Wednesday, November 10, 2010

FDA Proposes New Cigarette Warning Labels

This is a bit much in my opinion:

Federal drug regulators on Wednesday unveiled 36 proposed warning labels for cigarette packages, including one showing a toe tag on a corpse and another in which a mother blows smoke on her baby.

Designed to cover half the surface area of a pack or carton of cigarettes, and a fifth of any advertisements for them, the labels are intended to spur smokers to quit by providing graphic reminders of tobacco’s dangers. The labels are required under a law passed last year that gave the Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate, but not ban, tobacco products for the first time.

Public health officials hope that the new labels will re-energize the nation’s antismoking efforts, which have stalled in recent years. About 20.6 percent of the nation’s adults, or 46.6 million people, and about 19.5 percent of high school students, or 3.4 million teenagers, are smokers.
And yes, that's actually one of the proposed images above; you can see more here. Because just giving people the facts about cigarettes isn't enough, the government has decided that it's also necessary to appeal to one's emotions and fear of death and disease in order to control individual behaviour. My conservative counterpart Donald Douglas of American Clown Shoes accurately intuits my stand on this issue:
I don't know. Maybe some folks are so stupid they actually need these warnings. Besides, what would folks like egghead JBW do without some Nanny Statism to gripe about? Get rid of warning labels and marijuana laws in one fell swoop!! Then everyone would have equal opportunity to death!
Now I'm not a Republican so I don't consider the moniker "egghead" to be the epithet that Don does but I will admit that I do agree with him on this, at least partially: I'm absolutely convinced that some (hell, many) folks are so stupid that they actually need these warnings, there's no maybe about it. Even after several decades of government health reports stating definitively that cigarettes cause cancer and thus death, even after several multi-billion dollar lawsuits against tobacco companies for making false claims about the safety of their products all these years and even though cigarettes have had health warnings on them since the mid sixties people still smoke them! Why do they do this despite all of the warnings and evidence about how dangerous it is? Well, even though I'm an egghead (which is defined as being "elitist" and "out of touch") I understand a truth about myself and my fellow humans that Don does not: human beings have a fundamental need to alter their brain chemistry.

Ever wonder why the War on Drugs has been such an abject failure? Or why people smoke or chew tobacco, drink too much alcohol and eat too much fat, salt and sugar? Of course you don't because you know why people do these things: because it makes them feel good, and no amount of warning labels and government babysitting is going to make them stop doing so. Now this isn't to say that I think cigarettes shouldn't have warnings on their packages. I have no problem with the small amount of government intervention that is required to force companies to provide adequate information to the public about their products but these pictures of diseased lungs and choking children seem to me political correctness run amok.

Now I have no doubt that they'll have the desired effect of convincing a certain number of people not to smoke who weren't deterred by a mere written warning but how far should we as a society be willing to take this? Should the winery that produces my Pinot Noir be forced to place a picture of a hardened liver on every bottle? How about forcing fast food companies to print pictures of a guy having a coronary or having his leg amputated due to diabetes on their cheeseburger wrappers? Or we could even up the ante to things that still hold an element of danger yet don't even alter brain chemistry or directly affect our health, like forcing car companies to place pictures of bloodied corpses on their windshields or forcing the airlines to print pictures of a crashed burning fuselage on every ticket. Hell, we could force companies to put a graphic warning about the worst consequences of every product and activity under the sun on their respective packaging and advertising, then nobody would ever do anything stupid and we'd all be safe from ourselves, right?

Wrong. We could do all of that and more and people would still do stupid things that are dangerous to their health but we've decided as a society that we're OK with that because it's the price of personal freedom in this country. Full disclosure: I don't smoke, in fact I hate cigarettes. One of my great laments is that almost every cute girl I know in California is a smoker but I still defend the rights of smokers to do so because I believe in the principle of individual liberty. Being a hypocrite Don is comfortable letting his government dictate ever more restrictive advertising codes for tobacco and positively draconian anti-drug laws because he doesn't smoke or use illicit drugs, hence he could care less about the individual freedoms of people who do. I would imagine that he's quite all right with the recent San Francisco ban on toys in Happy Meals (gotta protect the kids, you know) and the massive sin tax that California has placed on alcohol and tobacco products (I missed that part last time I was reading the bible), all while he squeals incessantly about big government running wild and Obama ramming his health care reform down our throats.

What this ultimately boils down to is personal responsibility and the philosophy that adults, even stupid adults, should be able to decide for themselves whether or not to engage in behaviour that is dangerous to themselves and their health. Children are obviously different and because their reasoning skills are not yet mature they require additional governmental protection but even then I doubt Don and the rest of his tea partying ilk would want the government telling them how to raise their children in most respects. But telling an adult like him that he can and cannot ingest certain substances and chemicals because in the eyes of the government he's essentially too stupid to decide these things for himself? Well, maybe he needs these warning labels to protect him. Perhaps then despite varying levels of individual stupidity our societal "opportunity to death" might not be equal, but at least we'll all be safe from our own behaviour.

Well what do you know, I wrote this entire post without invoking the phrase "nanny state" even once. You're welcome, Don. Now go do what your government tells you like a good little drone.


Leslie Parsley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leslie Parsley said...

I deleted that long-winded comment because it really didn't have anything to do with the point you were making. I'll just say that I'm one of those stupid adults that needs all the encouragement she can get to stop this stupid habit.

Isn't this kind of like the argument people used when seat belts became mandatory?

squatlo said...

I am the cigarette industry's worst enemy. Killed one of my parents, probably contributed to the death of the other. When these new labels were first proposed and I saw the warning photos, I thought it might be just the thing to convince some teen aged girl to pass instead of getting started... appeal to her vanity and looks by showing her the results of a habit she probably can't afford in the first place.
But after reading your blog post, I've turned my opinion around. You're right. It's too much, and unless the soft drink and fast food industries are going to have to do the same things, it's patently unfair.
Jeez, you've got me thinking like a damn libertarian! Pardon me, I need to go brush my teeth and wash my hands...

Kevin Robbins said...

If I thought they would deter anyone from smoking I would support these labels. Every smoker knows the consequences. It's funny (not ha-ha), but thinking about talking through the hole in the throat was one of the things that convinced me to quit long ago. Never wanted that.

BTW, thanks. Now I'll be thinking of having my leg amputated every time I'm at BK or Mickey D's. It's worth it for a cheeseburger, tho.

JBW said...

I've heard stopping smoking is harder than stopping heroin use and I don't want to be one of those annoying folks who are always saying you should quit Leslie but you should quit.

As to mandatory seat belt laws I can't say that I really agree with those either. It should still be mandatory for children of course but if an adult wants to be that stupid and careless with their life I believe they have that right. Same with motorcycle helmet laws.

JBW said...

That's one of the best compliments I've ever received squatlo, thanks. I believe that the ability to change one's mind, especially as it concerns things that one doesn't agree with, is the very definition of principle over partisanship.

JBW said...

But if every smoker knows the consequences ex DLB then why are these labels even necessary? I think it's PC overkill but I'm glad you were able to quit.

And incidentally, according to your logic if the thought of having your leg amputated deterred you from eating that cheeseburger it would be worth it, right? You're welcome.

JoeBama "Truth 101" Kelly said...

I'm in no hurry so I can hop.

IT wasn't a warning label that got me to quit chewing tobacco. It was my wife's finding my Redman and reaming me out. In addition to the threat of withholding "wifely duties."

I am still not chaste in this matter. I bought some Altria stock a while back. If you must smoke, smoke Marlboros. Chew Skoal. But if everyone quits tomorrow and I lose my investment I can live with that.

I think my money is safe. The dividend is good and anytime a pinko commie capitalist like me makes money it pisses of Donald "Clown Shoes" Douglas.

Oh. And I my sister told me we were of royal blood. I ask that I not be treated any differently JBW. You may continue to ignore my Facebook Friend requests.

JBW said...

Your wife sounds like a smart lady, LT101. Your lips will thank you for having quit and if you're lucky so will hers. And if I were actually on Facebook I would gladly ignore your friend requests as I find the idea of royalty quite sickening.

JoeBama "Truth 101" Kelly said...

Although my blood flows blue, my heart is still that of the common man JBW.

Free Classic Flix said...

This is the only nation I know of that will refuse you medical care unless you attempt suicide and then they'll spare no expense to save you from death, the one thing you really want in that case.

EUROman said...

I thought some of those pictures where kind of hilarious, mainly because of how over the top they were.
This all reminds me of the message of a an anti-smoking campaign here in Iceland. About 10 years ago their slogan was "Kissing a smoker is like licking the inside of an ash tray" and I would like to say that that is a complete and utter lie, I have kissed plenty of smokers and I HAVE licked the inside of an ashtray and I can tell you they are nothing alike.

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