The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s new cigarette warning labels featuring macabre images of the effects of tobacco use are a step too far in the government’s campaign against smoking.
To be sure, tobacco causes serious health problems and its use is the leading cause of preventable death in this country. It is responsible for 443,000 deaths annually.
But let’s keep in mind that cigarettes are still legal.
We think it’s simply overkill to force businesses engaging in lawful commerce to give over half of their packaging space to a campaign that goes beyond education and is intended to horrify customers, virtually all of whom already understand that their habit is unhealthy.
We don’t have a problem with — and, in fact support — strong public health campaigns to deter smoking.
Young people ought to be educated about the dangers of tobacco — and usually are. And we see a role for government in providing support for those trying to kick this nasty, addictive habit.
We don’t even necessarily take issue with the graphic nature of the images, were they part of a campaign separate from the products.
Think about the Colorado Meth Project, which implores young people to stay away from methamphetamine. The tactics, which include graphic images related to meth use, have proven effective in combating use of this addictive and illegal drug.
The big difference is that no one is trying to paste these images on a legal commodity.
We understand and empathize with the frustrations of public health officials who have watched smoking rates remain unchanged in the last seven years. And we know other countries have required gruesome images on cigarette packs in an effort to tamp down smoking rates, with mixed results.
But so long as cigarettes are legal, tobacco companies should not be forced to give up a dominant portion of their product real estate to an effort intended to nauseate users.
Article source: http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_18341761