But how about our carefully-considered warning slogans?



Posted by Dan.

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Spoon Media, Cleatham, Kirton Lindsey, Nr Gainsborough, North Lincolnshire DN21 4JN
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Quest-eeze is a one-stop country store, animal feed retailer and online equestrian shop. Based in Lincolnshire, Quest-eeze supplies everything for the pet owner, horse rider and farmer on a local or national level.

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