Visual Analysis of an Anti-Smoking Poster

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Health agencies have used a mix of graphic and verbal posters to make the dangers of tobacco smoking known all over the country (Trimbur 330). To be persuasive, anti-smoking activists had to redefine the societal definition of smoking, thus giving non-smokers substitute advertising (Trimbur 330). Kelly Ashcraft’s black and white poster was my favorite. It shows a young woman smoking a cigarette, which emits smoke and forms a noose around her waist. According to the sign, “Kill a cigarette, save a life.” “Yours” in the bottom right corner (Ashcraft). Through the image and inferred meanings, the poster appeals to the audience’s logic, ethics, and pathos, thereby improving the awareness of the danger of smoking.

Image 1: Anti-Smoking Poster (Ashcraft)

First, the image appeals to logic. The main principle is that the smoking of cigarettes is harmful. To strengthen this premise, the creator equates smoking to tightening a rope around the neck. It is depicted how the smoke forms a rope around the young woman’s neck (Ashcraft). Based on the general knowledge of the lethal nature of smoking, and the image of the rope, the audience can imply that the main argument Ashcraft is trying to convey is that smoking cigarettes is a way of committing suicide. Furthermore, the appeal to logic is further strengthened by the words encrypted on the image, “Kill a cigarette, save a life. Yours,” which encourages the audience who smoke to stop, if they want to stay alive (Ashcraft). In addition, the depiction of a young beautiful woman committing “suicide” also strengthens the appeal to logic. In most occasions, attractive women are portrayed in smoking advertisements to associate their beauty and sexuality with smoking, thereby promoting cigarette use (Blattner and Blattner 32). Such types of ads promote the idea that smoking is sophisticated thing to do. It is obvious that none of the advertisements depict the real consequences of smoking. Therefore, the portrayal of the woman in the poster counters the illogical notion, reminding smokers and non-smokers that smoking is lethal. On that note, overall, the message in the poster is that smoking is the same as tightening invisible ropes around the neck.

The appeal to ethics is also evident in the poster. As much as the developer of the image, Kelly Ashcraft, is not a renown graphic designer, the audience can infer that the creator is trying to motivate her audience into a adopting a healthier lifestyle because of her decision to develop an anti-smoking poster. Regardless, such shocking advertising images normally portray the designer as thinking negatively of people who smoke and not necessarily of the fact that they smoke. Therefore, non-smokers are more likely to identify with the image as they have a similar point of view as Ashcraft when it comes to the issue of smoking. On that note, non-smokers perhaps will consider the anti-smoking ads more believable as opposed to smokers. Therefore, considering that Ashcraft is not widely known, it is difficult to establish her credibility. However, since she provides more insight into the public issue of cigarette smoking, the graphic image can be considered a reliable representation of the dangers of smoking.

Lastly, the poster also appeals to the audience’s emotions. It portrays smoking of cigarettes as a slow suicide. Based on the poster, it can be inferred that regardless of whether a smoker is conscious, he or she is slowly killing himself or herself with each wisp of the cigarette. Furthermore, the use of black and white colors in the poster creates an absolute yes or no condition, such that the choice to smoke or not is a life or death decision. In addition, the young woman in the ad is staring at the noose with a neutral facial expression, which makes the choice of life or death a more personal decision (Ashcraft). Also, the noose formed by the smoke appeals to pathos in different ways. It immediately catches the attention of the audience considering that a noose is associated with murder or suicide. It depicts that a person who chooses to smoke might as well tie a noose around his or her head. The image stirs up dark but arising emotions especially to the audience who smoke and those who are still contemplating smoking.

The poster was developed to evoke a response from its viewers, both the audience of smokers and those who do not. To people who smoke, the image would act as a reminder of the harm that their actions cause to their lives. On the other hand, to the non-smoking viewers, the ad may either increase their distaste of smoking or evoke no emotions in them as they may think it has little or no impact on their lives. In conclusion, the poster of a young woman with a cigarette smoke forming a noose around her neck employs the use of ethos, logos, and pathos to appeal to its audience. Through its coloring and message, the audience is persuaded that smoking is equivalent to committing suicide and the choice of life or death lies in their decision to quit smoking or not.

Works Cited

Ashcraft, Kelly. Anti-Smoking Campaign, Smoke kills (Change). Photograph. 4ever.eu, 9 May 2012, 4everstatic.com/pictures/674xX/other/anti-smoking-campaign,-smoke-kills-155516.jpg. Accessed 21 Sept. 2017.

Blattner, Don, and Lisa Blattner. Health, Wellness, and Physical Fitness. Mark Twain Media, 2013.

Trimbur, John. The Call to Write. Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2014.

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