'Too graphic' anti-smoking ad faces censure

A Government anti-smoking advertisement showing a cancerous tumour growing on a cigarette as it’s smoked is facing censure after the advertising watchdog received a flurry of complaints the spot was too graphic.


The Dare created spot, which launched last week, is an attempt to shock smokers into quitting by warning that smoking 15 cigarettes could cause a mutation that leads to cancerous tumours.

The Advertising Standards Authority has received 63 complaints from people that found the spot unpleasant and too graphic. The ASA is currently considering whether to launch a formal investigation into the ad.

The spot has an “ex-kids” rating, which means it cannot be shown during children’s programming but could still be seen by children watching television with their parents.

The Department of Health is focussing above the line activity on the short-term harm cigarettes do to health in an attempt to shock smokers into quitting. It is the first time in eight years the tactic has been used. Anti-smoking ads have talked of the long-term affects since 2004’s “fatty cigarette” ad, which claimed smoking clogs the arteries.

The Department has been rapped by the regulator over anti-smoking ads before. A 2007 campaign that featured a man dragged along by a fish hook piercing his cheek in a bid to demonstrate how hooked smokers are by their addiction was banned after receiving 774 complaints from people who found it distressing.

A spokeswoman for DH defended the ad, claiming it has had 75,000 “positive responses” to the campaign.0

She adds: “Smoking kills nearly 80,000 people in England each year and we must use a range of tactics to raise awareness of the harms. The advert is designed to remind people that every cigarette causes damage and that there is no safe limit.”



Readers' comments (22)

  • I think its brilliant! Not pleasant to look at but then the effects of smoking aren't either!

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  • I think it's a great advert. But then perhaps I would as an ex-smoker. It brings the hidden consequences of smoking to the forefront of your mind and as a smoker I was always trying to ignore them.

    If it convinces only a handful of people to quit or avoid taking up smoking it's worthwhile. But I hope the impact will be much greater.

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  • What a joke! I really do not understand what is going on in people's heads. This is a really effective advert that shows in a very simple and graphic way how harmful smoking is. The effects of smoking are more than unpleasant and as such this message is really effective.

    For once we have a brilliant simple message which could potentially save people/nhs from the damage of smoking and we have a few complaints from people - is 63 people really a flurry of complaints?

    People need to get over it and start facing the real facts of life.

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  • Who have these complaints come from? Surely, not anyone who has known a friend or loved one to die of smoking related illness. This is a health campaign of the most important kind - we need to take the strain of a stressed NHS and be as blunt as we can about what smoking does to people. It's no use saying it will make you cough a bit and stop you getting up stairs quickly - who would care about that wishy-washy, pointless message?

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  • Smoking is a legal activity and I think it's terrible that people are lambasted for doing it just because the general consensus is that it's "unhealthy". Health and safety is in the eye of the beholder, and if the logic behind anti-smoking ads is applied to other "unhealthy products" then we could soon see chocolate and cakes, alcohol, energy drinks, coffee and red meat being given the same treatment.
    Let's not forget the massive tax contribution smokers make to our NHS, and the fact that they are human beings not criminals or delinquents. It should be noted that I am a non-smoker who has never smoked, and I am not pro-smoking simply anti-discrimination.

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  • How ridiculous. The advert is too graphic? Is it more graphic and upsetting than watching a person you love die from smoking related cancer?

    I really do wonder who these people are, are they in the real world? Are they smokers who can't see further than their next cigarette?

    I think it's a superb advert. Hard hitting - as someone's said above, if it saves one life that's worth more than 'upsetting' 60 or so people for 2 minutes of their day surely?

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  • What gets me, is that nowadays, 80% of people diagnosed with lung cancer are NON-SMOKERS, and only 20% of people diagnosed with lung cancer are current smokers.
    Wouldn't this £2.7 million of taxpayers money be better spent on actual cancer research targetting the 80% majority, rather than wasting it on another pointless campaign harassing the minority?

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  • Baaa!!!!...listen to all the sheeple in these comments!
    "Every fifteen cigarettes you smoke will cause a mutation..."

    The astronomical majority of which do not lead to cancer.

    The chances of any single cigarette giving you cancer are akin to the chances of hitting a hole in one on a golf course, blindfolded and unsure of which direction to face, without anyone telling you if you were close or not. If you do it 40-60 times a day for your entire life, it is of course quite possible that you'll make the shot. And it is of course possible you'll do it the very first time. But it is so improbable, that scaring people into thinking that such a thing is likely ignores reason and has the perverse effect of making them no longer believe any of your warnings.

    For the record, it is equally true that a single particle of car exhaust is enough to cause a mutation that could lead to cancer. So is a single piece of burnt toast. So is a single bite of canned tuna, getting a drop of motor oil on your skin, or even walking outside on a sunny day. Hardly something to be hysterical about.

    Of these millions of smokers who supposedly died from smoking, how many lived near a road full of cars? How many ever walked out in the sun? According to the NHS, anyone who ever smoked died of a smoking-related illness. It's absurd - and its only purpose is to destroy the culture of smoking, mainly because nicotine works to block the effects of some of the dumbing-down pharmaceuticals they're putting into the british water supply and spraying in aerosol form over the population.

    But I don't suppose people have been dumbed down quite enough yet to completely ignore logic to the extent this ad and others are trying to make them do. The big lie may work, but what you should have said was: Here's an ad for dumb people who don't understand statistics, probability, medicine, scientific method, or the concept of objective fact.”

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  • And is it any less distressing to watch someone you love die from cancer when they have never smoked in their life? What a stupid statement "Ads710"! People who enjoy smoking will continue to smoke, nothing will stop them. And can you tell me where, exactly, they conjured up the magical '15' figure? Oh yes, it's just another 'skyplucked gem' that happens to suit the purpose. While you are all heehaawing about this anti smoking crusade just take a moent to consider that this country has now wasted approx £30bn on this ideologigal fraud-how much more can we afford. I don't smoke but I hate to see my money being wasted in such a frivolous manner! Are you happy to keep funding such as ASH, CRUK, FRESH and the host of other charlatan charities who actually give charities a bad name. I'm not.

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  • The EU can not confirm that the pictures on cigarette packets are of smokers or as a resutlt of smoking, but simply plucked from a Europan library and used because they were 'tailored' to fit the purpose.
    The ASA say they cannot deal with any complaint because the ASA isn’t entitled to regulate claims on packaging unless they refer to sales promotions such as free offers and prize competitions'.

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