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Singapore’s anti-smoking TV ads shock kids

Anti smoking ads use shock and awe strategy in Singapore upsetting children.


29 March, 2007

March 29, 2007: Singapore has rescheduled the screening time of its anti-smoking advertising campaign on television following a deluge of complaints from parents that the advertisements are too shocking and disturbing for children.

Indeed, the advertisement was intended to shock, and shock it did.

In one of the advertisements of the government-run Health Promotion Board, a sunken-eyed woman with cracked lips and brownish, deformed teeth appears under the headline: ‘Quitting is hard. Not quitting, is harder.’ The advertisement will now only be aired from 8 p.m., when youngsters are less likely to be watching television.

The 30-second television commercial, first aired on all the four main language channels last week, is a graphic depiction of a woman afflicted with oral cancer. The camera zooms in on a tight shot of her face with a diseased tongue, decaying teeth and chapped lips, riddled with sores.

Health Promotion Board’s chief executive Lam Pin Woon clarified that the Board has reviewed and revised the advertising timing and channels to minimise causing any alarm to young children.

One woman had complained that her nine-year-old daughter was so traumatised by the commercial the first time she saw it that she had a nightmare that night. The girl woke up at 3 a.m. screaming, her mother said.

However, the preliminary results of the advertisement seemed to prove the strength of the shock tactics. According to the Health Promotion Board, since the launch of the three-month-long Smoking Control Campaign on March 20, 2007, the Health Promotion Board’s toll-free smoking QuitLine (1800-4382000) has had a five-fold rise in the number of calls.

Even as about 70% to 80% of the email feedback that the Health Promotion Board received about the ad campaign has been positive, it is ensuring that other advertising channels such as bus shelter boards are situated away from childcare centres and primary schools. Your browser may not support display of this image.

The second phase of the anti-smoking campaign by the Health Promotion Board will begin in May 2007. The city-state of Singapore has banned smoking in most public places.



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