Singapore’s anti-smoking TV ads
Anti smoking ads use shock and awe
strategy in Singapore upsetting
BY A CORRESPONDENT
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
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.
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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.