The Food and Drug Administration is looking for comment on its plans to festoon cigarette packages with truly disgusting or frightening images. The idea is that every time a smoker buys a pack or picks it up to shake out a cigarette, they'll be faced with images of diseased lungs, sick babies, or even a body stitched up after an autopsy and be skeeved out enough to quit.
It's a decent idea ... but probably won't make a damn bit of difference.
See, anyone who is currently still smoking is either fully aware of the risks they are taking, or too stupid to live. And, speaking as an ex-smoker? No one who smokes thinks it will hurt their health before they can quit. A favorite quote of mine in my smoking days was, "Yes, every cigarette takes six minutes off your life, but it's the ones at the end."
Smokers might not realize it, though, but even an otherwise young and healthy smoker deals with subtle health effects. Here are ways smoking might be affecting you right now in the prime of your youth:
Dull skin: One of the first positive changes you'll notice after you quit is significantly brighter, more alive-looking skin. Nurses say they can tell smokers from nonsmokers by their skin alone.
Nagging cough: Walk too fast, step outdoors on a cold day, or inhale steam from a hot shower and all of a sudden you sound like a one-woman TB ward. That's your lungs reacting to an overload of irritation.
Dead sense of smell and taste: Here's one reason why smokers gain weight after they quit: Food all of a sudden tastes awesome, because they can finally really taste it.
Poor sleep: Nicotine is a stimulant and plays havoc with normal sleep patterns.
Poor circulation: Always suffering freezing hands and feet? Your habit may be to blame.
Increased flu risk: Smokers are more likely to get the flu and when they get it, more likely to get really sick from it.
Marriage troubles: Smokers are considerably more likely to divorce than nonsmokers.
Precancerous lesions: Smokers get sore, scaly white patches in their mouths that can lead to oral cancer.
And that's all before heart disease, lung cancer or any other health effects kick in. Quitting is torturous and horrible, but so is dying from lung cancer or watching your children weep as they sit next to you in a hospital bed after your first heart attack. At least with quitting, the agony ends and then life's a lot better. And you won't have to look at those horrible pictures on your cigarette packs.
Image via FDA.gov