The Food and Drug Administration has unveiled 36 proposed new warning labels for cigarettes sold in the U.S. All of the new designs include pictures of various off-putting scenes — a mom and toddler surrounded by smoke, a man puffing smoke through his tracheostomy tube. They’re gross and mostly real, though there’s a cartoon of breast-feeder blowing smoke right in her baby’s face that comes across as exaggerated. (So does the cigarette-as-heroin-fix image.)
I don’t know whether cigarette labels like these will encourage smokers to stop or even cut back, but they will be welcome assistance to those of us raising the next generation of potential smokers. Smoking’s impact is quite visual and something a few lines of a surgeon general’s warning can’t capture.
In fact, I think the FDA overlooked one way to appeal to teens and young adults: their vanity. I’ve looked through most of the 36 proposed new labels and not one is of twin studies, which show the longitudinal effects of smoking on a person’s appearance.
I’m sure the tobacco companies have already hunkered down to figure out ways to lessen the possible impact on sales. I suspect someone is already printing subversive T-shirts with exactly those images emblazoned across the chest. While I don’t think the labels alone will cut the rate of smokers in the U.S., I think they’re a good part of an overall strategy — keeping people from starting, and reminding smokers that they hurt others with second-hand smoke.
What do you think of the new labels? How do you talk to your kids about cigarettes? Mine hardly ever see it — we live in California where only 12 percent of the population smokes and you have to go out of your way to find a place to light your cigarette. We talk about it in terms of health, addiction and, indeed, what it does to your appearance. (Whatever works!)
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