Attention-grabbing public health advertisements with shock value seem to be cropping up all over the place, and a new set of ads from the New York City Department of Health are part of that trend. They feature a smoker who now talks through a voice box because of her habit, another who lost the tips of her fingers from smoking, and a diabetic amputee who bears the warning that as portion sizes of sugary drinks have increased, so have diabetes rates. The thing is, the man in photograph was no amputee — his limbs were Photoshopped out to prove a point.

The city didn’t let on that the picture had been altered, and the man who originally submitted the photograph to the stock photo agency has no idea who the man in the original is, except that he had two legs in the original.

The American Beverage Association, a group that lobbies against measures to convince people to drink less soda, calls the ad “another example of the ‘What can we get away with?’ approach that shapes these taxpayer-funded ad campaigns.” But the Health Department doesn’t see a problem with it.

“Sometimes we use individuals who are suffering from the particular disease; other times we have to use actors,” said John Kelly, a health department spokesman. “We might stop using actors in our ads if the food industry stops using actors in theirs.”

True…there’s something to be said for fighting fire with fire, but don’t campaigns like these turn everyone into liars? Do ads like this even successfully drive home the point that we’re drinking too much soda? Is it necessary to take a heavyset sad-faced black man (who apparently is the picture of diabetes) and turn him into an amputee to disturb consumers out of unhealthy habits?

What do you think?

Read more at The New York Times.


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