FDA Wants to Scare People Out of Smoking

Discussion
Nov 11, 2010
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Feet hanging out from a hospital gurney with a toe tag,
a woman holding a toddler who is inside a cloud of smoke she appears to have
exhaled, another kid with an oxygen mask: these are some of the images being
proposed for cigarette packs and ads by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) in the nation’s quest to protect smokers and non-smokers alike from the
dangers of tobacco use.

The agency came up with the images along with written
warnings as mandated by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.
The legislation requires the agency to issue final regulations requiring the
use of the graphics by June of next year with the warning and graphics to appear
on packs and ads 15 months later.

The act requires that the graphic warnings
appear on the upper portion of the front and rear panels of every cigarette
pack and make up at least half of the panels. The same warnings and graphics
need to take up at least 20 percent of every ad.

“Today, FDA takes a crucial step toward reducing the tremendous toll
of illness and death caused by tobacco use by proposing to dramatically change
how cigarette packages and advertising look in this country,” FDA Commissioner
Margaret Hamburg said in a news release. “The health consequences of smoking
will be obvious every time someone picks up a pack of cigarettes.”

Tobacco
companies are clearly not happy about the the prospects of distressed children
or cadavers taking up half of every cigarette pack, according to an Associated
Press/CBS News
report. A suit has been filed by R.J. Reynolds, Lorillard
and others who argue that putting brand names on the bottom portion of packages
will make it “difficult, if not impossible, to see.”

Discussion Questions: Do you approve of the government’s new regulations
to discourage tobacco use? Will this program help achieve that goal? Do the
tobacco companies have a legitimate gripe? Given the graphic warnings, should
retailers continue to sell the products?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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21 Comments on "FDA Wants to Scare People Out of Smoking"


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Max Goldberg
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

Any effort that gets people to stop smoking is worthwhile. There is no reason for anyone to smoke. This effort by the FDA should have happened years ago.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
10 years 5 months ago

I think in the U.S. we’re pretty much down to these types of smokers: rebellious teenagers, and those who started as rebellious teenagers and now can’t quit. If you’ve ever seen someone die from lung disease, it’s pretty hard to justify making a profit off of smoking as a retailer or manufacturer.

And yet, here we are with a very profitable category that is still legal. To me, making it harder for manufacturers, retailers, and consumers to make, sell, and use these products is in everybody’s long-term best interest.

I would think that at some point shareholders of major retailers would start to question whether this is a business they should be in.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
10 years 5 months ago

As a life long non-smoker, I can now find some sympathy for addicted smokers when I contemplate the government’s further attempt to scare people “nearly to death” from smoking with horrible scenes of potential consequences. Since smoking is such a bad practice, the government could just ban smoking for the future health of smokers and the general public providing it’s willing to give up the heavy taxes smokers must pay.

What really is the objective of the government – to lower public health costs by graphically scaring smokers nearly to death or by taxing smokers endlessly until they can’t afford to smoke anymore? If the dye is already irreverisibly cast in Washington, then spare all of us from the gruesome artwork on cigarette packages and ban this deadly personal freedom.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

Check out Monday’s discussion on Corporate Social Responsibility. Here is your answer to that question. If there was such a thing as CSR, the tobacco companies would be putting these types of warnings on their products voluntarily.

I have no problem with someone buying cigarettes, but if tobacco companies can communicate a “need” for people to buy them, they certainly have the ability to communicate the consequences. I will go further…I have no problem with someone buying cigarettes, but they should also pay for the social (healthcare) costs with direct taxing. It is an easy calculation. $’s spent on smoking related healthcare divided by the number of packs sold.

The tobacco companies knew that cigarette smoking was addictive and caused cancer well before anyone else. They directly denied it and hid the findings. They have no gripe at all. After all the warnings are simply the truths.

Should retailers continue to sell cigarettes? It is up to the retailers…again, a question of social responsibility.

Fabien Tiburce
Guest
Fabien Tiburce
10 years 5 months ago

Shocking yes but effective? In Canada we’ve had graphic packaging on cigarettes packs for years but I am not sure how much of a deterrent this has been. Cigarette companies try to attract young people and young people like risks. I can’t help thinking a campaign that would instead cast smokers as “uncool” would ultimately be more effective as a deterrent to young smokers. Will young people, typically fairly image conscious, want to pick up a smoke if smoking itself is not viewed as “dangerous” but tacky?

Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
10 years 5 months ago

As an ex-smoker, I can tell you point blank that nothing a group of bureaucrats think up will get a regular smoker to quit nor will it stop teenagers from experimenting or bowing to peer pressure. This is simply another example of a group of people deciding that 1) the general public is too dull-witted to understand the risks of smoking, 2) these dimwits need someone of superior knowledge (the bureaucrats) to tell them what to do, and 3) attacking corporate America to fund their brilliant ideas.

The use of these graphic images is essentially lifted from Europe. If you’ve been to Europe lately, you’ll see how well this works. It doesn’t.

Bill Bittner
Guest
Bill Bittner
10 years 5 months ago
I smoked for over twelve years and even though I have not had a cigarette in over 25 years (since September 22, 1982 at 7:30 PM). I tell everyone if I were assured that I will be hit by a car next week, I would go out and buy a carton of cigarettes. That describes how addictive they can be for some people. It is hard to remember how invulnerable I felt at sixteen or how “cool” it was to sneak a cigarette and emulate the actors on TV and in the movies. They were powerful influences and while that has been diminished by laws reducing advertising, I don’t think trying to “scare people straight” by putting gruesome labels on packages will make a difference. Probably the biggest factor that would prevent me from getting started today is the fact that it is simply so damn inconvenient. As more laws eliminate smoking in public places it becomes more difficult to be a smoker. With everyone’s health care becoming a mutual responsibility, I would put more… Read more »
Ron Perry
Guest
Ron Perry
10 years 5 months ago

Government involvement to this level feels far too intrusive. At this point in time, I would certainly believe that a huge majority of smokers understand the consequences of their habit. No doubt that the cost of this new requirement will be added on to the cost of the product which will serve as a barrier to some. If the end game is to rid the world of cigarettes, then either ban them or tax them into oblivion.

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

I think Bill Emerson has it exactly right. I smoked until I was done with it (2002). When I was done with it, I didn’t need any warning to help me, and when I was smoking, the warnings didn’t matter. The most effective tool for me was smoking bans (since it limited my intake). All the rest is nonsense.

And speaking of nonsense, does the US government still subsidize the tobacco industry with its other hand? I think the answer is yes. Tobacco Subsidies in the United States totaled $944 million from 1995-2009.

Jeff Weitzman
Guest
Jeff Weitzman
10 years 5 months ago

I’m with Gene. How can an agency charged with keeping Americans safe from deadly substances reconcile the need to put pictures of tumors on a product with failing to simply ban it? Or make it a controlled substance available by prescription for those who are already addicted to it?

Sean Kennedy
Guest
Sean Kennedy
10 years 5 months ago
I think it’s interesting how the majority of individuals would prefer to opt out of the graphic images, but still seem completely content with punitive taxation. Which reveals a much larger problem which somehow seems hidden from public view, and for which cigarette smoking is often vilified. It concerns public health care. This is the reason people continue to smoke…there is a disproportionate disconnect between their OWN actions (smoking) and how it ultimately affects OTHERS (taxation)… something that often happens when the government decides how our money should be spent. Pretending that public health care didn’t exist, it would be a far more powerful incentive to CEASE smoking if one was exposed to a lung cancer patient struggling for air because his/her lungs have ceased to work and they cannot afford radiation, chemotherapy, or hospice. On the other hand, if a smoker has the financial means by which to pay for their own untimely pre-death hospital stay (or a private charity decides to contribute in order to lessen the rigors of a smoker’s common fate);… Read more »
Cathy Hotka
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

Gross and disturbing images are probably a great idea to deter smoking…but higher taxes are probably a more effective one. A pack of Marlboros now costs $11.60 in Manhattan, and smoking in the City is way down as a result.

Robert Lahrmer
Guest
Robert Lahrmer
10 years 5 months ago
This may be a huge departure from the executive level rejoinder normally associated with these articles, as I am not, but this time it hit a nerve that causes me to type uncontrollably… There are parts of this great country that were built and developed on and around tobacco farming and the industry as a whole and, now that the infrastructure has been created they want to yank the rug out from under the very ones who provided the foundation. I for one am sick and tired of our government and agencies trying to get in everyone’s business or trying to run OR ruin everyone’s business. I understand the need to have regulations – and tobacco companies need to operate within appropriate guidelines – but the FDA is going too far. If you don’t want your kids to use tobacco, DO YOUR JOB and raise ’em that way. It’s our responsibility to educate and guide our children on the path we would like them to take, and when they are grown let them make their… Read more »
Jack Pansegrau
Guest
Jack Pansegrau
10 years 5 months ago

As a former smoker who quit 35 years ago, I only wish these types of ads had been ‘on the pack’.

I’m waiting for the comparable set of ads aimed at our national obesity epidemic.

I have ‘a daydream’ that McDonald’s might finally add a HEALTHY MEAL MENU to their Happy Meal offerings–it even sounds good, eh? A menu with options for whole wheat buns, veggie burgers, turkey burgers, “Morningstar Farms” sausage patties, baked potatoes, and other healthful sides–along with a Healthy Menu by be brochure along the lines of Pollan’s Food Rules…. Sure seems like McD could pull this off, silence their critics, avert regulatory intervention AND boost sales by being a leader. Sure it might take a while for customers to shift but over time, I’m confident it would be a huge success! And unlike cigarettes, Fast Food would only be shifting their sales, not trying to eliminate consumption….

Michael L. Howatt
Guest
Michael L. Howatt
10 years 5 months ago

In a world where we have TV shows such as Criminal Minds and the CSI series where gore is prevalent every week, do we thing a picture of a toe tag is going to shock anybody? The SAW or Friday the 13th movies–need I say more? I agree it’s all just smoke and mirrors to make it look like the government wants to deter smoking while pocketing huge profits.

We have a pill that can solve a problem as ridiculous as ED, I’ll bet the FDA could come up with one to solve the smoking problem as well. But they won’t do anything that cuts into their profit margin whether it’s good for the public or not.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

Smoking has been on the decline since the 1960s (I can’t be as precise in giving a date as Bill, but more-or-less corresponding with the Surgeon General’s report) so it’s rather meaningless to talk about one thing producing a decline (not that that fact will prevent extravagant claims, mind you.)

Years ago, tobacco companies attempted to fight further regulation by warning us it was the slippery slope on the way to complete nannyism, and while their total self-interest was evident, one can certainly agree with the premise: how long before “graphic images” of fat-clogged arteries are mandated for cheeseburger wrappers (biodegradable ones that you need to pay a deposit on unless you’re accompanied by someone over 21)? I think I’m relieved to know I probably won’t be around for that moment…whether I smoke or not.

Kai Clarke
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

Great idea, but its impact on stopping the addiction to a drug is questionable. This is more PR for the FDA rather than true action. Enforcing some of the non-smoking laws on the books already would be a start. Add to this the enforcement of the lawsuits against the big tobacco companies would be another step in the right direction. Another great step would be to stop supporting insurance payouts for smoking related diseases.

Fred Perkins
Guest
Fred Perkins
10 years 5 months ago
I’d just like to address a few points from the other commentators:1. The government can’t/won’t ban the sale of tobacco because the illicit trade would then get taken over by drug cartels, the mafia, and drug pushers. And, if they did ban it The Tea Party would raise heck about violation of peoples’ individual rights, anyway.2. As far as the government “attacking corporate America” maybe if corporate America is pushing products that kill people they need to be dealt with.3. If chain retailers would stop selling tobacco, it would make the products much more inconvenient to get and would no doubt drive down consumption.4. The idea of wealthy smokers being able to pay for their own health care is specious. How would we verify that and would we throw people out on the street if they miscalculated and ran out of money?5. Sure, we pay “insanely high taxes” but individual taxes have gone down under Obama and people don’t seem inclined to give up any of THEIR government programs.6. Farmers need to learn how to… Read more »
Mark Johnson
Guest
Mark Johnson
10 years 5 months ago

Not sure this is going to have an impact on the teen audience that is most at risk (especially those in broken homes). The cool factor and the idea that their parents are not watching them make them a prime target and one that can be heavily influenced and addicted in short order.

Odonna Mathews
Guest
Odonna Mathews
10 years 5 months ago

Make cigarettes expensive. Make them inconvenient. Make the labels graphic.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

I am not a smoker. No one in my immediate family smokes. That said, I believe those who do smoke are well aware of the risk they are taking. However, I also believe there are limits to government intervention and these ads may cross that line.

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