‘Rotting the body from the inside out’: Graphic anti-smoking campaign

‘Rotting the body from the inside out’: Graphic anti-smoking campaign
Smoking “rots” the body from within and damages bones, brain, teeth and eyes, a graphic anti-smoking campaign from Public Health England warns. It also targets misconceptions about roll-ups, saying they are as hazardous as manufactured cigarettes.

Public Health England (PHE) launched a campaign on Monday targeting cigarettes, which cause “a slow and steady decline” to the body, it warned.

The graphic online and print billboard adverts show roll-up cigarettes filled with decaying tissue and blood.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer, said: “Whilst many smokers know the damage cigarettes do to their hearts and lungs, they are much less likely to be aware of how harmful smoking is to the body - essentially ‘rotting’ it from the inside out, and roll-ups are no exception.”

An online advert shows a father rolling up a cigarette formed of rotting human flesh, visualizing PHE’s slogan ‘every cigarette rots you from the inside out’. It claimed that its previous anti-smoking campaigns ‘Mutations’ and ‘Toxic Cycle’ have helped smoking rates in England “fall to an all time low this year of 18.4 percent.”

The new campaign also tackles hand-rolled tobacco, or roll-up cigarettes. Many smokers mistakenly believe that they are safer than conventional cigarettes, according to PHE. However, they are said to be at least as dangerous as other types of cigarettes and yet their popularity is growing.

By 2013, 40 percent of male smokers and 23 percent of female smokers said they smoked mainly roll-ups – a sharp increase compared to 18 percent and 2 percent respectively in 1990.

(Image from Public Health England/PA)

The campaign aims to highlight the impacts that toxic ingredients in cigarettes can have on smokers’ bodies, including causing damage to bones and muscles. PHE warned that current smokers are 59 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than non-smokers, and smoking damages the eyes by increasing the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by 78 to 358 percent.

Dame Sally added: "I think people know about the big killers - cancer, heart disease and stroke - but I don't think they realize about osteoporosis and I didn't know about fertility. And the doubling the likelihood of cognitive decline and Alzheimer's, I think is quite scary.”

Professor Kevin Fenton, National Director for Health and Wellbeing for PHE, said that while much of the harm caused by smoking doesn't become obvious until middle age the invisible damage can start “shockingly early.”

"The earlier a smoker quits the better, but quitting at any age can help reverse at least some of the damage. That's why there is no time better than now to quit. Stop smoking and stop the rot."

However, smoking groups have branded the campaign as "poisonous."

Simon Clark, director of the smoking group Forest, said: "There can't be a sane adult in the United Kingdom who isn't well aware of the health risks of smoking.

"What's really poisonous is the way public health campaigners are constantly trying to scare and harass people with exaggerated claims and dubious statistics.

"This is real life not a Hammer Horror film. If Public Health England wants to be effective they should engage with consumers, not try to scare them with rotten campaigns such as this."