Recent scare warnings

Above: Examples of scare warning photos appearing on cigarette packaging in the UK. Montage: Oscopic.

Unknown Horrors

Photo-based scare warning images on cigarette packages in the UK are evolving. Just as the horror movie genre has moved on from copious gore-and-blood--seen as too crass and obvious these days--so too, the cigarette package fear-photo has moved on to sci-fi horror. Out are the photos of bleeding growths and pendulous malignant tumours (too familiar by half) and in their place come images more in keeping with Crichton, Asimov, and Stephen King. The "horror" of smoking is now paralleled with the horror of acute radiation poisoning (per Litvinenko), exposure to lethal nerve-agent (per Skripals), or infection by extraterrestrial microorganism. As with all impact-based photo-effects the action is limited and temporary: as soon as viewer perception becomes sufficiently familiar with one revulsion, the next is required to be readied in its place--always allowing that the replacement must also be a novelty. (The process of becoming "sufficiently familiar" is known as desensitization.) Death (even a slow and painful death) by a known-and-imaginable cause, is nowhere near as disturbing and traumatizing as death by a cause that is stark and new.

(22 July 2018)