WHAT OTHERS SAY: Scary approach is needed

Thursday, April 5, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

Scare tactics aren’t something we normally would favor as part of the discussion of important issues, but we’re making two exceptions.

The Joplin tornado has prompted the National Weather Service to experiment with storm warnings using descriptions like “mass devastation,” “unsurvivable” and “catastrophic.” These terms might be used if another EF-5 tornado like the one that hit Joplin comes roaring through again. They wouldn’t be used to describe a severe thunderstorm. The goal will be to send a chill down your spine upon hearing these warnings and prompt a move to safety. The NWS is trying out the new system in a limited area of the Midwest.

Officials are concerned that too many repeated warnings that sound too similar aren’t getting through. If hearing “complete devastation likely” does start to become a description people ignore, then perhaps broadcasting or messaging pictures of the Joplin devastation would work. Something like what is being tried with a batch of new anti-smoking ads, but with more immediacy.

Will the more graphic ad campaign scare you into avoiding smoking or fighting your addiction if you already smoke?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hopes it will.

The nearly 50 years of effort to discourage smoking needed a jolt. The $54 million campaign is nationwide, and it might be having an impact. Calls to the toll-free number for help in quitting and visits to the online site are up dramatically. Hopefully, this means you are trying to break the habit.

We hope these efforts are head-turners for you. Tornado warnings must be taken seriously. There’s every reason to be scared in some situations. Likewise, if a moment of revulsion or sympathy leads to a fear of the results from smoking tobacco, all the better.

Copyright Springfield News-Leader. Reprinted with permission.

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