Plain packaging’s a positive step, but let’s bring back those terrifying anti-smoking TV ads too, says Lisa Salmon
So the UK is one step closer to introducing plain packaging for cigarettes, with the ultimate aim being to deter children from smoking.
Any changes that might reduce the number of kids who take up the habit have got to be good – the Government says more than 200,000 children aged under 16 start smoking every year, and if the rate was reduced even by only 2%, it would mean 4,000 fewer a year.
Now while any measures to stop children becoming smokers must surely be welcomed, even by the staunchest of adult smokers, it’s hard to see that it’ll make that much difference – the Government hopes it’ll contribute to a “modest but important” reduction in smoking, including a drop in the number of children who start.
But the bottom line, I believe, is that it’s usually peer pressure that gets young people to try their first cigarette, or perhaps having seen their parents smoking, rather than the packaging on its own.
Nevertheless, at least until the ban on cigarettes being displayed in all shops comes into full force next year, if the packs aren’t eye-catching or perceived as ‘cool’ in some way, but are all the same drab colour and emblazoned with large health warnings, they are surely less likely to attract the attention of a child who may have been steered towards smoking by other factors.
Let’s face it, who exactly does the current packaging benefit, other than the tobacco companies themselves?
But while changing the packaging might make a small but welcome difference to the number of kids taking up smoking, I must say that I believe an even better opportunity to steer them away from the habit was wasted a few years back, through no fault of the Government.
I’m talking about a powerful anti-smoking advertisement that was initially broadcast on TV and radio in 2009. It showed a little girl saying she wasn’t frightened of the dark, or of spiders etc, but she was scared that her mum would die because she smoked.
After a number of complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority that the advert might scare children, it was banned from daytime TV.
What a shame. Children SHOULD be scared about smoking.
When I was a very young child in the early 1970s, my mum was a social smoker, and I vividly remember an advert on TV which showed a smoker turning into a skeleton because of the habit.
It scared the living daylights out of me, and the few times I saw my mum smoking I would start to cry and plead with her not to do it.
She did stop, and largely because of the effect that advert had on me, I have never even tried a cigarette.
As far as I’m concerned, that was advertising at its very best, and I absolutely believe that not allowing those more recent ads to be shown whenever possible, so that even the youngest of children could see them, was shielding them from something that could have been life-changing, in an extremely positive way.
Yes, protect children from anything that might draw them to cigarettes, like the packaging, but don’t ever shield them from the reality of what cigarettes can do to your health.
Let them be scared – I was. Those terrifying adverts sparked an early fear of smoking which I’m grateful to say has never diminished. A superb example of the ends justifying the means.
Read the original article here: http://home.bt.com/lifestyle/familyhome/talkingpoints/smoking-kills-kids-needs-to-know-that-11363891351459