Could cigarette warning labels actually be too graphic?
If there’s one great debate we’ve had in this space, aside from the occasional musing over bad customer service or CEO bonuses, it’s whether or not smokers get a raw deal.
The arguments are simple, if somehow complicated, too: Party X, non-smokers and health advocates, believe that smoking leads to a preventable drain on society, largely through the need for universal health care resources. Party Y, in this case smokers, feel they are unjustly persecuted for using a legal product.
Both may be right at the same time, but it is Party Y that has most directly suffered, facing the wallet-lightening impact of higher tobacco taxes as well as the social scorn of being outlawed – if just for five minutes at a time – from any public gathering.
What we thought both parties might have agreed on, however, was those new warning labels on cigarette packs.
Party X, the non-smokers, gets to blow up huge images of rotting teeth, blackened lungs and billowing throat holes to try and spook smokers away from lighting up. Party Y, the smokers, gets to keep using cigarettes if they’re unfazed by what might come.
*Bing: How much does the Canadian government make each year off tobacco tax?
In Canada, since our own graphic cigarette labels were introduced in 2000, the percentage of 15-and-over smokers has decreased big time, dropping from 24 per cent at the turn of the century to 18 per cent by 2009.
In the U.S., however, such labels won’t be happening.
A district judge ruled Wednesday that cigarette makers shouldn’t be forced to place large, obscene health warnings on their packs, under the premise the labels violate free-speech rights.
While educating the public about the dangers of smoking “might be compelling,” the judge, Richard Leon, wrote in his ruling, “an interest in simply advocating that the public not purchase a legal product is not.”
Certainly, this might be a fine case of a defendant – in this case tobacco makers, who were being ordered to put graphic labels on their cigarette packs under an earlier proposal by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration – getting off on a law’s technicality, not its spirit.
By hiding behind a ruling of unconstitutional free-speech violation, which the federal government is likely to appeal, according to Reuters, tobacco makers scoot free by saying text warnings on its packs should be enough of a deterrent to smokers. In some ways, it may be.
In the meantime, however, it gives us a talking point: are cigarette warning labels too graphic?
To you, are the warning labels on cigarettes too obscene and too large? Further, is it the tobacco companies’ responsibility to deter against using their own products, or should smokers be accountable for themselves?
By Jason Buckland, MSN Money
Posted by: W.F | Mar 2, 2022 1:04:43 AM
If it has helped to decrease smoking in young people from 24% to 18%, is that not enough of an example that it works? Unfortunately, humans need to be reminded on a daily basis, and yes, with information that is IN THEIR FACE, to help them to change their bad habits, if they truly want to. It will only help the ones who are considering quitting. The die hards are too stubborn and it doesn't matter if there are ugly pics or not
Posted by: Mike | Mar 2, 2022 8:00:08 AM
You want people to quit smoking? Direct your ads to kids 5-10. Parents are more apt to listen to there kids than some adult telling them what they can and can't do.
Posted by: Anon | Mar 2, 2022 9:28:38 AM
While i agree that the rate of young smokers has decreased, not all of that can be attributed to the introduction of the labels. Other factors, such as the introduction of the indoor smoking ban has certainly deterred some people from smoking. Other factors, such as rising costs are also likely to be a greater factor than labels. I think what has most affected people is just general public scorn.
As a smoker, the labels do nothing more than make me feel ashamed should someone else see the pack, other than that, most smokers are fully aware of the negative health implications of the habit.
However, that being said, I am participating in the Driven to Quit campaign and hoping to put these things out of my life for good, certainly not because the labels got larger, but because it's just time to do so.
Posted by: stan irvine | Mar 2, 2022 9:50:39 AM
I hate to see the loby groups given the right to bully those who dont agree with their outlook.
This is still a personal decission and as long as they are for legal sale--the persecution is wrong!
The government is addicted to the taxes, but likes to complain about health costs--THEN STOP SELLING THEM!!
Yes educate the young -that is the only solutoin-- Kids are familliar with bullies and they don't like it either.
It's a personal decission, why don't u BUT out!
P.S. I do not smoke.
Posted by: Barbara B. | Mar 2, 2022 11:11:05 AM
Yes, I am a smoker and have ONLY 1 question to ask: Why,if smoking soooo bad for us - cigarettes are STILL LEGAL???
Who are you kidding government?? You DON'T care about our health but it's the $$$$$ that you are after.
Posted by: Brennan Olsen | Mar 2, 2022 1:39:08 PM
I smoked for about 27 years, and had I known when I started how much smoking would cost me in terms of cash, health, social relationships, reduced trade-in values on cars and homes due to smoke smell....I would have welcomed the most gross and disgusting picture on the package imaginable if it would have detered me from starting.
Smoking is legal drug dealing by the corporate porifera who literally remove the health from young people and commit them to a life of illness and addiction to make thier profits. Tobacco companies are just about the lowest form of degenerate business people alive today, they are thieves, con-artists and liars, and no picture is too gross to depict the filthy intent contained in those innocent appearing cigarretes.
Posted by: Michelle N. | Mar 2, 2022 1:55:08 PM
Personally I think cigarettes should be illegal themselves. I don't understand how we still allow them to be sold to the public, although anything involving the government cannot be relied on. The only reason they are legal is because they've been around soo long. It's pretty obvious they're bad for your health and that's why it's a good idea to have these graphic images on the cartons to remind people of the consequences. It's only about awareness, and it gives people the choice to continue or not.
Posted by: S J | Mar 2, 2022 2:19:18 PM
I was a long time convenience retailer in Canada and sadly the underage, teenagers and young adults treated the graphic warnings as trading cards. Sadle they mostly see themselves as invincible at that age.
Posted by: Loranne | Mar 2, 2022 4:35:43 PM
Pictures do not deter people from anything. They become accustomed to and then ignore these things. The government is wasting OUR tax money by continuing this campaign, and it's a lot of money. People who want to smoke will continue to do so regardless of the reasons why they shouldn't and any pictures on packaging.
What needs (and would be the best thing) to be done is to make cessation programs and drugs more affordable, or even free. Most smokers are in the middle to lower class and don't have money for these things. And although i hate to say it, taxing the cigarettes is a good way to get people to quit as well.
Posted by: Brett | Mar 2, 2022 4:51:36 PM
Let me first qualify by saying that I am a smoker and have been unsuccessful in quitting many times. Partly, due to quit smoking ads while trying to quit. There is nothing worse that TV reminding you smoking when you’re trying to forget.
My second point, yes health effects from smoking is a drain on health care, no one can dispute that. How about alcohol and its ill effects. Why are there not graphic images on all alcoholic bottles depicting young kids killed as result of drunk driving or pictures of damages organs? Are you going to tell me that alcohol is not a drain on society as well? Let me also tell you that I am a police officer and have seen my fair share of what alcohol in the wrong hands in capable of doing.
That’s my two cents.
Posted by: Zed | Mar 2, 2022 5:09:41 PM
...so by the same logic shouldn't companies cover half the pizza box with pictures of obscenely obese people or put pictures of rotten teeth on soda can labels? Why stop there? They should put warning pictures of D.U.I. car accidents or ugly people on liqour bottles or maybe have a picture of an injured child on sporting equipment. You could put pictures of brain tumors on cell phones. Don't get me started with the pharmaceutical products. Oh think of the possibilities. This is a real opportunity for the advertising market. I have to go clean the sarcasm from my keys. I said sarcasm you freak.
Posted by: Ken Knight | Mar 2, 2022 5:22:49 PM
If cigs are a killer take them off the market, oh sorry to many tax dollars to be made
Posted by: eric silva | Mar 2, 2022 5:58:47 PM
its ok putting this grafics about cigar smoking deceases and about on the hard liquor
Posted by: Jess4Lukin | Mar 2, 2022 6:05:38 PM
I'm a "die hard" smoker. I'm sure at least one of the people who are rabid anti smokers will wish that I would die hard.
Frankly, I think this whole issue has been blown out of proportion. First, it is my right to engage in this activity. However, it is not my right to inflict harm - or even my habits - on other people. As a result, I try very hard to be considerate of others. I don't smoke in my house or my car. I don't smoke around my children. You won't find any butts wherever I do smoke: I always pick them up and dfispose of them properly. More, I never light up without asking if anyone around me objects. If they do, I go elsewhere for five minutes. And I accept the rolled eyes and rude comments I overhear among them.
The matter of health cost to the health care system is questionable. Everybody dies. Even people who have never smoked get cancer. If a smoker dies, it's automatically blamed on his or her smoking. And that's just ridiculous. Maybe smoking caused that individual's death. But just maybe, it didn't. If 18% of the adult population are smokers (that's approximately five to ten million people) are buying cigarettes, at $10.00 or more per package about $8.00 of which are taxes, per day - or even every second day, I'd suggest that health care costs for smoking are more than covered.
In relation to this article, No, I don't agree that graphic pictures are an effective deterrent and I do find them in bad taste.
Posted by: Jess4Lukin | Mar 2, 2022 6:42:55 PM
Just an afterthought, why aren't people as concerned about the social costs and personal costs of alcohol? For me, alcoholic drinks simply don't taste good. Maybe some people can get ecstatic about subtle differences in the tastes of different brands of whatever, but I know from personal experience that a large number of people drink for the effect. They like to "get a glow on". Trouble is, by the time they do, there's more alcohol in their body that hasn't yet been processed - and then they're just drunk.
Now look at the costs. In inappropriate behavior. Driving. Family disfunction. Abuse. Careers. Personal relationships. And yes, even in health (cirrosis, anybody?). Should I be pleased that the guy sitting next to me in the restaurant can't smoke, but he can get drunk, stupid, loud, offensive or even dangerously belligerent and out of control?
So where is the outcry over alcohol? Obviously, prohibition didn't work. We have billionaire dynasties in Canada right now built on the liquor industry when the United States tried it.
Posted by: Veda Peters | Mar 2, 2022 7:04:03 PM
Whenever the tobacco industry protests about costs and freedom of speech, it means that the proposed regulation(s) will be effective in reducing the numbers of persons who smoke and in preventing youth from becoming addicted to this legal product - Canada's experience bears this out.
Graphic warnings can motivate individuals to quit, help youth to make a better choice, and remove a lot of the "cool" in cigarette packaging as a marketing tool.
There are many hazardous products available to us - generally they must be misused or abused to be lethal.Tobacco is the only product that will kill half the people who use it exactly as directed.
Posted by: Steve Toner | Mar 2, 2022 7:59:23 PM
As asmoker I have no problem with the warnings on cigarette packages.However I'm tired of the double standard,when will we see graphic images of auto accidents rotted livers cancerous bowels abused spouses and homeless alcoholics on beer and liquor bottles.Every study I have read points out the cost of alcohol abuse is much higher than smoking yet we see nothing.
Posted by: Rose Desjarlais | Mar 2, 2022 8:00:45 PM
Was finally able to quit. Looking at those discussting pictures did help. Sooner or later you will be lying or dying in a hospital bed. Thought it best to try and avoid for as long as possible.
Think it a privilege to breath clean air. Starting smoking should be illegal.
Posted by: John Evans | Mar 2, 2022 8:12:13 PM
I would bet that ninety percent of smokers would quit if they could do so without the problems of withdrawal and the horrible feeling that goes with any withrawal from addiction.
Some time in the ninetys, I quit for the last time. Warning labels on packages were my greatest driving force in kicking a habit of forty years. I decided one day that I would not let myself have a cigarette until I had studied the warning label and read the advice. Once I convinced myself that those warnings were legitemate and real and that my lungs could be like those, quitting was easier than any previous attempts I had made. All you have to do is study the labels and BELIEVE them, those pictures are real. I actually had a friend who smoked through a hole in his neck, of course he's no longer with us. Damn the tobacco industry for knowingly selling an addictive product which also causes lung cancer and many other disabilities and damn the government that profits from it.
Posted by: Billy Bob | Mar 2, 2022 8:45:32 PM
This is a joke people. There are more problems with the drugs that are given to you while you are sick then smoking. You do not hear about the deaths/health problems associated with drinking. They are alarming. The vaccines that are given to us are also a joke. There are links to HIV caused by vaccine along with other major heath problems. So yes, tobacco maybe a health issue but did you ever think of the pollution you are breathing in, much much worse.