The Department of Health and Human Services just released their final selection of nine new graphic warning labels for the top half of cigarette packages.
The images are fairly stark, and include photos of horribly damaged teeth and lungs and a man exhaling smoke through a tracheotomy opening in his neck. That can't be very pleasurable (nor, can it be much of a turn-on for his significant other).
Naturally, the four leading tobacco companies are up in arms, saying the new images will '…unfairly hurt their property and free-speech rights by obscuring their brand names in retail displays, demonizing the companies and stigmatizing smokers.' Yeah, back off! I'll bet good ol' Sarah Palin would agree, and cite this as yet another example of 'big government' trying to live our lives for us.
Who cares if smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death, killing 443,000 Americans a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention? And, so what if each and every day an estimated 4,000 youths try their first cigarette and 1,000 a day become regular smokers? Smoking's a sure-fire way to simultaneously limit overpopulation while preserving what's left of our nation's Social Security funds.
Besides, smokers say the new graphics won't change their minds. One 46-year-old pawnbroker shrugged when shown the new images and said, '(They're) telling me things we already know. I'll still be smoking.' Good for you, sir. See you at Forest Lawn in the not-too-distant future.
Another 28-year-old female smoker said, 'There are lots of other high risks out there, you know. Obesity is huge.' Ha. Nice pun. You go girl. Puff on.
Nearly 20 percent of all Americans smoke cigarettes, a figure that's held steady for the past seven years. I'd liken this group to America's permanent underclass, a number I've seen estimated at 30 million. Like the permanently poor, America's smokers simply can't, or won't, do anything to change their lives.
The real villains aren't the cigarette companies. The bad guys are the advertising and PR firms who willingly take the cigarette companies' hefty fees and keep on promoting what amounts to a world-class killing machine. If I were running the 4As or The Council of PR Firms, I'd insist that any member firm representing a cigarette maker have an asterisk next to its name. The asterisk would read: 'Playing our part in killing half a billion Americans annually.'
As for the visuals on the cigarette packs, why not go all the way? Slap on tombstones and cadavers. And, why not offer a limited edition of, say, Camel cigarettes that are personally signed by the Grim Reaper himself? Now, there's a keepsake any smoker would proudly frame and display over the mantel.