Scare tactics

December 1, 2010

People are debating whether graphic, disturbing images should be put on cigarette boxes as a way of deterring would-be smokers. I don’t have a strong opinion on this, but Liz and I are already using similar tactics to preserve our son’s health. Last night he didn’t want to have his nails clipped, so we showed him some disgusting pictures of overgrown toenails, and then he relented. A bit later, he didn’t want to brush his teeth, but he caved after viewing pictures of rotten teeth.

I guess there’s a danger that he’ll become desensitized to this approach, just as smokers may learn to ignore any new warning labels. For convenience and short-term impact, though, Google Images is hard to beat.


  1. Yep, it works. I remember visiting a dentist who projected a close up of the bacteria on my teeth. Yechh! Definitely a motivator to keep brushing!

  2. I think scare tactics can work in things like brushing teeth… but would have little to no effect on someone who is bound by addiction. Addictions are not logical or rational, and breaking them has to be much more deeply personal than even the worst images can invoke.We've had similar images on tobacco packaging here in Canada for a number of years now, and while I don't have any stats, I would be very surprised if it has made a significant difference. Our brains filter out things we don't want to see/recognize.

  3. Love this tactic Greg! Use it while you can.

  4. That sounds very much like my own father. Good tactic.

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