Corporations blow smoke at warning label suggestions

By Stephanie Saviola

Smokers beware: People who gloss over the Surgeon General’s warning label or rarely look at the fine print on cigarette cartons will soon have no other choice but to pay attention to their cigarette packs.

The Federal Drug Administration’s proposed new “graphic” warning labels for cigarette packs are expected to take effect in 2012.  Some of the images shown are pictures of a toe tag on a dead body, a man inhaling smoke through a hole in his neck and unsmoked cigarettes dumped in a toilet.

The graphic images have warning labels over them with statistics and smoking risks.

Some cigarette manufacturers said they will file lawsuits because the changes to the label are violating their right to freedom of speech. I’m all for protecting our First Amendment rights, but I fail to see how adding graphic labels to an addictive substance that kills thousands of people every year is infringing on free

speech rights.

The FDA isn’t taking cigarettes off the market—they are simply regulating warning labels like they are supposed to.  By not allowing the FDA to do its job with the warnings, it is almost as if cigarette makers are trying to regulate the FDA with these lawsuits.

The labels, while they might seem harsh, are relatively mild compared to warnings other countries put on their cartons.  In most European countries and other parts of the world, including Australia and Brazil, cigarette packs have had graphic warning labels for years. These are much more grotesque with pictures such as rotten teeth, gangrene and a cancerous jaw and tongue from several years of smoking—much worse than those the FDA proposed in America.

But some manufacturers are also complaining the labels are too graphic and stigmatize smokers because the new labels say nothing about smoking risks or raise awareness. Or so

they claim.

Do people who smoke not know the risks by now? Plus, a colorful graphic image is much more attention grabbing than a fine-print warning label. According to the American Heart Association, 45.9 million Americans aged 18 and older smoke, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tobacco causes more deaths per year than murders, suicides, HIV, car crashes and alcohol and drug related accidents.

Clearly the warnings are not working  Studies have even shown the graphic pictures are much more effective at gaining people’s attention than the standard Surgeon General’s warning label, and should be implemented.

People will ultimately choose whether they want to take the risk and smoke in the end, but if the FDA wants to advocate for stronger  warning messages, they should