On the off chance you’re a smoker who doesn’t know the health risks of your habit, the government is about to make sure the dangers of smoking are made perfectly clear, in graphic detail, each time you buy a pack of cigarettes. It’s an attempt to address the problem of smoking, which kills an estimated 450,000 Americans each year, but new regulations for cigarette packs are based on the assumption that human beings are rational creatures. I’m not sure we are.
Last week, the Food and Drug Administration announced cigarette packaging and advertisements will now have to include graphic warning labels that include pictures of cancerous lungs, dead smoking victims and other images designed to discourage people from purchasing cigarettes. The new regulations will go into effect in 2012 and is the first major change to cigarette packing in more than 25 years. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the new regulations will make the realities of smoking even more real for consumers.
“We want to make sure every person who picks up a pack of cigarettes knows exactly what the risk is they are taking,” Sebelius said.
I’m not a smoker but I wonder how effective these new regulations will be. The assumption is made that when smokers are presented the cold hard facts of what a life of smoking can lead to they will inevitably choose to resist their urge. But besides the fact, most smokers are already well aware of the risks, assuming consumers will choose rational thought over a craving may be too idealistic.
Some believe the regulations will have a reverse effect on the youth they are trying to keep from picking up the habit. The continued push by government and authority figures to restrict a certain action can lead some teenagers to intentionally seek that action out.
I try to maintain a healthy lifestyle and eat foods which are good for me but at times it can be a losing battle. There are times in a moment of weakness, and hunger, when I make a trip through the drive-through and grab a burger and some fries. I know it’s not good for me but sometimes a personal craving trumps rational thought. It’s possible that if a hamburger wrapper had an image of a clogged artery on it I might abstain but I’m not sure I would.
I don’t disagree with the decision to place graphic warnings on cigarette packages, I just think it’s an exercise in fighting the battle too late. How many people do we expect to pick up a pack of cigarettes, only to turn them back in once they get a glimpse of the cancerous lung on the package? It just seems to me that when someone is in line at the convenience store or the drive-through, the battle might already be lost.