Canada has been doing it for years. “It” is requiring cigarette manufacturers to put graphic warning labels on their products showing the devastating and even fatal effects of smoking. Now, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has unveiled 36 equally graphic warning labels for cigarette packages that will be required in the United States. “We want to make sure every person who picks up a pack of cigarettes knows exactly what the risk is they are taking,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said during a Nov. 10 news conference.
Dr. Richard Hurt, director of the Nicotine Dependence Center at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, told The New York Times that the proposed packaging changes could save lives. “The evidence is that graphic labels do make a difference in enticing smokers to stop smoking,” he said.
As someone who has been unsuccessful at convincing several loved ones to stomp out their smoking habits, I applaud the proposed labeling change—even though it might be most effective for casual smokers. I remember someone offering me a cigarette during a late-night wedding party in Canada in the late 1990s. After taking one look at the black lung pictured on the cigarette package, I wisely decided to decline the offer. Had I been in the United States at the time, I probably would have lit up.
I also wonder if down the road we may start seeing pictures of morbidly obese individuals, clogged arteries or other graphic warnings on fast food wrappers and other unhealthy food packaging. Will we see damaged livers or fatal car crashes on vodka and wine bottles?
I would love to know what you think. Can such labels really halt unhealthy behavior? Should the government be requiring such product labeling? Would you like to see such requirements extended to other proven unhealthy products?