The FDA's campaign of shock and awe for smokers
The Food and Drug Administration offers graphic images on cigarette packs in effort to reduce smoking. Sure, the new pictures are gory, but if they reduce smoking, they're worth any affront.
THERE are dozens of ways to persuade people to stop smoking. The Food and Drug Administration's latest, compelling idea: Gross people out with graphic images.
Cigarette packs in the U.S. are getting a makeover, the most significant change in 25 years. The results will not be pretty — on purpose. New labels will highlight images of diseased lungs, cigarette smoke coming through a hole in a man's throat, rotting teeth. You get the picture.
Smoking rates are stalled. The percentage of Americans who smoke fell dramatically during the past four decades, from nearly 40 percent to 20 percent. But more recently, the rate has plateaued. Experts blame new flavored cigarillos and reduced funds for anti-smoking programs.
In Washington state, roughly 70,000 young people still smoke and a shocking 50 a day begin the bad habit. Adult smoking rates recently edged upward, with low-income groups affected more.
Along comes the federal government with haunting pictures slapped across packs, courtesy of a 2009 law that gave the government ability to regulate tobacco. The graphic images represent a progression in labeling. The first mandated warnings — "Cigarettes may be hazardous to your health" — began appearing on cigarette packs in the 1960s.
Labels ushered in during the 1980s explained that smoking can cause a range of diseases: lung cancer, heart disease and other illnesses. The newest labels featuring gory pictures are expected to appear on packs by fall 2012. In this case, gory is good.
"The more graphic the more real it looks and sends a message to smokers about what can happen to them" said Mary Selecky, secretary of the state Department of Health.
People who say smoking is not the government's business are wrong. Smoking is a proven health hazard. The government pays enormous sums on health care for smokers.
With less state spending on prevention, haunting pictures and bold labeling will have to do some of the talking and educating.
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