By Jon Keller, WBZ Political AnalystBy Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) — Have you ever seen those anti-smoking TV ads from the Centers for Disease Control that feature real people talking about the damage tobacco-related disease did to their bodies and lives?

Listen to Jon’s commentary

If you had seen them, trust me, you’d remember. They are graphic and disturbing.

And, according to just-released research, effective.

The CDC surveyed more than 5,000 smokers and non-smokers before and after the ads started running, and found attempts to quit rose by 12%. Calls to their toll-free number for help quitting increased more than 130%, and visitors to a quit-smoking website jumped by half a million.

Even non-smokers were moved by the horror show. More than a third of non-smokers who saw the ads shared the warnings with loved ones afterwards, a sharp increase over past campaigns.

It seems that fear is a powerful motivator.

You parents in the audience already know what I mean. Fear of punishment, of losing a privilege, or simple fear of angering you is a crucial part of effective parenting. Not the only part, but an important one.

As bad as some politicians can be at times, corrupt or indifferent to public opinion, imagine how much worse it would be if they didn’t fear the voters’ wrath on election day?

Of course, it’s not healthy for us to be living in fear at all times. Red Sox fans did it for decades, and it was no fun. Other reasons to do what’s right have their place.

But a little bit of fear – or, in the case of those gruesome anti-smoking ads, fear laid on as thick as it takes – can go a long way toward making us smarter.

Maybe the only thing we really have to fear, is the lack of fear itself.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.


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