Cigarette warning labels sprang from the best of intentions and, for decades, were tastefully done.
Now, the warnings are extremely graphic.
New rules require that, by the fall of 2012, nine labels be rotated on the packs. One shows rotting teeth and gums; another depicts bad lungs. A third has a smoker wearing an oxygen mask.
The warnings, according to The Associated Press, “will take up the entire top half — both front and back — of a pack of cigarettes. They must also appear in advertisements and constitute 20 percent of each ad.”
The government is right to be concerned. Smoking causes a lot of health problems and often leads to an early death. That’s well-documented.
And perhaps a strong anti-smoking effort is needed. After falling precipitously for decades, the AP says, the percentage of Americans who smoke has held steady since 2004.
But there might be a more effective way of enticing people to “kick the habit.”
There are many logical, compelling medical reasons to stop smoking. If those were printed on cigarette packs, they probably would be more effective than the graphic depictions that soon will be required.
The government is to be commended for its intentions but not necessarily for its judgment.
The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville (July 21)