Despite plastering cigarette packets with pictures of diseased lungs, slapping substantially high rates of tax on their cost and even banning smoking in nearly every conceivable indoor environment, there remains an estimated 48.2 million smokers in the US and 10 million in the UK. Around 300 people in Britain die every day from smoking. If this isn’t stopping us, what will?
Our governments seem to believe that hiding smoking away in a deep dark corner, stigmatising the act and pricing it out of the market is the way forward.
According to Ecig.org, the premiere supplier of Green Smoke coupons, in Britain, the government are even in the process of hiding cigarettes from prying eyes, choosing instead to place them underneath the counters in shops and supermarkets.
Yet what do they hope to achieve with this?
Those that smoke will still know where to ask and what to ask for. Potential smokers (i.e. children and teenagers) will simply find the idea of the habit all the more appealing the more ‘forbidden’ that it becomes.
The problem is that the average person today doesn’t listen to or trust their government. The Internet has placed us in an age in which we’re freer to speak our minds and share thoughts and ideas with others than ever before.
Perhaps then it’s the Internet that holds the key to starting a worldwide trend for stopping smoking.
An ‘Internet meme’ is something that spreads across the Internet. Something that goes viral: a video that everyone’s watching, a game everyone is playing, or even a song, picture, an infographic or an idea.
An Internet meme is something that the world today sits up and pays attention to.
The Meme and Smoking
The ‘meme’ is a reflection of society in the 21st Century. The reality is that most of us are more interested in viewing a video of a baby panda sneezing than we are in hearing what our politicians have to say or, perish the thought, becoming involved in politics ourselves.
It’s for this reason that perhaps the key to reducing the number of people that smoke today is not through government legislation; it’s through tapping into the hearts and minds of the 21st Century smoker. It’s by making not smoking a ‘trend’.
Successful memes of recent years have demonstrated how Internet trends can impact the way we think and act.
The 2010 British public information film ‘Embrace Life‘ was designed to emphasise the importance of wearing a seat belt, and it did so, to great success. The YouTube video had been viewed over a million times within two weeks. Less than a month after its release it was being watched in 129 different countries.
The film hasn’t even, to date, been shown on television. It was designed for the Internet and that is where it has enjoyed such success.
‘Embrace Life’ demonstrates how art can be used to tap into people’s emotions. If made in the right way, a video, song or image designed to change how we think doesn’t need to be cheesy. Messages such as ‘just say no’ have never worked because they undermine the intelligence of the listener.
You need to give us more than just a hollow message if you want to change the way we think.
‘The Truth’ is a present day meme that cites the anti-smoking message.
Using videos, images and shock tactics, the truth is designed wholly about offering the truth to smokers and potential smokers-to-be.
Yet ‘The Truth’ doesn’t just talk at us. It gets us to play games, join in social networks and show our commitment to the cause with merchandise.
It doesn’t undermine us. It doesn’t tell lies. It tells us what it doesn’t always hurt us to know: the truth.
Will it Work?
Whether ‘The Truth’ itself is set to become the be-all and end-all of stopping smoking full stop remains to be seen. What can be seen though, is that this is the future of education.
‘Just say no’ has never worked and it never will. We need to know why we should say no. And when we’re told why, we need to be told the truth.