Monday, November 26, 2012

Can you shame a pregnant woman into quitting smoking?

It's a beautifully-executed ad, by Kelliher Samets Volk for the Vermont Department of Public Health (via Adrants).

It's also an approach that has been done before, by Different for the NHS:

Original or not, however, I don't think it will make a damn bit of difference.

All too often, public social marketing campaigns are based on the assumption that "if only those people knew that what they were doing is harmful, they'd stop."

I'll put it out there that most people who have a drug problem know it is harmful to them, and possibly to others. I doubt many smokers, problem drinkers, or street and prescription drug abusers are so deluded as to think they are doing no harm. But they are addicted, and addiction overrules self preservation. If it didn't we wouldn't have the problems we do.

This ad, as beautiful as it is, only serves to add to the public shaming of pregnant women who smoke by the general public. But shame is not a great motivator to change, especially when you have already made the shamed one an outcast.

The ads above are subtle, but it is part of a train of thought that includes these:

Via Wordpress

Via Wordpress

Via Google

Via DeviantArt
Via HazellCottrell

Via Coloribus

And then there's this:

I want to make it clear that I don't want women to smoke while pregnant. My problem with the prevailing attitude among social marketers is the insistence that you can shame and blame people with drug problems into behavioural change.

The other issue I have is how much these campaigns can take on the visual vocabulary of the anti-abortion movement:

Via World Health Organisation
With that approach comes the implicit message that a pregnant women's body does not belong to her, it belongs to society at large. And that is not okay.

Pregnant women who smoke need encouragement and help to quit, without being judged or frightened.   They need our support and understanding, not our looks of disdain. When is someone going to stop treating addicts like "rational consumers" of social policy, and actually take this issue on from a harm reduction point of view?

I'm ready whenever you are.


  1. I find it interesting that in all of these but one, the woman is not even present beyond her depiction as nothing more than a pregnant belly. Telling.

  2. My body my choice....

  3. Here at this site really the fastidious material collection so that everybody can enjoy a lot.Kayfun V4 clone