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Would Gross Pictures Keep You From Smoking?

By Madeline Holler |

quit smoking, effects of smoking

Will this picture keep you from smoking?

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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About Madeline Holler


Madeline Holler

Madeline Holler is a writer, journalist, and blogger. She has written for Babble since the site launched in 2006. Her writing has appeared in various other publications both online and in print, including Salon and True/Slant (now Forbes). A native of the Midwest, Madeline lives, writes, and parents in Southern California, where she's raising two daughters and a son. Read bio and latest posts → Read Madeline's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “Would Gross Pictures Keep You From Smoking?

  1. Jay says:

    Even if the labels help some people stop, will it be worth the costs of the first amendment battles the tobacco business start up? Number of smokers aren’t going down!

  2. Leigh says:

    I can’t agree with this even though I am completely anti-smoking. I hate it. But in what other industry in this free-market capitalist country are they required to package their product so that people WON’T buy it? I would rather they just outlaw the stuff altogether or tax the absolute heck out of it to pay the medical costs of smokers so my rates can go down. I’m in NC so the tax on tobacco is minimal compared to the rest of the country.

  3. MayasMomma214 says:

    In Mexico, they have already had pics in the packs of cigs to deter smoking… 1 of the pics is of a dead fetus- yes, a dead fetus covered in blood and mucus- lying in an ashtray surrounded by cig butts. That would NEVER fly up here in America- people would get too touchy about it up here, even though the same people who would get touchy are the same people who want people to quit smoking. I’m a recent ex-smoker (I was always respectful, held my cig up and didn’t puff it if a family was walking by, always went to designated smoking areas so as to avoid people with children, and never smoked in or around anybody’s car) but I gotta say, there’s NO WAY to eliminate smoking… it won’t happen in our lifetime. Just like prohibition, they could outlaw it but then you’re just going to have more “drug dealers” on the streets selling tobacco products and clogging up the jails and institutions.

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