FDA’s Cigarette Graphic Images

First some disclosure, I don’t smoke (except the infrequent and celebratory cigar/pipe tobacco), I know a lot of people that do, there was a brief segment during my undergraduate years when I had a more frequent clove or regular cigarette, and I really have no issues with smoking. I don’t choose to engage in the activity, it sends my wife into anaphylaxis, I get a quite upset about it being done around kids and those that are involuntarily exposed to it, and there are a myriad of reasons to not smoke and to quit as soon as possible.

That being said, what decisions you make as an autonomous adult in regards to your own lifestyle and health are yours, and I have no right to force you to do or not do anything. If you are open to it, I would try to convince you not to smoke and help you find ways to quit if your so inclined. At the end of the day if you still want to smoke, I or anyone else has no right to force you to do otherwise.

I took the time today to look through the proposed graphic images for cigarette packaging and advertising and rather than being encouraged by the FDA’s most recent attempt at cutting smoking rates, I was quite underwhelmed, a bit offended, and weary of their tactic. From what I can gather the basic premise for the graphic image labeling is to deter smokers from purchasing cigarettes by giving vivid examples of what cigarette use can do to you and those around you (ranging from COPD and cancer, to death).

What offended me wasn’t what the images themselves portray (I actually wish that was the case, it would be evidence toward their effectiveness), but the fact that they’re quite mediocre in production value and almost seem comedic rather than effective in preventing cigarette purchasing. I get what the FDA is trying to do, I actual support it in theory, but why not treat people as adults (last I checked you couldn’t buy cigarettes unless you were one) and be upfront and honest rather than resorting to scare tactics using what I’m guessing is going to be another ineffective shot in the dark.

One of the unintended consequences I would not be surprised to see (I’d be happy to be proved wrong) when these images come into effect is that cigarette sales may actually jump due to kids/young adults/juvenile-minded-adults thinking the “warnings” are funny and grabbing a pack because these warnings, rather than preventing them from otherwise making the purchase, spark their interest and draw their attention from something they may have otherwise not even noticed.

This is the root of where I’m offended by these images. If you’re going to try to deter someone from using something, don’t make it front and center with what could be taken as clever reverse-type-advertising. Isn’t there a reason why every other warning sign we know of isn’t a sub-par photograph of a corpse with a toe-tag but bright yellow/orange backgrounds with clear black bold lettering or stick figure enduring frightening mutilation. On a personal note, one of the major contributers to my never embarking on routine tobacco use was the actual histological comparisons of smokers’ vs. non-smokers’ lung tissue. Something about the black, necrotic tissue of smokers’ lung pleura still makes me squirm, but rather than using this in these recent images, the closest thing I could find was a rather cartoonish computer re-imaging of this comparison that wasted all of its inherent thunder.

These images are only a section of a campaign against cigarette use, but I’m a little nervous it’s going to do a bit more harm than good to the other more honest approaches (family education, very well produced tv spots/commercials, physician clinical advising against continued use, the development of much better cessation programs and medications, etc.). I hope I’ll be eating these words next year when these images find their way before my eyes on a convenience store checkout shelf, but at this moment I still have my doubts.

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~ by veniatregnum on November 12, 2010.

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