The FDA’s campaign of shock and awe for smokers
Along comes the federal government with haunting pictures slapped across packs, courtesy of a 2009 law that gave the government ability to regulate tobacco. The graphic images represent a progression in labeling. The first mandated warnings “Cigarettes may be hazardous to your health” began appearing on cigarette packs in the 1960s. Labels ushered in during the 1980s explained that smoking can cause a range of diseases: lung cancer, heart disease and other illnesses. The newest labels featuring gory pictures are expected to appear on packs by fall 2012. In this case, gory is good.
Escalation of smoking fight correct
The unsettling new scare images that will be required on cigarette packs next year are an overdue escalation in the war on smoking. Smoking has declined in America from 42.4% of adults in 1965 to 20.6% in 2009, since cancer and other warnings began to appear on packages of cigarettes and tobacco ads. Years of education, smoking bans, enormous tobacco tax increases and social pressure have had an impact. But tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The smoking rate has dropped little since 2003; the fight is running out of steam.
News-Press (Fort Myers, Fla.), June 22
New cigarette warning labels represent newest offensive in big government’s war on vice
Why do we object to the wholesale federal editorializing against cigarettes? For one, it creates a precedent for more government inveighing against vices. Surely the consumption of alcohol is in a similar league to cigarettes for the level of sickness and pain it causes society. Drunk drivers claimed more than 10,000 lives in 2009, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Why not put an image of a mangled automobile on a bottle [of] vodka or a cross section of a liver with severe cirrhosis on a bottle of chardonnay? Inevitably the question arises: Why does smoking deserve stand-alone status as an object of government-required scorn?
Warning labels can’t hurt, but likely won’t work
About 40 countries — including Mexico and Canada — already require similar graphic warnings, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Canada has not seen a reduction in smoking rates since it implemented them. And it’s doubtful this will work here. Those who want to smoke will smoke — it’s their right, after all — and the images won’t deter it, no matter how grisly they may be.
Muskogee (Okla.) Phoenix, June 26
There is no way to measure precisely the misery caused by tobacco products, but a good start is the more than 440,000 people who die from tobacco-related deaths each year and the $100 billion it racks up in annual health care costs. Tobacco companies will challenge the FDA’s authority to regulate tobacco in a lawsuit beginning next month. And they complain that the new warnings violate their freedom of speech. Tell that to the more than 440,000 people who died last year from tobacco. Their freedom of speech is gone forever.
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