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Sharon Basaraba

Threat of Wrinkles Makes a Powerful Anti-Smoking Pitch

By November 29, 2012

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New research confirming the longevity toll of tobacco leaves no doubt about the dangers of smoking to our long-term health - with as much as a decade of life lost for continuing smokers.  As an environmental toxin, smoking effectively makes you older than your chronological age - that is, your age according to the calendar. But some health advocates are wondering why these facts and figures aren't strong enough to get more people to quit.  Enter an alternative approach: the Vanity Pitch.

Using age-progression software, some school boards in Canada and the United States have opted to show students photos of themselves that have been digitally altered to incorporate the effects of a long-term smoking habit.  The software, called Aprilage, was developed in concert with the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto, Canada, shows the wrinkles and graying skin associated with tobacco use.  It can also indicate how your skin will age over time thanks to sun exposure.  Psychologists in Britain have examined the effect of viewing aged photos on young female smokers -- discovering many were upset enough at the prospect of future wrinkles to quit.

If our lungs were visible, perhaps we'd be more motivated to look after them.

Read more:


Morita A, Torii K, Maeda A, Yamaguchi Y. Molecular basis of tobacco smoke-induced premature skin aging. J Investig Dermatol Symp Proc. 2009 Aug;14(1):53-5.

Sarah Grogan, Keira Flett, David Clark-Carter, Brendan Gough, Rachel Davey, Deborah Richardson and Giri Rajaratnam. "Women smokers' experiences of an age-appearance anti-smoking intervention: A qualitative study." British Journal of Health Psychology Volume 16, Issue 4, pages 675-689, November 2011.

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