I have long been critical of the new disgusting images that various governments have required to be placed on tobacco products. Now, the FDA has issued our own gallery of horrors from diseased lungs to a stitched up corpse.
I have a great aversion to smoking but I find it insulting to smokers to force them to carry around these images. Polls show an exceedingly high number of smokers and non-smokers fully understand the dangers. This is an effort to make cigarettes less glamorous for teens. However, it forces everyone to carry around these graphic images, including adults who are aware of the risks and still choose to smoke. With a majority of non-smokers, it has the feel of majoritarian abuse of an increasingly insular minority.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stated: “These labels are frank, honest and powerful depictions of the health risks of smoking and they will help.” That is certainly true, but what about those frank, honest, and powerful depictions of cirrhotic liver for alcohol products or dead obese people for soda cans or cans of Cool Whip?
Ironically, some of the same people supporting these labels are opposed to new laws requiring women to see pictures of fetuses before abortions. What if state government required graphic pictures to be shown with abortion services? There are a host of areas where legislators may wish to harass individuals in the name of education.
I strongly support efforts to curtail smoking but, so long as tobacco is legal, I find this images to border on harassment of smokers. Smoking is declining and more businesses are barring smokers from their employee ranks. There are considerable pressures on smokers and ample educational efforts that currently exist. Forcing them to carry around pictures of dead people and diseased livers is a new and disturbing option for government regulation. I am not aware of any other program where the government is clearly mandating a national warning system designed more to embarrass than to educate citizens. There are a host of ways the government can force people to carry embarrassing images and it may even be effective. However, that does not mean it is a proper use of regulatory authority.
Roughly 20% of the population still smokes and that number has not changed dramatically in the last five years. This appears an effort to squeeze out another five percent through harassing images. Yet, we have done remarkably well in the sharp reductions in smoking. We always knew that there would be a small minority of citizens who will not be deterred by high taxes and high health costs. Once these people are fully informed of the risk, they have a right to make the choice allowed by law without harassing images. By the way, really cool teens can buy really cool pouches for their cigarette packages.