Friday, November 19, 2010

Would This Man Make You Stop Smoking?!?

I don't smoke.[1] Never have, never will. I could go into the myriad reasons why, but I'll just stick with the health angle. Namely, why actively participate in an activity that's medically proven to shorten your life?

Then again, I love Taco Bell, so I'm clearly not the health/morality police. The Federal government is, however, and in their latest ploy to get folks to stop smoking tobacco (not the wacky type), they're pulling out all the stops and just getting gross. But here's a baby step solution to quit smoking by using nicotine-free products (like those designed by today.
After decades of reminding people about the dangers of cigarettes, offering nicotine gum or patches and making smokers huddle outside, the government is turning to gruesome pictures.

Federal health officials Wednesday unveiled plans to replace the warnings cigarette packs began carrying 25 years ago with new versions using images that could include emaciated cancer patients, diseased organs and corpses.

Public health authorities and anti-smoking activists hailed the move as a milestone in the battle against tobacco in the United States that began in 1964 when the surgeon general first declared cigarettes a public health threat. That battle made steady progress for decades, but has been stymied in recent years, with a stubborn one in five adults and teens still smoking.

Tobacco remains the leading cause of premature and preventable death in the country, causing 443,000 deaths each year and about one-third of all cancer deaths.

Armed with new powers approved by Congress last year, the Food and Drug Administration is proposing warnings that include one containing an image of a man smoking through a tracheotomy hole in his throat; another depicting a body with a large scar running down the chest; and another showing a man who appears to be suffering a heart attack. Others have images of a corpse in a coffin and one with a toe tag in a morgue, diseased lungs and mouths, and a mother blowing smoke into a baby's face.

The new warnings will cover half the front and back of each pack and 20 percent of each large ad.
You can see an extensive (and nasty) slideshow of all 33 proposed labels here. I should probably warn you in advance, that is some gruesome sh*t.

I'll make a not-so-bold prediction: this campaign will fall flat and won't have a tangible result on smoking rates. Why, because most people who smoke already know this and still choose to smoke. If years of those (tobacco company-funded) "Truth" PSAs, and making the price of a pack of cigarettes as much as $12 (in NYC) didn't do the job, what makes them think putting graphic labels will disgust people to the point of quitting? My guess is most smokers will either cover up the label, or become desensitised to the whole shock factor after awhile.

Basic human psychology says people enjoy doing things even when the risk is known. It's why some of us have unprotected sex, drink to the point of blacking out, and vote Republican. Eff' a risk, it's the American way.

Besides, why pick on smokers, when people also die from the long term effects of alcoholism at astonishing rates. Why not put a "drink wisely or you could wake up next to this broke & busted chick tomorrow morning" label on Budweiser? Slap a "you know your fat a$$ don't need to be eatin' this" label on Big Macs? How about a picture of an empty bank account on condom boxes to encourage use? I'm just sayin'.

I suppose I applaud the FDA for taking some (token) action to curb a massive, preventable health epidemic, but like many gubb'ment initiatives, I predict this is going to simply be costly and ineffective when all's said and done.

You just can't legislate good decision-making.

Question: Do you smoke? If so, would these labels make you think twice about your habit? Will this campaign work? Is it unfair to single out smokers when there are lots of other products that also people?

[1] Anything. Just felt the need to clarify. My mama reads this blog.

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