'Shock Therapy' for Smoking

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A new way to get people (specifically young women) to stop smoking, is 'shock therapy'. By showing them the effects of smoking on their aging proces, two thirds of the women were encouraged to stop smoking.

Effects of Smoking

Smoking has a myriad of detrimental effects on health (for more specifics, see Health Effects of Smoking). Despite objections from the tobacco industry, governments from all over the world are looking for effective measures (see Six Measures Against Smoking) that can be implemented to decrease the percentage of smokers among the citizens.

Some of these measures are more effective than others, but a really efficient method to dissuade people from smoking is still being sought vigorously. New research might provide some new ideas.

‘Shock Therapy’

Researchers seem to have found a method that can boast fairly high efficiency numbers in discouraging people from smoking. The method was tested on women exclusively and consisted out of using software to show them how their face would age if they continued smoking.

This was tested on a selection of women ranging from 18 years of age to 34 years. Their faces were photographed and, using the latest ‘aging software’, it was calculated how their faces would age, which was subsequently shown by adapting the pictures.

After this new photograph was shown, the women were informed about how they could ‘limit damage’ by saying farewell to the cigarette. A lot of women were actually so shocked by the results that they exhibited physical symptoms, such as retching.

And the Results?

After this form of ‘shock therapy’ two thirds of the women that participated in the test were determined to stop smoking right then and there. The researchers plan to re-evaluate the efforts of these women within about six months, to see if they kept their resolutions.

If it turns out that they did, this might turn out to be one of the most efficient measures against smoking. Some caveats are that:

  • It was only tested on young women.
  • It is not unreasonable to assume that this type of therapy might only be effective in young women.
  • Their initial reaction to the photos might be a simple ‘yuck effect’, which does not guarantee that they will not restart smoking again after a couple of days have passed.

Nevertheless, if it does turn out to work, it can be a great way to discourage smoking in an influential population group, which might encourage others to stop smoking as well.


  • British Psychological Society (BPS) (2010, December 13). Women smokers shocked into giving up habit by seeing effect on their faces, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 23, 2011.
  • Grogan ,S.; Flett, K.; Clark-Carter, D.; Gough, B.; Davey, R.; Richardson, D. & Rajaratnam, G. (2010). Women smokers’ experiences of an age-appearance anti-smoking intervention. British Journal of Health Psychology. DOI: 10.1348/2044-8287.002006.
  • Staffordshire University, News and Events: Women smokers shocked into giving up habit. (http://www.staffs.ac.uk/about_us/news_and_events/women-smokers-shocked-into-giving-up-habit-tcm4234541.jsp)

1 comment

Mohd Sahil
Posted on Feb 24, 2011