Cigarette Label Warnings

I’m a non-smoker and I have been for around 2 years. I smoked my first cigarette at 15; I stole it from my Dads pack of Silk Cuts when I stayed at his house one weekend. I smoked full time when I was 19 because I was in university and thought I was cool because I hadn’t long had sex for the first time and finally had enough hair on my chin that other people could comfortably call the slightly-more-than-bum-fluff-but-hardly-an-actual-goatee display on my face ‘facial hair’ without feeling like they were doing charity work. I quit at the age of 21 because along with the beer, processed food and occasional joint it was becoming hard to run without Pro-Plus. Before starting again at 22 and stopping at 23 and a half at the behest of a work colleague that I wanted to sleep with. I never got to but the sentiment seems to have stuck.

Sorry about the abrupt opening but I just wanted to make the above information clearer than Walter White’s Blue Meth before I hit the topic at hand; cigarette label warnings. Since 2003, all EU nations have made it compulsory for cigarette brands to clearly display the health risks that come with smoking in large black font text, sometimes in multiple languages to be easily legible for every speaker of every spoken language in the country in question, embarrassingly enough they aren’t printed in Welsh in these here parts. I’m absolutely fine with this because anyone who can walk, talk, see, and hear, smell or breathe that’s older than 8 will tell you smoking carries health risks.

However, what really makes these warnings catch the eye and sometimes the stomach if you’re the sort of person that gets nauseous whilst watching Casualty is the accompanying images. They include pictures of people in Darth Sidious style make-up, or maybe it’s real I don’t know, to illustrate effects on the skin and images of blackened and tar smothered lungs, for obvious reasons.

I’m okay with the images as well. Back when I smoked having a packet in my pocket with one of those images so close to my nuts was never really an issue and I understood the health implications, just like I did with regards to alcohol.

Which leads me to my gripe; cigarettes are not the only dangerous thing that is openly, not to mention legally available. These warnings and images are placed on cigarette packets in order to sway people from using them due to the health risks. So surely on that basis it would make logical sense to have just as, if not more, graphic images on other items for the same reason?

Why are there no images of damaged livers or people on A&E wards due to drunken incidents on alcohol packaging and why doesn’t every burger that you buy from a fast-food chain not have a warning related to obesity and an image of people who, with all due respect, are overweight on its packaging and how about pictures related to dental issues on soft drink bottles?

Hell, why stop with things we eat and drink? How about a warning and image on the front of every tanning bed in the country regarding skin cancer or one on the front of every gym steam room explaining that they can be a breeding ground for germs and fungal infections as well as persistent use carrying the risk of lowering fertility?

Maybe this reads a little heavy-handed but I distinctly remember enjoying an L&B after a night-out and a fellow reveller chastising me for my ‘stupid’, ‘foolish’ and money-wasting addiction that was only going to affect my health. Don’t get me wrong this lady was spot on in her observation but when she came stumbling over to me looking like a sun-tanned version of one of those pink hippo’s from Fantasia and had a VK Orange in one hand and a Doner Wrap in the other it all felt a little ironic. Maybe instead of pointing out the flaws of smokers and maybe even somewhat vilifying them for their perceived stupidity we should take a look at other habits of the western world and think about their harmful implications. Even if they aren’t rammed down our throats they are still just as real.

I’m Tha Bozz and that’s my opinion.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Jared says:

    Loving the blog Boz.
    The reason the warnings are on cigarettes and not on unhealthy food or booze is pretty simple. Smoking increases your chance of getting a number of cancers. Whilst too much food or booze is also bad, there is nothing wrong with the occasional beer or junk food of choice. Booze has a recommended maximum dose, and there is marketing about drink driving, those are often the most powerful ads (apart from the John Lewis Christmas one). Food has those little traffic lights on and RDA.
    Although what grinds my gears is the companies that say a can of their drink is 92 servings, so they can use that info to manipulate the colours.
    The really interesting thing is how these warnings get casually ignored.
    You know what they say, live fast and leave a beautiful, preservative riddled corpse.

  2. ressivocmer says:

    Presumably because drinking, overeating, and tanning is something you only do to yourself. The one who puts it into his/her system is the victim. But smokers do not only affect themselves, they also affect those surrounding them. If I am standing next to a smoker, I involuntarily inhale some as well. Add to this that drinking, eating, and to some extend tanning, is only bad for you in excess whilst smoking is bad for you period. If something needs to be ostracised, smoking makes for the logical/easy target.

    Having said that, I personally think people (adults) can choose for themselves if they want to smoke/drink/overeat/tan seeing that by now we are all well aware of the consequences, and that makes the images/texts a bit redundant. But I do think people should consider those around them, do not drink if it makes you angry, dress for the body you have rather than the body you wish you had, do not turn orange, and ask if people mind if you light a cigarette when you are among non-smokers.

  3. Thanks for the comment on my post on smoking and preventive health! I don’t know much about what went into the decision to include graphic labels except as a scare tactic, but I do have a couple of thoughts. #1, it’s preaching to the choir–people who were not likely to smoke in the first place will be even less likely to smoke because of those images, but people who already smoke are not more likely to quit. In this sense, it’s more of a preventive measure for people who might start smoking but haven’t yet (here’s a study from the US: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25437268). #2, the images themselves from what I’ve seen are out-of-context, so to speak, when viewed by people who don’t have health education or training. #3, I think the most compelling pictures you could put on a label would be of young children exposed to the smoke–many adults quit because of guilt of exposing their children to what they know is harmful, and pregnancy is a huge reason that women quit smoking, even if temporarily. So, less gross lungs, more cute babies!

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