The British are coming! The British are coming! And they're bringing disgusting pictures of medical abnormalities caused by cigarettes with them!
Beginning yesterday, all cigarette packs sold in Great Britain will carry a photo of a medical problem that smoking may cause. A suite of 15 photos, carrying images that include lung cancer, throat
cancer, open heart surgery, and gum disease - to name only a few, will rotate through the warning labels of cigarette packs in the UK's latest battle against tobacco.
Apparently the old label, "smoking can cause a slow and
painful death," was a bit subtle for the Brits, so they decided a harder hitting message was needed to deter addicts from their harmful habits. The new images were pulled from medical textbooks and slapped on the sides of cigarette packs as a reminder of what the smoker's body could soon resemble.
If the labels have any effect on smoking habits, it's likely the U.S. will work towards implementing a similar graphic labeling system. How would Joe Camel look with a protruding neck cancer, I wonder?
One difference between the U.S. and Britain on this issue stems from an underlying monetary motivation: the British have a national health care system. That means every lung cancer, heart surgery, and stroke caused by smoking is paid for by tax dollars. Given that, it's hard to imagine why cigarettes aren't just outright banned. Paying for thy neighbor to kill himself is neither mentioned in law or commandment.
The graphic warning label route may be a good compromise, but how far can it be taken? Are we soon to see images of insulin drips on McDonald's happy meals, triple bypass surgery pictures on hot dog packages, or a deformed fetus on cans of tuna? Just where should the line be drawn, and why are these images less graphic than say, Janet Jackson's breast being shown on television?
It's certainly food for thought...