COMMENTARY | I’m a smoker. It is not something I’m proud to admit, but it isn’t something I’m ashamed of either. I know the horrors associated with smoking — lung cancer, emphysema, low fetal birth weight — and yet I still smoke. Changing the labels for my cigarettes to gruesome images isn’t going to change my choice to smoke or my desire to have a cigarette. When I am good and ready to quit, I will. Almost any former smoker will tell you that the only way to quit smoking for good is to really want to do it for yourself.
Dennis Leary once said during his “No Cure for Cancer” comedy routine that, “It doesn’t matter how big the warnings on the cigarettes are; you could have a black pack, with a skull and crossbones on the front, called TUMORS, and smokers would be around the block going, ‘I can’t wait to get my hands on these f—ing things! I bet ya get a tumor as soon as you light up!'”
Leary’s comedy routine from 1992 is still apt in today’s world, where the FDA is now promising to place the graphic ill effects of cigarettes on package labels by 2012. A small amount of smokers might quit because of the graphic imagery. I don’t believe I’ll be in that group. I already know the side effects of smoking, just like I know the side effects of drinking alcohol, smoking pot, and texting while driving. Graphic imagery isn’t what prevents me from drinking and driving, texting while driving or snorting cocaine. I don’t do them because I know the side effects are horrific without seeing the imagery attached.
I think this could set an awkward and expensive precedent that the FDA will be required to enforce on more than just tobacco companies. Alcohol has been linked to drinking and driving, liver disease, and episodes of violence. Will the FDA require alcohol companies to place images like a man beating his wife with a baseball bat, a degraded liver, or a woman flying from the windshield of her car into a tree on bottles of alcoholic beverages? Will the government require drug companies, like the ones which produce birth control pills, to put graphic images of blood clots, liver disease and cancer of the breast and uterus on the labeling?
Graphic labeling doesn’t make sense and is a ridiculous ploy by the FDA to place control over a person’s choice to do a legal activity. All graphic imagery on packaging is going to do is cost companies more in advertisement dollars, cause taxes to go up even higher, and won’t prevent anyone from drinking a beer, smoking a cigarette or using birth control to prevent pregnancy.