The Power of Graphic Images

Author Alan Shlemon Published on 10/01/2011

Americans are in for a rude awakening. Starting September 2012, some people will wake up to strategically-placed graphic pictures. And they won’t like what they see. But it’s about time. Countless lives have been lost because of this “choice.” What’s most surprising is that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are the ones behind this new graphic image campaign. Why? So people will be outraged by what they see and do something to stop it. I’m talking, of course, about smoking.

That’s right. The FDA is on a mission to get Americans to kick the habit. Taking a cue from the pro-life playbook, they’re going to slap graphic images onto cigarette boxes to depict the health risks of smoking. One disturbing image shows a man holding a cigarette while he blows smoke out of his tracheostomy, which is a surgical hole in the front of his neck that extends into the windpipe. Another picture is a close-up of a person’s mouth with a cancerous tumor on their lip. The caption reads, “Cigarettes cause cancer.”

It turns out the FDA is also concerned about the potential smoking has to harm children. Two of the cigarette labels warn about the health risks to kids. One image shows a wisp of smoke hovering near a child with the warning, “Tobacco smoke can harm your children.” The other shows a newborn in a hospital incubator with the words, “Smoking during pregnancy can harm your baby.”

Why is the FDA willing to use disgusting pictures to persuade people out of their free choice to smoke? Because it works. Graphic images change minds.

Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services (which oversees the FDA), said in a White House speech announcing the anti-smoking campaign that, “These graphic warning labels will...tell the truth...with pictures showing negative health consequences of smoking that are proven to be effective.” She’s right. The warnings will work. In fact, I’ve used the same tactic many times for a different purpose.

Last month I was invited to speak at a fundraiser banquet on behalf of the Family Life Center in Effingham, Illinois. The goal was to raise money for this center that helps women facing crisis pregnancies. Four hundred men and women dressed up to sit in a fancy hotel ballroom. They enjoyed a pleasant evening while they ate a delectable dinner. Everyone was comfortable. But then I got up and showed graphic pictures of the remains of children killed through abortion.

You might be asking yourself, What was he thinking? Why do such a thing? For the same reason the FDA is going to show graphic images of smoking-related diseases. Images tell the truth in a way words can’t convey. Unless people are made uncomfortable about abortion, they are less likely to do anything about it. So I bothered them about the unseen reality of dead children so they would do something: open their wallets.

I didn’t only show graphic images. I also equipped them to defend the pro-life position with tactics that work. These are the same tactics I teach the pro-lifers I take to the streets. Using graphic images, though, is a powerful tactic that changes minds, even on a controversial issue like abortion. I know that. You know that. It seems like the FDA knows that, too.