Graphic Cigarette Labels Could Have Saved Lives

fda cigarettesYou know those graphic images the FDA wanted to require cigarette makers put on every package? If you've seen them, you probably remember them. They're nightmarishly unforgettable: a guy with smoke pouring out of his tracheotomy hole; a repulsive tobacco-ruined pair of lungs contrasted with a fresh, pink healthy pair; a plume of smoke billowing into the airspace of a dubious looking baby.

Well, don't look for them on cigarette packages just yet. The tobacco companies have fought them, and at this point, it looks like they're winning: A judge has just blocked the FDA requirement, saying the labels go beyond conveying factual information about smoking's health risks, and step right over the line into advocacy. (The block will continue until the issue is resolved in court, likely years from now.)

Look, I can see the judge's point. The images are designed to shock. But it's hard not to feel a bit disappointed ...


Because I'm guessing the ads would have been effective. No, they don't seem all that different from the anti-smoking commercials we've seen on TV these past few years. They're similarly gross and graphic. But their big, bold positioning right on the pack, inescapably in your face for anyone reaching for a smoke, may well have prompted people to quit smoking even when other efforts had failed.

And of course that's exactly what the tobacco companies don't want people to do. They want smokers to keep puffing away, health consequences be damned. And that's sad, because if these warning labels had prevented thousands of smoking-related deaths, or even just one, they would have served a noble and worthy purpose.

Are you disappointed that the court blocked these graphic cigarette-package label warnings from being required?


Image via FDA

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