health

This campaign proves young women would rather be pretty than healthy

Image via Thinkstock

So it turns out young women in Australia value their looks more than their lives.

Earlier this year, the Queensland state government launched a $1.5 million campaign called ‘Your future isn’t pretty if you smoke.’ The campaign targets young females, creating awareness of the damage cigarettes have on your appearance.

Lawrence Springborg, QLD Minister for Health, says hard-hitting messages aren’t convincing young women to give up smoking.

“Research tells us that physical appearance is the main driver for young women to contemplate giving up smoking,” he said.

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Do I support this campaign? 100%. Do I think it’s sad we’ve got to this point? Absolutely.

The fact that death and disease isn’t enough to deter young women from smoking, yet the prospect of premature ageing is, kind of shocks me. Forget about lung cancer and emphysema, wrinkles are what we should be afraid of.

To convince young women they should give up smoking, the campaign is using beautiful women to spread the message. The face of the campaign is 2009 Miss Universe Winner Rachael Finch, who posted this photo showing what she would look like if she smoked (and how good she looks because she doesn’t):

Model Rachael Finch before and after her 'make under' Image via Instagram

Australian beauty vlogger Chloe Morello is also a part of the campaign, spreading the message through a video where the makeup artist shows an extreme example of what she would look like if she smoked:

Here’s the part that made me cringe:

“Smoking is not hot! Cigarettes seriously ruin your looks – we’re talking wrinkles, damaged hair and blotchy, saggy skin. You’ll look way older than you actually are. And let’s not forget the yellow teeth and bad breath. Go smoke free. Stay pretty.”

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I don’t know about you, but I could only imagine a Barbie Doll reading that back to me.

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This campaign has been developed due to the lack of response from young women to previous campaigns, that have used death and disease to get the message across.

A 2011 national campaign aimed at young women found that only 10% of those exposed had quit smoking, reduced their smoking or sought medical help on quitting. This campaign focussed on pregnant women and the wellbeing of their unborn children, the message being “When you smoke, she gets less oxygen.” Almost half of those exposed to the campaign did not take action.

Perhaps it’s a maturity issue. The results of the pregnancy campaign showed that older respondents were more likely to quit smoking than younger respondents. In 2006, the ABS reported that smoking rates were highest in younger age groups, and that this number declined with increasing age.

Perhaps death and disease isn’t real enough for some people, but the deterioration of their looks is. This is especially relevant when you consider many young women smoke in order to control their weight.

I remember watching a show a few years ago where a mother and daughter said they were obsessed with using solariums. They said they knew about the risks of skin cancer, and said something along the lines of “at least we’ll die looking good.” You know what made them stop and think about what they were doing to their bodies? Computer-generated images showing them what they’d look like in 20 years if they continued to use the sun-beds.

The results of the ‘Your future isn’t pretty’ campaign have not yet been released; however I can only assume it’ll be more successful than the other hard-hitting campaigns. If focussing on physical appearance gets these women to quit smoking, I’m all for it. It's just unfortunate that we have the kinds of attitudes that make it so effective.

Do campaigns like this make you think differently about smoking?

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