The Problem with Smoking

December 17, 2007 - Get free updates of new posts here

I was talking with a friend who smokes about how can people KNOWINGLY kill themselves. Amazing marketing. Some of the best.

“Noah go take this razor blade and slice your arms. It’ll feel great. Al the cool people are doing it.”

How appealing does that sound? Not very much. People may not slice as much since they see the effects, a bit taboo and you don’t look that tough bleeding all over.

I figure people smoke because they don’t see the effects. What is a way to change that? Show the effects. I remembered the cigarettes from Thailand…

Takeaway: Think of the root. In marketing what is the most affective way in getting your message across. What is more affective, some text saying not to smoke or this image?

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18 responses to “The Problem with Smoking

  1. burn Reply

    Newsflash: Smokers already know smoking causes horrible health problems. There was a time when not everyone knew that smoking caused lung cancer, and that time is over. People who smoke continue to smoke because A: Nicotine is addictive, and B: They don’t care enough about the health issues to stop.

    Here’s Dennis Leary on the same subject:

    Like the problem is we just haven’t noticed yet, right? Like he’s going to get his way and all of the sudden smokers around the world are going to be going, “Yeah, Bill, I’ve got some cigarettes… HOLY S**T! These things are bad for you! S**t, I thought they were good for you! I thought they had Vitamin C in them and stuff!”

    You f***ing dolt! Doesn’t matter how big the warnings are. You could have cigarettes that were called the warnings. You could have cigarettes that come in a black pack, with a skull and crossbones on the front, called tumors and smokers would be lined up around the block going, “I can’t wait to get my hands on these f***ing things! I bet you get a tumor as soon as you light up!” Nahm Nahm Nahm Nahm Nahm Doesn’t matter how big the warnings are or how much they cost. Keep raising the prices, we’ll break into your houses to get the f***ing cigarettes, ok!? They’re a drug, we’re addicted, ok!? Nahm Nahm Nahm Nahm Nahm *wheeze*

  2. Noah Kagan Reply


    totally agree with you. they definitely know it is not good for them but actually seeing whats going to happen to them every time they get a cigarette is way more impactful then some text on the side of a box.

  3. Joe Camel Reply

    The reason people don’t see the effects of smoking is there aren’t any. For example, take those pictures of rotten smokers’ lungs that are shown to school children–they’re as phony as a mortician’s tears. In fact, smokers’ lungs are used for transplants.

    Everything you’ve ever heard about tobacco– smelling it is deadly, takes a hurricane to ventilate, etc etc– is a bald faced lie perpetrated by Big Medicine. They want to replace it with prescription drugs at ten prices.

    You can feel very smart about repeating their BS because it’s politically correct. But you’re still making an ass of yourself.

  4. Dan Merfeld Reply

    A friend of mine smokes these cigarettes that say “Smoking Kills!” in big bold letters. He actually gets a laugh at them and shows the fellow smokers as he takes one from the pack.

    Smokers smoke because they’re addicted, but they also smoke for the opportunity to openly defy society. Everyone knows you’re not supposed to smoke. Yet, many people still do.

    Smoking has always been seen as cool and rebellious. Supplying a warning only provokes smokers to continue smoking. I’m not suggesting we stop with the warning messages, but it has to be supplementary enforced with peer pressure.

  5. Dan Merfeld Reply

    Yeah, I would agree. Which is why I wouldn’t axe the idea. However, one important point is that these warnings occur on the pack. So they’re probably mostly seen by smokers. After all a non-smoker doesn’t just come up to a smoker and ask them to check out their pack of smokes.

    The message “don’t smoke because…” needs to be communicated by a smoker’s peer to be most effective. We’re told that smoking is bad for us, yet remember, the anti-smoking message is currently based on a “see what can happen to you if you smoke.”

    But we all know that not every smoker ends up sick either. Not all smokers contract cancer. So it’s easy to ignore the other non-deadly side effects and live in denial of the possibility of anything really happening to you.

    It’s dangerous, but it’s within a realm of acceptability for most people.

    I’m not on the side of smoking, but if you’re truly going to look at stomping this out, you have to go about it a bit differently. Because the ant-smoking message isn’t currently working.

  6. Jen L Reply

    I’ve just returned from China where everyone was smoking up a storm. In Hong Kong, I saw some cigarette packs with those photos and one had a picture of diseased legs with some text. I was surprised at how people still smoke especially around their own kids, but it doesn’t seem like they care about the photos on the package or the effects of second hand smoke.

    It also seems to be a social thing, too. One person I know doesn’t normally smoke in the US, but does so in China because it’s easy to do so and many people around him in China smokes. Also, he didn’t smoke as much In Hong Kong because it has become more difficult; I’ve noticed that a lot of places now have a fine of 5,000 HKD (about $640 US) and have posted lots of signs for smoke-free venues based on a law that was passed at the beginning of this year.

  7. Noah Kagan Reply


    In AR smoking is ridiculous. I don’t mind smokers. What’s funny was last night I met an American who smokes on vacation. i was thinking, do your lungs change in AR? I think its still his same body but different mindset.

  8. karen Reply

    Until something bad as a result of smoking happens to you or someone you know, I think people don’t really care about what could happen. It’s the whole ‘that’s not going to happen to me’ mentality.

    Not to mention the bad things about smoking usually come from long term use, so again, people think it’s not going to happen to them…at least not for many years, so why not do it.

  9. David Reply

    I guess it’s informed marketing. All cigarette cases in Singapore are required to package like that. Just like in China “Smoking is bad for health” is required as part of the packaging.
    Smokers just find it more interesting to have such cases or sometimes feel disgusted by it.
    New smokers might get well informed by the picture than text. Think about yourself carrying a picture of what likely you might be in the future because of what’s inside the pictured pack.
    i’ll think twice about where i should smoke.
    btw, I am not a smoker. never was, will never be. =p

  10. Britt Raybould Reply

    This line of thinking begs the question, “why don’t we use gruesome images to communicate everything bad that may happen to you?” For example, what if we saw a picture of a mangled body from a car crash instead of the little, blinking red person reminding us to buckle up when we get in the car?

    Or for everyone clamoring that the government should apply a “fat tax” on “bad” food, why not put up pictures of obese people next to the picture of a Big Mac?

    Ultimately, as Karen points out, until the possible bad outcome happens to us, individuals are programmed to believe that they are the exception to the rule. That’s why marketing to a person’s individual identity works so well. We want to believe we’re unique from everyone around us as we ignore the fact that five other people on the bus are wearing the exact same shoes that Nike convinced us were what we needed to express ourselves.

    Smoking manages to combine both the lack of believing one is vulnerable and the sense that one is somehow more unique by engaging in this activity. I do find it interesting that alcohol has still maintained it’s cachet even though its potential side effects offer potentially the same life-changing consequences as cigarettes. How have alcohol marketers managed to avoid the paintbrush of death associated with cigarettes?

  11. t h rive Reply

    it’s a good topic to write and dwell on – and everyone above makes a good point. I’d like to point out:

    -In Canada, the smoking (and new smoker) rates are decreasing since their cig packs started showing messages, stats and pictures.
    -There a philosophy classes and thesis’ devoted to the pleasures of smoking – some say it’s in the top 3 pleasures of life.
    -no one is immune to cancer. My grandmother smoked for 40 years, no cancer and even boasted about it – then suffered a huge stroke.

    If I hadn’t moved to Canada – even though i knew it was bad bad bad for one’s body – i might not have quite. Hard to say…but the cultural pressures of it’s effects are certainly good for the general population, and bringing down healthcare costs.

  12. Gerri Reply

    Yup, smoking is bad for you but people will make their own minds up and smoke if they want to. We all know what it can do to us. I know about its effects but I still puff two or three when I have had a bit to drink. Putting graffic warnings on packages is a good way to get people to think twice.

  13. Raving Rich Reply

    Several Western countries have also put restrictions on cigarette advertising. In the United States, all television advertising of tobacco products has been prohibited since 1971. In Australia, the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act 1992[94] prohibits tobacco advertising in any form, with a very small number of exceptions (some international sporting events were accepted, but these exceptions were revoked in 2006).

  14. John Reply

    Smoking? Heck, the same could be said of every trip to the fast food counter, putting back a soda or a beer, eating french fries, even, buttering your bread.

    In some parts of the world breathing the air or swimming in the rivers or oceans will make you sick, or worse kill you quickly.

    All day, every day, “most everyone” is doing something that will ultimately have an adverse effect on their life, their health, our planet.

    Sadly, I guess that’s what makes us human.

    Quite possibly one of biggest benefits of social networking will be quick and efficient flow of information that might cause people think twice before it’s too late.

    So let’s do what we can, consciously and conscientiously to improve ourselves, our relationships and our surroundings – little by little – every day. Because in the end, a lot of littles may make the difference.