Friday, November 11, 2011
Dang. We were really looking forward to a dead smoker with chest staples perched atop the autopsy table, a guy exhaling his smoke through a hole in his throat and seven other drastically gross and graphic images meant to deter people from buying cigarettes.
The idea is squashed, at least for the moment, thanks to a temporary injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Richard Leon. He ruled the images, which were approved by the FDA and set to consume the top half of every pack of cigs, go beyond freedom of speech.
"It is abundantly clear from viewing these images that the emotional response they were crafted to induce is calculated to provoke the viewer to quit, or never to start smoking — an objective wholly apart from disseminating purely factual and uncontroversial information," said Leon in his opinion that spanned nearly 30 pages. He also noted some of the images had been enhanced to further glorify their gore.
Cigarette companies have already filed a lawsuit against the requirement, which is staved off by the injunction until the suit is resolved. The resolution could take quite a few years.
In the meantime, Leon’s decision to block the requirement may have effectively blocked an entire can of worms that could have possibly followed. If the FDA is so worried about the public’s health — which is the reason behind the frightful images — it would be remiss not to crack down on other products that can kill.
Once the government gets its hands on things, it often grows to ridiculous proportions.
Smoking is the most politically incorrect damaging behavior du jour, which made it a good place for the FDA to start. But there is nothing that says the agency would not continue to try and protect us mindless public by requiring similar warnings on other products that are bad for our health.
Cans of beer and bottles of booze could feature a close-up of a diseased liver, a big, fat red nose surrounded by ruddy skin or, like one of the proposed cigarette images, one of a premature baby in an incubator. Other images could perhaps depict someone crumpled at the bottom of the stairwell after a five-flight stumble and fall or a few smashed-up cars lying belly-up like dying rats.
Sugary snacks and fattening foods would have to be included in the mix with their own fun set of pictures. A diseased heart, clogged-up artery or diabetic kit would be good for starters, supplemented by images of someone collapsed by those same five flights of stairs, but this time at the top from just trying to walk up them.
Ridiculous? You bet. But so are the graphic cigarette images.
Part of what makes the images so ridiculous is the idea that they would actually deter smoking. The warnings on every pack of “cancer sticks” are already pretty straightforward. This stuff will probably kill you.
If every smoker is not already aware of that fact, he must either be illiterate or live under a rock. Or maybe he has simply not visited a doctor, any doctor, in the last few decades. Docs these days seem to have taken an additional oath to give patients an extensive anti-smoking lecture. It doesn’t matter if you’re there for treatment on your toe. If you smoke, you’re going to get the lecture.
Addiction will override doctor lectures, logic, intellect and autopsy images every time. Even with chest staples across the dead person’s chest.
The final nail in the coffin, so to speak, would have been the very high cost of the implementing the images. The full-color images slapped on the front and back half of each cigarette pack were set to be rotated on a regular basis.
The high price of producing such packaging would probably translate to a higher price for cigarettes. That does not necessarily mean smokers would quit, but would rather have less cash to spend on other important things — like booze, sugary snacks and fattening foods.