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Health Ministry to air graphic antismoking TV ads

South Korea’s Health Ministry plans to broadcast a more “explicit” antismoking TV commercial starting next week, replacing the current one featuring ballet dancers expressing the agony of smoking’s side effects through dance movements.

The new commercial, currently in production, is aimed to curb smoking among Koreans more effectively, using a combination of possibly disturbing images and messages, said Choi Shin-gwang from the Health Ministry.

“We’ve been told that the current commercial with the ballet dancer is not strong enough,” Choi told The Korea Herald. “We are trying to come up with a new commercial that is more powerful.”
A scene from the Health Ministry`s current antismoking TV ad, featuring ballet dancers expressing the agony of smoking’s side effects through dance movements. (A screen capture)
A scene from the Health Ministry`s current antismoking TV ad, featuring ballet dancers expressing the agony of smoking’s side effects through dance movements. (A screen capture)

Choi, a public health official at the ministry, said the new commercial may contain images that may be “painful” to watch. He refused to share further details about the content of the production.

The ministry’s move, however, may find criticism for lacking efficacy despite its severity, according to previous research.

A 2011 study by the University of Missouri-Columbia found that using a combination of disturbing images and threatening messages to prevent smoking was not effective.

According to the study, those who were exposed to highly disturbing antismoking ads, including both graphic images and messages, in fact had a lower emotional response than those who saw ads that only included either a message or an image.

“Simply trying to encourage smokers to quit by exposing them to combined threatening and disgusting visual images is not an effective way to change attitudes and behaviors,” the study said.

“Effective communication is more complicated than simply showing a disgusting picture. That kind of communication will usually result in a defensive avoidance response where the smoker will try to avoid the disgusting images, not the cigarettes.”

South Korea is home to almost 10 million smokers, and an estimated 57,000 die each year due to smoking-related diseases including lung cancer. Last year, the country had one of the highest smoking rates for adult males among the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development nations, at 43.7 percent, surpassing the OECD average of 26 percent.

The National Assembly last year approved an 80 percent increase in the price of cigarettes in an effort to curb smoking. The new bill took effect on Jan. 1. Smokers have opposed the measures, claiming it was a way for the government to collect more taxes at their expense.

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com



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