Anti-smoking campaign needs graphic kick-start

In the dramatic opening scene of the 2005 movie "Lord of War," actor Nicolas Cage is standing in a sea of military shell casings.

The movie is loosely based upon the life of Viktor Bout, an arms smuggler known as the "Merchant of Death."

"There are over 550 million firearms in worldwide circulation," says Cage. "That's one firearm for every twelve people on the planet. The only question is: How do we arm the other 11?"

Now, picture the executives of global tobacco companies standing in a river of cigarettes.

There are 9 billion people on this planet, and an estimated 1.3 billion of them smoke cigarettes. Their goal: To make smokers out of the other 7.7 billion.

Last week, Washington Post Columnist Richard Cohen suggested we should require tobacco companies to put a photo of their CEO on each pack of cigarettes.

Perhaps with the title, "Merchant of death."

While the photo idea isn't going to fly, federal health officials last week unveiled plans to replace the warnings on packages of cigarettes with graphic images of cancer patients and cancerous organs.

Disgusting? Absolutely. But also effective.

The photo warnings have been used in several other countries and have resulted in declines in youth smoking.

A variety of photos would be used, ranging from a toe tag on a corpse to a man smoking through a hole in his throat. There are 36 images and they will be rotated on each brand.

Researchers have found that the graphic images leave a lasting impression on young people, while the word warnings are easily disregarded.

This may be particularly true in a world where televised ads for pharmaceutical drugs are all accompanied by a litany of possible side effects.

Death and disability are not  possible side-effects of smoking, they are nearly assured outcomes. The current warnings have simply lost their punch.

The photo images are intended to say one thing: The slender white object you are putting between your lips is a death stick.

Smoking is responsible for 443,000 deaths annually in the U.S., and about one-third of all cancer deaths.

Since 1964, the U.S. has made steady progress against youth smoking. In recent years, however, that progress has leveled off with one in five adults and older teens smoking.

Meanwhile, tobacco companies have globalized their efforts. Worldwide, cigarette sales are increasing by 2 percent per year.

Billboards for Marlboros are now banned in the U.S., but they dot the landscape and appear on television in many developing countries. The Indonesian government collects $2.5 billion annually in excise taxes from Phillip Morris alone, according to the New York Times.

Third world countries find it hard to kick the tobacco-revenue habit.

The U.S. could do the rest of the world a favor by also requiring that any pack of cigarettes leaving this country contain the same graphic warning we see in the U.S.

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PAUL ST JEAN's picture

I agree with most of the

I agree with most of the comments and disagree with a couple, but the situation with tobacco is hypocrisy at its worst.
First of all, tobacco is a legal and highly taxed product.
Smokers engage in a pefectly legal activity.
Government, states and municipalities can't wait to get their share every year of tobacco tax settlement money.
Everybody wants the money that tobacco generates, but no one wants to let the smokers smoke.
Question: Where is the money going to come from to replace the free tobacco tax money that everyone has their hands out for, if all the smokers in America all at once decide to quit?
Ever think of that? They're plucking the golden goose (tobacco), one feather at a time.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

"Plucking the golden

"Plucking the golden goose"..LOL I never even thought of the parrot when I typed that in. That explains why he started signing Amazing Grace.

 's picture

You really want to cut down

You really want to cut down on smoking? Refuse any State/Federal assitance (welfare, medicare/MaineCare) to smokers.

 's picture

How about spending some of that Settlement Money to help people

How about spending some of the Tobacco settlement money to help those who have been smoking and addicted to nicotine for years get some EFFECTIVE help to stop. Increasing the cost of cigarettes will not help people quit. Yes, it will cause some people to quit, but not those who are truly addicted. Nicotine is MORE addictive than Heroin, we have programs to help the heroin addict, but for smokers all that is available is the Tobacco help line and a crap load of money spent in advertising to cause people to feel guilty about their addiction. For SOME people, neither of these efforts are effective. When you have a person who takes off their oxygen to light up, or someone who smokes through the hole in his throat - this is addiction, not habit, not lack of will-power, not someone who simple "chooses" to continue to smoke - this is a person with a true addiction. If your addicted to alcohol or other drugs, there are rehabilitation programs which assist 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help you stop - but for a smoker, there is a phone number you can call, when they tell you "we know it is hard, but just don't light up." I don't mean to demean that program - it is a step in the right direction and may be helpful to some. But use the money spent on advertising to construct a program that truly deals with smoking like the programs that deal with heroin and other drug abuse.

 's picture

This is dumb

Sun Journal, come on now.
You know that this is just dumb
You are better than this

There, haiku out of the way, The best way to get people to quit is make it expensive. I started smoking when I was 14ish(I'm 33). I quit when I was in college.

Cause my parents bribed me, and it was too expensive.

Everyone I ever smoked with knew it was very bad for us, but it didn't matter cause we were invincible. Hell, you put images of people with cancer or coffins or whatnot on a brand, and we would have been impressed and smoked those.

But, make em like $10 a pack, and people stop smoking.

PAUL MATTSON's picture

Graphic images have become

Graphic images have become collectors items where this has been tried before. What a misguided programme.

who cares...

add 25 cents a pack tax every 6 months


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