New Ways to Deter Smoking

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Wish fewer people smoked? Maybe it’s time for visual warnings on packages.

Cigarette packages should show graphic images of yellow teeth, blackened gums, protruding neck tumors and bleeding brains to alert smokers to their disease risks, the World Health Organization said on Friday.

WHO says 20 nations already use some form of visual warning and evidence suggests those graphic images deter smokers from smoking.

I don’t see why we need to stop there. I’m thinking full-sugared Cokes can come with pictures of legs amputated because of diabetes. Cars can have crash victims painted on their doors. Budweiser can come with photos of diseased livers or, you know, photos of a bunch of drunk people (who, let’s face it, are only attractive to other drunk people).

Absurdity aside, I do understand the public health hazard of cigarettes. But I’m am continuously amazed and amused by the lengths governments will go to try to stop people from buying and using a legal product. If smoking is so bad, why not criminalize it? Why try overbearing market manipulations when you can just outlaw the market altogether and claim a public health victory?

The answer, of course, is taxes. As long as governments use cigarettes as a source of revenue, outlawing the stuff would be a big financial blow. So you end up with a bizarre little balancing act where government’s will do all they can to dissuade people from using the product while simultaneously profiting from the use of that product. Frankly, if we’re willing to be so ambiguous in our public health values, we might as well legalize marijuana and begin enjoying the tax windfall.

  • http://along-the-grain BenG

    Thanks for that, ASC;

    One of my many pet peeves, but it does help to vent a little by doing a bit of good ‘ol whining. Speaking of whine, is it good for you this week or harmful? I can’t keep up so I’ll pour myself another glass of anti-oxidant brain food and think about it some more.

    What really gets to me is the commercials that just punish everyone for nothing. They’re getting more and more disgusting and have no positive effect. Do they think people smoke because they want to? It’s fun and you can’t take that away from me? It’s an addiction and very difficult to quit. These fear tactics only give smokers the excuse to rebel; “I’ll kill myself as slowly and painfully as i want to and it’ll be worth it just to piss you off”

    I quit a long time ago and I can tell you it’s not easy but you do it when YOU really want to – not when somebody else really wants you to.

  • Paul

    Smoking (by her own admission) led to the death of my mother. It is a disgusting and dangerous practice !

  • Chris

    According to the article I read the images do cut down on people smoking, and they’re not just trying to get people to quit, they’re trying to get people to never start.

  • the Word

    Years ago I saw a billboard in CA that I thought was clever. It was a wooden coffin with cigarettes sealing the lid like nails. Whether it caused anyone to change, who knows. But it did get the dialogue at least started I would guess.