Does government have the right to use tax payers money to discourage people from engaging in a deadly habit?
Many smokers say absolutely not, and are objecting to the latest anti smoking ads produced by the New York City Health Department.
The ads will be broadcast by the state for two months through the help of an $824,875 federal grant. Known for using shocking and graphic images of the repercussions of smoking, the newest ad is called “Emphysema” and it shows a man choking as he tries to breathe. It definitely demands a double take when you hear the man’s struggling to breathe through a never-ending, hacking cough.
Smokers say not only do they have no right to force their beliefs on the general public, but the Department of Health should not be using tax payers money to support the ads.
The NY Daily News reports that smokers’ groups feel it is simply wrong. “They are using our money for speech against us,” said Audrey Silk, founder of the group Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment.
Admittedly, some of the ads are very graphic. An ad, titled “Cigarettes Are Eating You Alive,” shows images of diseased lips, lungs and skin, while another called “Heart Attack” shows a heart operation with an overhead voice saying “right now, you’re a heart attack waiting to happen.”
Of course, the shock value is why we are even talking about them right now, but also what makes these ads work. The state’s smoking hotline received 5,142 calls within a week of the debut of “Emphysema,” which is a whopping 75% increase from typical summer volume. City officials also credit the ads with helping reduce smoking rates by 27% from 2002 to 2009.
The big question, according to many, is how much should government have a say in a person’s habits? And what happens when that habit is deadly, and may result in an early death? When tax money goes to paying for the ads, many feel they have more of a say over it.
Yet wouldn’t it cost much more to support kids who become orphans when the parents get lung cancer…. not to mention the medical costs of the parents through sustainable medical treatment?
What do you think? How much involvement should the government have over a substance that is legal, yet can be fatal with long-term use? And if it is that deadly, then why isn’t it illegal in the first place?
More on the smoking debate: Big Tobacco Sues US Govt Over New Warning Label Requirement