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If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is controversial ad?

After countless years and millions spent on “Quit Smoking” campaigns, has this ad taken it too far? Or, have we finally found the right way to address this issue as expressed in this 2009 ad?

As this advertisement began to disseminate globally, public outcry grew rapidly. The obvious denotations of this ad are a young, innocent boy, losing sight of his mother at a busy train station and the horrific sense of panic that arises. However, the study of this text’s connotations and semiotics, reveals the once ambiguous divide of a nation’s cultural ideologies as the reality of this young boy’s predicament dawns on the audience.

My father smoked for 20+ years before going ‘cold turkey’ after my mother announced her pregnancy. He did this so he could be around to watch myself and my sister grow up and lead happy, healthy lives. When this ad debut in 2009, my father would always walk out of the room as he could not watch this young boy’s pain for it could just as easily been his children’s reality.
This ad signified – and broke down the ideologies surrounding smoking -to the myriad of people who viewed it, that dying from smoking does not have to be when you are old and grey, leaving behind adult children. And for this reason, it mortified many people and encouraged them to seek help and quit.

Post-2009 most advertisements for “Quit Smoking” have become more graphic yet less personalised. We can simply turn a blind eye to the grotesque images of mouth cancer and the wheezing of lung cancer. It is estimated in these statistics that by 2030, one in six people will die of lung cancer if trends continue. So where are we going wrong? Education about the affects of smoking has increased significantly in the past decade or so. So, does the answer lie in this type of heart-wrenching advertising?