| Society

Smoke, Mirrors and the Gratuitous Gape Shot

One look at the packet, and you’ll definitely need a quick gasper.

smoker, cigarette

[dropcap style=”font-size:100px; color:#992211;”]I[/dropcap]f you don’t smoke, or hang with people who do, you are probably unaware of the recent spate of garish photo-shopped images currently decorating tobacco packaging.

My leaf addicted friends and I were stung to the quick by the patently absurd image of baby with a dummy in its mouth which sported a lit cigarette. The one of the person with a huge hole in his, or her, neck baffled us for a while as we all initially thought that the photo was a badly doctored arse shot.

From an EU press release:

There is clear evidence that pictorial warnings are more powerful in informing and educating the public about the health risks of tobacco and encouraging people to give up smoking. Pictures help consumers to visualise the nature of tobacco related diseases and convey health messages in a clearer and more vivid way.


that may be true but I can’t help feeling that the people creating these images are becoming somewhat obsessive about their grizzly task. So who exactly designs these cruel and unusual artworks? The Press Release continues:

The pictures were developed by a communications company and then pre-tested in Member States by a market research company. The images in the library illustrate the devastating health, social and aesthetic consequences of tobacco use and the opportunities to quit. While most of the pictures are intended to have universal effect, some of them are tailored to specific target groups such as young males (impotence), pregnant women (harm to foetus) or potential parents (infertility).


An unnamed ‘Communications Company’ (i.e.: a highly paid advertising agency) is responsible. I like to imagine their strategy meetings as being chaired by a committee consisting of David Cronenberg, the Chapman Brothers and Trent Reznor. A framed photo of Joseph Mengele hangs on the wall and a lectern contains an open copy of Cities of the Red Night by William S. Burroughs, which is bound in human skin. Under the watchful eyes of their mentors keen eyed youngsters consume cronuts and flat whites while discussing wound badges, heterochromatic eyes and the sacred Ur Language of disease.

I must add a word of caution to those who toil at the coalface of decay; having spent a number of years working on horror films I am well aware that there is a dangerous psychic element involved in such work. Repeatedly staring at images intended to degrade and disgust can scar the soul. While the financial rewards are high the true costs are hidden, seared deep into the subconscious and sealed over by the fleeting warmth of a substantial pay-packet.

Spare a thought for these brave souls whose futures may include such incidents as: night shivers, unexplained moments of terror or, god forbid, random acts of uncontrolled violence and self-harm.

We can only hope.

Photo by Pixabay/Pexels


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