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Warning: Cigarettes are addictive.
November 10, 2010 10:06 AM   Subscribe

The FDA has unveiled new graphic warnings for cigarette packages, including for the first time images that might depict dead bodies, cancer patients and diseased lungs. You can see all 36 new images here. (13MB PDF).

These warnings appear to be similar by those to our Canadian brethren.
posted by Mister Fabulous (190 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Surely this....
posted by entropicamericana at 10:08 AM on November 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Collect them all....?
posted by Salvor Hardin at 10:12 AM on November 10, 2010 [14 favorites]


If Canada has proved anything, it's that these pictures need more shock value.

Dead bodies? Puh-lease, that dude was paid to lie there for a 10 minute photoshoot.
posted by sunshinesky at 10:12 AM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


"New miracle mint in Juleps freshens the mouth at every puff. Even if you chain-smoke, your mouth feels clean, sparkling all day long!"
posted by clavdivs at 10:12 AM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


They don't seem real. Some seem laughable, in fact.

I might be missing something?
posted by morganannie at 10:13 AM on November 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


So, these are pretty tame compared to the graphic warnings on UK cigarette packages.

That said, it's a good step, IMHO. We (the US) spend nearly $100 billion on cigarette-related illness costs (COPD/emphysema, cancer, etc.). Compare that to the paltry $5 billion that we spent on the budget of the National Cancer Institute. Cigarettes area huge drain on our health care budget.

The best solution to the problem, though, aren't the warnings. The 20% of the population who still smoke won't be fazed by them. The 1000 children/teens a day who start smoking will find them amusing, or will feel even more rebellious about the bad choice they're making. The only pressure that people will likely respond to, with regard to cigarettes, is financial. A $10 or $20/pack health care tax on cigarettes would be a good start. For those who feel that Native American sales would circumvent that, then a per kilogram tax on domestic and imported tobacco would force prices up from the supply side.

Of course, with Mitch McConnell being the douchebag that he is, I suspect that I'll see cap and trade legislation before I ever see a rationale and effective strategy for reducing tobacco use in this country.
posted by scblackman at 10:14 AM on November 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


sorry, this is the one I wanted to link, but you get the point.
posted by sunshinesky at 10:15 AM on November 10, 2010


You'd have to be pretty graphic to gross out a 12-year-old with Internet access.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:16 AM on November 10, 2010 [11 favorites]


These are great! Check out the mom on pages 13 & 14 of the PDF; she just DON'T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT THAT BABY
posted by Greg Nog at 10:16 AM on November 10, 2010 [19 favorites]


What could be more graphic than a woman blowing a great big soap bubble?
posted by shakespeherian at 10:19 AM on November 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


I remember when there was an excellent anti-smoking commercial on canadian tv that showed how smoking prematurely ages women.

It was too effective so it was pulled from rotation.
posted by srboisvert at 10:20 AM on November 10, 2010


I really hope they didn't hire some agency only to torture the shit out of them by zapping all of their creativity and this is the result.

Or...the FDA creative department is shit.
posted by stormpooper at 10:21 AM on November 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


Really? They couldn't do better than a poorly cut out "I Quit" vinyl t-shirt transfer for their photoshoot?
posted by emilyd22222 at 10:23 AM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Excellent. The only thing keeping people from quitting smoking is the lack of health warnings.
posted by bondcliff at 10:24 AM on November 10, 2010 [17 favorites]


The ones in Singapore are gross and yes, do make me feel sick. *sighs at self*
posted by The Lady is a designer at 10:24 AM on November 10, 2010


I think the anti-smoking effort should focus on combating the rebellious veneer that the smoking industry has instilled in the act of smoking.

My idea would be to put this on the carton:

A smug, slightly overweight, balding, white CEO in a business suit pointing directly out of the carton at the user laughing hard, with the caption "The Man thanks you for your donation towards his third summer home." Or something like that.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 10:25 AM on November 10, 2010 [52 favorites]


morganannie: "They don't seem real. Some seem laughable, in fact.

I might be missing something?
"

Regulatory Capture?
posted by symbioid at 10:26 AM on November 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


This cigarette? This one right here, in my hand? The one I'm smoking right now?

It's fucking DELICIOUS.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:29 AM on November 10, 2010 [24 favorites]


We live next to a train yard and marina, where the engines regularly belch out plumes of toxic diesel smoke at all hours of the day. I think it's great that these stickers are happening and look forward to seeing them plastered on the sides of trains, tractor trailers and pleasure cruise tubs that all do their part to make my asthma that much worse.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:29 AM on November 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


What a waste of government money.

Cigarette's are sold behind counters packed into display cases that will block the view of these images. Then people will either remove or cover up these images once they buy their packet. These aren't going to deter a person who wants to smoke. Furthermore kids see far more graphic images (and actively seek them out!) on the internet. Some kids will no doubt seek out cigarettes to see these images.

This smacks of a PR-designed campaign rather than a legitimate interest in stopping people from smoking.

But most worryingly is this sets a nasty precedent if it's put into practice. Next we'll have graphic depictions of car accidents or deformed babies on cans of beer and pint glasses at your local bar. Maybe photos of charred bodies will accompany your Christmas tree or Christmas lights this holiday season.

Very sad to see energy being wasted on a non-solution.
posted by ruthsarian at 10:30 AM on November 10, 2010


Although I kind of like the idea of images of naked fat people on candy bars.
posted by ruthsarian at 10:31 AM on November 10, 2010 [13 favorites]


I'm not sure about the CEO image.

It's surprising how pro-billionaire many if not most people in America are.
posted by keratacon at 10:31 AM on November 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


"WARNING: Quitting smoking now greatly reduces serious risks to your health."

So smokers are being warned that quitting now will deprive them of these serious risks? Not only are the images mostly too scrubbed and sterile for true emotional impact or shock value, the FDA hired some people who can't write clear English, either.
posted by maudlin at 10:31 AM on November 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


God, these images are laughably bad. Get some real designers to work on it.
posted by Nelson at 10:32 AM on November 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


I can't help but think this will only serve to desensitize smokers (and potential smokers) and really just helps out the manufacturers, as it makes it harder to sue tobacco companies for causing addiction.

Attorney: You have contracted Stage 3 lung cancer, correct?

Plaintiff: Yes.

Attorney: I'd like to show you Exhibit 23, a cigarette package with a graphic image portraying lung cancer. Have you seen this before?

Plaintiff: Yes.

Attorney: So, you were aware before picking up the pack of cigarettes that they would cause lung cancer?

Plaintiff: I guess so.

Attorney: And you were aware of the severity of lung cancer, as shown in this picture, yet you smoked anyways?

Plaintiff: But it was too late, I was already addicted.

Attorney: Really? This picture, let me put it up on the big screen for the jury to see, this picture didn't make you think twice about smoking?

Plaintiff: It did at first, but after a while, I just ignored it.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:32 AM on November 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


At some point, we should just cut to the chase. If we don't want to make it illegal outright, and we can't go without some kind of publicly-funded healthcare for the destitute, then let's just expand upon the nature of existing laws...

* Make tobacco a prescription drug.
* Restrict the legal sale of cigarettes to include licensed dealers and a waiting period, like you do with firearms. Better plan ahead, Captain Smokey.
* Remove any farm subsidies or any kind of government assistance for tobacco growers.
* Ban imports of tobacco.
* Allow health insurance carriers to deny coverage to smokers.
* Allow smoking in bars that want to allow it, but ban the consumption of tobacco in view of minors, in the same way you cannot drink in public outside of your home or outside of a bar. Go ahead -- smoke inside the bar. But you can't smoke anywhere else, just like I can't walk down the street with a beer.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:33 AM on November 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm waiting for the pictures of someone with their brains blown out on the box of every firearm sold in the US.

Somehow, I suspect I'll be waiting a very long time.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:33 AM on November 10, 2010 [9 favorites]


Fuck that, its the danger and excitement of smoking I crave! They showed me car crashes too and it just made me want to drive faster!

Makes me want to rip out a bush and ollie over it while smokine a bald eagal rolled into a Betsy Ross flag and wiping my ass with the bible or at least the constitution!

Bad to the Bone bitches!!
posted by Ad hominem at 10:33 AM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Did the lady at my work who makes the "Please turn off the coffee maker!" signs create these?
posted by orme at 10:34 AM on November 10, 2010 [10 favorites]


Maybe photos of charred bodies will accompany your Christmas tree or Christmas lights this holiday season.

This would be BRUTAL AS HELL and I support it wholeheartedly.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:34 AM on November 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


I am currently enjoying the image of someone buying a pack of cigarettes at the corner shop and then looking at the packaging that says 'Cigarettes are bad for you' with a 'HOLY SHIT WHAT?'
posted by shakespeherian at 10:36 AM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


My counter-proposal.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:36 AM on November 10, 2010 [8 favorites]


yeah I think Salvor Hardin is onto something... offhand it would seem that the most important demographic to dissuade are the younger ones, make smoking seem like older, less attractive, and something that takes advantage of you(controlling).
posted by edgeways at 10:37 AM on November 10, 2010


If the government really, really cares that much that smoking will kill you, to put out these 'warnings', they would make cigarettes illegal like they do marijuana and other drugs.

But they don't. Because they make too much money off of taxes. And probably because they know prohibition wouldn't work (though that hasn't stopped the rest of the War on Drugs).

These 'warnings' are so stupid, not even worth the analogy of a bandaid.

(disclaimer: I don't smoke, I hate cigarette smoke, but I still think these warnings are idiotic, and I don't actually support banning cigarettes. I just wonder at the damn purpose)
posted by sandraregina at 10:38 AM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Quick OP note, then I'll go away: My favorite is page 3 & 4, with the heroin injection of cigarettes.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:38 AM on November 10, 2010


That stuff is frightening and that is why I tell my children to roll their own smokes.
posted by Postroad at 10:39 AM on November 10, 2010 [8 favorites]


I was recently reading Jonathan Franze's "How to Be Alone," suggested by many at this site, where he suggests that efforts such as this one don't work, that most govt. efforts backfire, etc. Of course, he admitted that as one who likes smoking, although hating it in theory, he could be biased. He is. Government efforts to clamp down on smoking have unquestionably worked over time. It's damn near inarguable. The fact that only 20 percent of Americans smoke now is not due to tobacco company marketing, exactly, or the exclusive efforts of non-profits or anything. or just the Zeitgeist or something vague like that. It's government regulation and activity, at all levels, and via the courts, lawmaking bodies, and executive agencies, grants to non-profits and research centers, etc., etc., etc. This just keeps things going in the same downward direction, even if the effect will not be immediately noticeable or is incremental. You may take for granted that the direction is down, but it's not, cynicism be damned.
posted by raysmj at 10:40 AM on November 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


These have nothing on the warnings on the Australian packages.... those look like they were stills pulled directly from one of the Saw films.

And, really? Could they have found some stock photography that was made after 1980 for these? Was this the same design agency that makes the pamphlets for the DMV?
posted by schmod at 10:40 AM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Franzen. Damn it. Liked most of the book, but that piece on cigarettes was so bad.
posted by raysmj at 10:41 AM on November 10, 2010


I really hope they didn't hire some agency only to torture the shit out of them by zapping all of their creativity and this is the result.


I worked on the ONDCP account at Ogilvy in the late nineties, and it was exactly this. Every kickass idea that we came up with (oftentimes while stoned) was eviscerated by our bureaucratic clients until we came up with the most milquetoast creative. I still don't think I've fully recovered.
posted by slogger at 10:42 AM on November 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Health warnings have never worked. How about:

"Smoking will make you smell like ass and once you're no longer smoking at the playground most of your smoking will take place huddled around a building entrance with a bunch of other people who wish they had never started. Smoke up, kid!"
posted by bondcliff at 10:43 AM on November 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


I understand why nicotine addicts continue to smoke - although even for addicts, there are less dangerous alternatives such as the nicotime patch, or nicotine chewing gum. There is less excuse for those who decide to take up smoking. That is ridiculous. But people do it. And why? Because they want to find out what smoking is like and they don't understand that this is not a safe thing to find out. (How would you like to find out what it is like to have an arm amputated? And oh yes, we can't sew it back on, sorry.) So, the one message that I personally would like to put on cigarette packages is, "If you don't know what it is like to smoke, don't find out! Smoking any cigarettes at all can result in addiction. Don't do it." Of course, foolish people will ignore the warning and smoke anyway. At least until NASA, when it finishes its sinister plot to destroy organized religions with UFOs, figures out how to bring an end to nicotine addiciton. Perhaps some kind of hypnotic message painted on the moon.
posted by grizzled at 10:44 AM on November 10, 2010


Yeah, I'm a smoker (I wish I could say on-and-off but in honesty I'm actually just a smoker). I hate it; it's disgusting, it's expensive and it makes me feel really self-conscious, especially when I'm sitting outside and kids are walking in and out of my building.

Pretty much the only exception to this is when someone comes up to me and says something like "You know those things'll kill you, right?". Then I become defiant and am tempted to (and occasionally will) say something like "Oh, fuck, seriously? Jesus, this is the first I've heard of it!". Also it makes me want to blow smoke at them like a dragon. It is the worst inducement to quitting smoking that I have ever experienced; I'm not a child, I know that smoking is bad for me, I would like to quit for a number of reasons but either way that's my business and not yours so shut up.

These pictures are basically just a smug asshole coming up to you while you're minding your own business and saying "You know those things'll kill you, right?". Nothing makes me want a cigarette more than some jackass being sanctimonious.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:44 AM on November 10, 2010 [41 favorites]


Now, having actually looked at that PDF, this is some of the weakest sauce I've seen in a long time. At least the guy having the heart attack on pages 43 & 44 reminds me of Dick Chaney.
posted by slogger at 10:45 AM on November 10, 2010


I hate smoking.

I hate going to a concert, and having the guy behind me ash on my shoulder.
I hate walking through the cloud of smoke by the entrance to my work.
I hate going to bars in Virginia, because I inevitably come home smelling like an ashtray.
I hate that my grandmother's smoking habit gave me asthma as a child.
I hate that my best friend lost his dad to lung cancer, 20 years after quitting.

I've never smoked once in my life, and yet cigarettes have had some pretty profound negative consequences for me. Even the most hardcore libertarian would be forced to agree that governmental regulation and restriction of tobacco is necessary by the harm principle.

Suffice it to say, I support this.
posted by schmod at 10:48 AM on November 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


A lady I know finally quit smoking after 30+ years when the company she works for decided to terminate all employees who use tobacco. I think they gave about 18 months warning.
posted by Daddy-O at 10:48 AM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, these are pretty tame. Only the gross-mouth and tracheotomy ones approach the smug, puritan superiority of "half off with tobacco", and that's been on billboards here for ages.

Hey, here's an idea: rather than instituting incredibly regressive cigarette taxes or covering the packs with the top three Google Images search for "ew ew cancer", either ban cigarettes (ha ha, good luck with that!) or let people smoke in peace. I don't even like tobacco, but harassing (some) people for making legal choices with regards to their own bodies is ridiculous, as is charging between $3 and $7 in taxes for one pack of a highly addictive substance which is most prevalent among people in poverty.
posted by vorfeed at 10:48 AM on November 10, 2010 [7 favorites]


The old ways are still best.

Ah, there's nothing like the frisson of prohibitionist moral rectitude.

Sure, there are problems with the way tobacco is consumed, but this is part of an out-of-whack culture:
There is an old Native American observation that when the white man took tobacco back to the Old World he merely took its body — its spirit was left in North America, lying on the ground. Tobacco, for ancient peoples, was considered a holy plant, a plant with great spiritual powers, whose purpose was to facilitate communication between human beings and the sacred powers of the Earth and Universe.--The Fasting Path / Stephen Buhner, p.1.
Fix your culture, then talk to me about mine.
posted by No Robots at 10:49 AM on November 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Now, having actually looked at that PDF, this is some of the weakest sauce I've seen in a long time. At least the guy having the heart attack on pages 43 & 44 reminds me of Dick Chaney.

No, no! He's having a heart attack and a stroke!
posted by schmod at 10:49 AM on November 10, 2010


Mrs. Pterodactyl: I wouldn't sneak up from behind and tell you that. But yeah, an overwhelming number of studies show that you'll either die young or die a horrible, slow, expensive death. That's not sanctimonious. It's true.
posted by raysmj at 10:50 AM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


WARNING: CIGARETTES CAUSE CRAPPY PHOTO RETOUCHING
posted by Sys Rq at 10:52 AM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ummm....

"WARNING: Quitting smoking now greatly reduces serious risks to your health"
posted by usonian at 10:52 AM on November 10, 2010


Most of these are like those tobacco-company-produced anti-smoking ads that were deliberately made as dorky as possible.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:54 AM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


We were just discussing this Elsewhere on the Internet and this happened.

I could explain it, but I think it's better if I don't.
posted by louche mustachio at 10:55 AM on November 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


And when do we get photos of crashed cars and diseased livers on beer cans?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:55 AM on November 10, 2010


Dick Chaney Cheney

FTFY

Just want to make sure that infarction comes for the right dude...
posted by Skygazer at 10:57 AM on November 10, 2010


Related Posts reminded me of this FPP on whether a certain cowboy bigname brand was more addictive in one location versus another. Over a year later, on a different continent I note that I can go longer and longer without a smoke (if I have to, which is different from the ooo lets wander outside)

I've also seen difference in quality and flavour, and interestingly noted that after the self extinguishing law went into effect, I've felt even less addicted than before. Now its a mild urge and more related to state/peace of mind wrt concentration or presentation type activity i.e. "being on"
posted by The Lady is a designer at 10:58 AM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I took a road trip to Canada back in...2002? Brought back a couple packs of smokes with their more graphic warnings. My girlfriend at the time, smoked, and got a kick out of the warnings. In fact, the next year when I went on another trip that would take me near the border, she asked me to pick up some more packs - and try to get ones she hadn't seen before!

Yeah, these are useless.
posted by notsnot at 10:58 AM on November 10, 2010


Mrs. Pterodactyl: I wouldn't sneak up from behind and tell you that. But yeah, an overwhelming number of studies show that you'll either die young or die a horrible, slow, expensive death. That's not sanctimonious. It's true.

I know that you're right; the issue is that I don't need to be told about health risks by complete strangers because I am already well aware of them. I am not an idiot [citation needed], or at the very least I deserve to be treated as an adult whose choices are her own. Maybe people who say that genuinely think they are helping me by giving me information, but it feels a lot more like meddling. I apologize if that sounds defensive, it's not meant to be, and I legitimately acknowledge that you are correct, but the issue isn't whether it's true or not, it's whether or not people who don't know me feel comfortable judging me or treating me as if I am stupid.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:59 AM on November 10, 2010 [11 favorites]


Chewlies gum is going to make millions.
posted by hanoixan at 11:00 AM on November 10, 2010 [7 favorites]


3, 4, 5 and 6 kinda want to make me smoke more....
posted by Skygazer at 11:00 AM on November 10, 2010


Why not run the most unflattering pictures available of RJR executives and caption them, "YOU JUST GAVE THIS BASTARD YOUR HARD-EARNED MONEY. HOW DOES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL?"
posted by ardgedee at 11:00 AM on November 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


The real problem is government scientitsts used to tell me smoking was cool and would help me with the ladies , now they are telling me it will kill me. Whats up governement scientists ? can't make up your minds ?

Teach the controversy!
posted by Ad hominem at 11:00 AM on November 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Please drink responsibly.
posted by not_on_display at 11:01 AM on November 10, 2010


It's sanctimonious to say so, on par with the PETA people who want to tell you all about how meat is murder. You know what? People have the information, let them make their own choices. I'm not a smoker. I don't care who smokes now that it's not in my food or workplace.

"If you don't know what it is like to smoke, don't find out! Smoking any cigarettes at all can result in addiction. Don't do it."

Except a whole lot of us smoked and never got addicted, and a lot of us had grandparents who smoked like chimneys and yet lived to a reasonably old age and died of unrelated causes. When you make reefer madness style threats, it undermines your credibility.

If you want to deter teenagers, especially teenage girls, tell them how much it wrecks your skin and hair (and nicotene gum is no better, from what I understand). Of course it won't help for those who don't think they'll live past 20 anyway, which was the mindset of most of the kids I hung out with. A marketing campaign based on: "Hey! There's a good chance you WILL live to 25. Do you want to look like a 50 year old roadside diner waitress when you do?" might have worked. Basically, in order for any of this to work, you'd have to be dealing with a non-nihilistic population. I don't know if kids today meet this requirement or not.

Oh- and the CEO's "thanks for supporting my 3rd mansion" idea above might have worked pretty well, too.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:01 AM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


People only have that information because government agencies fought to get it to them, against the extremely well-funded efforts of tobacco companies. Advertising and packaging are forms of spreading information.
posted by raysmj at 11:04 AM on November 10, 2010


Smoking will make you smell like ass and once you're no longer smoking at the playground most of your smoking will take place huddled around a building entrance with a bunch of other people who wish they had never started.

Actually, standing around outside with other people smoking cigarettes is one of my favorite things about smoking! It may be why I never smoke unless it's at a bar or a party where periodic jaunts outside break up the action and keep me moving to new places.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:04 AM on November 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


That's perfect.

Which dovetails nicely into my next point. That being...why haven't zombies been used on graphic warning labels as of yet, there's tons of them, and they work relatively cheaply....
posted by Skygazer at 11:06 AM on November 10, 2010


"My doctor tried to scare me out of smoking. My doc, he showed me a picture of a smokers lung. Aaaaaaarrggggghh! It was gross and disgusting! Then he showed me a picture of a healthy guys lung. Aaaaaaarrggggghh! It was gross and disgusting!"
-Norm MacDonald
posted by solmyjuice at 11:08 AM on November 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


"YOU JUST GAVE THIS BASTARD YOUR HARD-EARNED MONEY. HOW DOES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL?"

That stopped me for a while. Until i discovered how delicious Canadian cigarettes are, and c'mon, everyone knows Canadians are nice and even tempered and sane...
posted by Skygazer at 11:11 AM on November 10, 2010


Personally, I doubt that these warnings will ever match this ad campaign in effectiveness.
posted by Katrel at 11:11 AM on November 10, 2010


Actually, standing around outside with other people smoking cigarettes is one of my favorite things about smoking!

One time, back when I was not quite 30 ;p I'd almost really stopped, then I joined Marketing at HP India and accidently discovered that the VP, the key managers and all the relevant sales guys were smokers in the back balconey. I stayed off the wagon for the rest of my tenure there.

Its different in the US of course since most people don't smoke but how can you hate a habit that helps break the ice with strangers, helps you make friends in new places and gives you a reason to "lets step out for a minute then and chat about it" etc ?

oh god yes I should stop I really should but what BitterOldPunk said.
posted by The Lady is a designer at 11:12 AM on November 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


The "thanks for supporting the CEO" angle is great. In Berlin I see people who are vegetarian, health conscious, etc. yet still smoke like chimneys. They smoke American Spirits because it's "organic" or "pure" or some shit. A lot of these people are anti-capitalist at least partially.

How awesome would it be to put the CEO's grinning mug on the pack and a thank you note? I've even got the perfect photo.
posted by sixohsix at 11:16 AM on November 10, 2010


But yeah, an overwhelming number of studies show that you'll either die young or die a horrible, slow, expensive death. That's not sanctimonious. It's true.

Well, no, it's not true. Smoking is a major risk factor for some pretty deadly conditions (esp. cardiovascular disease and lung cancer), but it's not GUARANTEED DEATH. For example, the lifetime risk for a male smoker developing lung cancer is about 17% (elevated from about 1% for nonsmokers). Not a gamble I'd recommend taking, of course, but let's try and be realistic about the facts. Hyperbole doesn't help anyone.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:16 AM on November 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't know about the not-so-subtle "I CAUSE DISEASE" framing on a few of these (e.g. page 23 and some subsequent ones). Are people supposed to look at the pack of cigarettes and see that and think, "The pack of cigarettes is TELLING me that it causes disease!" In a way it's too subtle and in a way it's too outrageous, but it's altogether ludicrous.

And page 49, that guy's not actually dead, right? Just has a stapled-up chest from heart surgery or some other chestal surgery? It looks like they want to imply he's been sewn up after an autopsy, but he doesn't have a Y-incision, just staples in a straight line. And some bruising around the incision. Meh. The other "dead" guy in his casket looks stupid too. Like, if die as a smoker, they won't even bother cleaning up your five o'clock shadow before your viewing? Pffft.

I'm not opposed to these warnings being placed (my mom died of emphysema, and she was smoking long before the serious risks were really known), but they're too silly to be taken seriously.
posted by Gator at 11:19 AM on November 10, 2010


"A lady I know finally quit smoking after 30+ years when the company she works for decided to terminate all employees who use tobacco."

They couldn't wait for the tobacco to do it for them?

They have these images (but worse) in both Australia and the UK where I've lived.
I can honestly say I don't even 'see' them. I see "packet" and "coloured splotchy picture thing that I'm not going to focus on to resolve detail" if at all.

They're probably have more impact as a smoking deterrent than as a quit-smoking aid though.
posted by vectr at 11:20 AM on November 10, 2010


scblackman: That said, it's a good step, IMHO. We (the US) spend nearly $100 billion on cigarette-related illness costs (COPD/emphysema, cancer, etc.). Compare that to the paltry $5 billion that we spent on the budget of the National Cancer Institute. Cigarettes area huge drain on our health care budget.

But what is the net external cost of cigarettes?

This has been discussed before on metafilter.
posted by L'oeuvre Child at 11:20 AM on November 10, 2010


Reading the comments so far I don't feel bad for having laughed at how bad the Dick-Cheney-Having-a-Heart-Attack-and-Stroke image was. (seriously, it's infomercial bad!)
posted by vespabelle at 11:20 AM on November 10, 2010


The trouble with telling kids that (drugs / smoking / drinking / sex) will kill them is that a) they're all pretty sure they're immortal, and b) even if they're not, a little bit of self-destruction is a glamorous thing.

Maybe it would have been better for the ONDCP to focus less on the health risks and more on personal relationships and life goals, similar to the Montana Meth Project ads. It's a little hard to argue that smoking will cause you to terrorize babies in a laundromat, but, say, pointing out that kissing a smoker is like licking a sputum-covered ashtray might be effective.
posted by xthlc at 11:20 AM on November 10, 2010


http://blogs.redding.com/dsmith/prohibition-11.jpg

Was this some kind of anti-prohibitionist satire or what? Best advert for booze ever!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:20 AM on November 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


Meant to put "likely" in there, but yeah it's for (expensive) disease as well as death. And for god's sake, it's not limited to lung cancer.
posted by raysmj at 11:21 AM on November 10, 2010


I wonder if the cigarette companies get to pick and choose which warnings they put on the packages. I'm in marketing and if the government told me I had to put one of these images on my packages there are certainly some that I'd choose over others. Specifically the "Quitting Smoking Now" one with the girl blowing the balloon. I mean, that one's like a freebie cause she's kinda hot and might actually add to the appeal of the product.
posted by analogue at 11:23 AM on November 10, 2010


I've thought for awhile that cigarette health labeling should target the insecurities of the predominant users of each brand. For example, Marlboro Reds should be sold with an enormous warning graphic featuring two men kissing and the words "Cigarette Smoking Endangers You And Your Loved Ones" or something to that effect.
posted by killdevil at 11:24 AM on November 10, 2010 [8 favorites]


Just got a tip that the Australian packages are even more worser!
posted by scblackman at 11:27 AM on November 10, 2010


mr_roboto: Where did you get your info? The US Centers for Disease Control says that males are 23 times more likely to develop cancer than non-smokers. It doesn't say 17 percent anywhere.

Cigarette smokers are also, according to the CDC:

-- Two to four times more likely to develop coronary heart disease than nonsmokers.
-- Double their risk of having a stroke, compared to the non-smoking population

Let's not engage in hyperbole, sure, but let's not engage in downplaying the risks either. The above is just a sampler.
posted by raysmj at 11:31 AM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


According to the National Cancer Institute (U.S.), "Cigarette smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, causing an estimated 438,000 deaths - or about 1 out of every 5 - each year."

I think the anti-smoking effort should focus on combating the rebellious veneer that the smoking industry has instilled in the act of smoking.

Another angle would be attacking the weak-ass buzz. You're risking your life for that? I'd just as soon do Whip-Its.

I can't help but think this will only serve to desensitize smokers (and potential smokers) and really just helps out the manufacturers, as it makes it harder to sue tobacco companies for causing addiction.

That ship sailed long ago in the U.S.

Actually, standing around outside with other people smoking cigarettes is one of my favorite things about smoking! It may be why I never smoke unless it's at a bar or a party where periodic jaunts outside break up the action and keep me moving to new places.

Marijuana does the same thing, with (usually) more entertaining people and conversations.

pointing out that kissing a smoker is like licking a sputum-covered ashtray might be effective.

This tactic did not work with one single girlfriend in high school or college. (To be honest, if they drink a glass of water, it's not really that bad, but that's likely the boobies talking.)

Its different in the US of course since most people don't smoke but how can you hate a habit that helps break the ice with strangers, helps you make friends in new places and gives you a reason to "lets step out for a minute then and chat about it" etc ?

It's also a habit that corporate America loves. Cigarettes and coffee are the perfect work drugs--the latter pumps up your energy; the former keeps you focused.

If corporations could give employees cigarettes for free, they would. I've always thought that's a strong argument against both coffee and cigarettes. Who wants to be a better wage slave?

*grabs coffee and gets to work*
posted by mrgrimm at 11:32 AM on November 10, 2010


Its different in the US of course since most people don't smoke but how can you hate a habit that helps break the ice with strangers, helps you make friends in new places and gives you a reason to "lets step out for a minute then and chat about it" etc ?

I hate it because I have asthma and tobacco smoke makes my bronchi seize up and turn on a flashing code red alert that, worst case, could end with me spasming on the ground unable to breathe.

I don't see that these warnings will particularly cause anyone who is a smoker to take pause, but I don't think they're execrable either.
posted by blucevalo at 11:33 AM on November 10, 2010


Marijuana does the same thing, with (usually) more entertaining people and conversations.

Absolutely not!

Me with tobacco:
"Hi! How've you been? It's nice to see you! How's that thing going that you were telling me about when last I saw you?"

Me with weed:
"...
...
...
oh hey
....
when did u get here"
posted by Greg Nog at 11:36 AM on November 10, 2010 [7 favorites]


Actually, standing around outside with other people smoking cigarettes is one of my favorite things about smoking!

YOU ARE NOT HELPING, GREG NOG!

I'm shy and a horrible conversationalist. Yet another reason I'm glad I never started smoking.
posted by bondcliff at 11:41 AM on November 10, 2010


> Maybe photos of charred bodies will accompany your Christmas tree or Christmas lights this holiday season.

Well, a Happy Holiday Season to you too, buddy.
posted by mmrtnt at 11:42 AM on November 10, 2010


* Allow smoking in bars that want to allow it, but ban the consumption of tobacco in view of minors, in the same way you cannot drink in public outside of your home or outside of a bar. Go ahead -- smoke inside the bar. But you can't smoke anywhere else, just like I can't walk down the street with a beer.

Wait, you guys can't walk down the street with a beer? Or at an outdoors BBQ somewhere "in the public"? But walking down the street with a gun is OK?

You guys clearly have your priorities all wrong. Whatever happened to the land of the free?

Personally, I can only echo what scblackman said, i.e. figure out the costs of smoking to society (due to premature death, healthcare costs etc.) and slap that on as a tax. Banning cigarettes outright would mean you'd also have to ban alcohol and cheddar cheese, and surely we don't want that. Everyone should be free to choose the slow toxic death that he wants. And the warning labels are just silly.

But FWIW, I once heard that banning smoking would just increase the social costs to society. Heavy smokers (usually) don't live to be 90 and thus collect less retirement money. Also, lung cancer is over fairly quickly. I wonder if it's a coincidence that everyone smokes in China, or rather a patriotic duty.
posted by sour cream at 11:45 AM on November 10, 2010


...just like I can't walk down the street with a beer.

Next time you're here in Vegas, I'll buy you a bomber at the 7-11 across the street from City Center and we can sit on the wall and chug 'em while we make fun of tourists.
posted by mmrtnt at 11:46 AM on November 10, 2010


Where did you get your info? The US Centers for Disease Control says that males are 23 times more likely to develop cancer than non-smokers. It doesn't say 17 percent anywhere.

Oh, I just looked at the wikipedia page on lung cancer. Those statistics are older than the ones you cite, and Canadian, so 23x makes sense. I don't think the relative risk is nearly as scary as the total cancer rate, though. I mean, there are some rare disease where you can have a 50x increased risk but your lifetime risk is still ~1%, but smoking gets lung cancer risk up into the 1-in-5 range.

And I'm not trying to minimize risks. A circa 20% lifetime risk of cancer is absolutely terrifying, really. It's just that the "smoking definitely will kill you" language rubs me the wrong way. I don't know, it seems patronizing or something, like people can't understand the actual risk.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:49 AM on November 10, 2010


the issue isn't whether it's true or not, it's whether or not people who don't know me feel comfortable judging me or treating me as if I am stupid.

Yes. I do. You, as a smoker, make my life hell. I will judge you as I see fit, because you are a bad person who imposes externalities on the rest of the world and doesn't give a shit. You can take your indignation and shove it.
posted by thesmophoron at 11:49 AM on November 10, 2010


I long for cigarettes more than any guy with whom I've had the pleasure of spending some time.
posted by angrycat at 11:51 AM on November 10, 2010


God smoking was such a nightmare for me. I wish there actual was something that would convince people to just stop. Something that worked I mean, and let people stop not do it anymore. Something to help people decide to do that... I don't think these any one thing, though.

I have to agree that this BS seems like PR to me. This type of stuff is worse than useless, the anxiety it causes helps keep you feel you need the things. If it didn't sound too paranoid, I'd be tempted to suggest that everyone involved wants you to buy the smokes and get defensive about your "precious" tabacco, maybe find you an expensive alternative tobacco delivery system to use, until you "indulge" yourself with "just one cigarette"... ugh...

Sorry, channelling Allen Carr.
posted by ServSci at 11:53 AM on November 10, 2010


Yes. I do. You, as a smoker, make my life hell. I will judge you as I see fit, because you are a bad person who imposes externalities on the rest of the world and doesn't give a shit. You can take your indignation and shove it.

I feel the same way about drivers. We are currently in two wars so you can commute from your fucking mcmansion to the city. We despoil the landscape to make it easier for you to get from place to place. Whats the externalities on hundreds of thousands dead so you can drive to costco.

Cept I am polite and realize I will get nowhere calling people names and talking about "externalities"
posted by Ad hominem at 11:54 AM on November 10, 2010 [14 favorites]


Yes. I do. You, as a smoker, make my life hell. I will judge you as I see fit, because you are a bad person who imposes externalities on the rest of the world and doesn't give a shit. You can take your indignation and shove it.

I am sorry that you feel this way; I endeavor to be considerate, I ask people before I smoke around them, I stand apart from groups of people, but I respect that this may not be enough for you. I don't believe myself to be someone who doesn't give a shit; I do try to care and be respectful of others but I am aware that (in many aspects of my life) I fall short of this goal. If I do make your life hell, I am sorry about that.

I think I will be bowing out of this conversation now.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:55 AM on November 10, 2010 [9 favorites]


... calling people names? What noun are you objecting to? "smoker"? "person"? i may have stated my opinion forcefully, but i didnt call anyone names. and fyi, deliberately mischaracterizing what someone else said hardly counts as "cept i am polite"
posted by thesmophoron at 11:57 AM on November 10, 2010


I'm not a smoker nor have I ever been one, but it's not because of some scary and manipulative nanny state-nagging. Some of us do have more intelligence than those Road to Hell propagandists give us credit for. The fear-mongering overload we have in these days is just going to worry people to death whether or not they smoke...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 11:58 AM on November 10, 2010


They had a poster at my school (in Canada, around 1990) of a woman with the mouth like the horrible teeth mouth in these, and really awful gray skin, smoking a cigarette. The caption said, "Smoking is sexy."
posted by joannemerriam at 11:59 AM on November 10, 2010


Sorry, I counted "you are a bad person" as name calling.

For the record, I will quit smoking if someone in this thread agrees to never drive again.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:08 PM on November 10, 2010


Hey, I can stop driving whenever I want....NO MY ATROPHIED LEGS ARE NOT SHAKING!

only Zipcar can count my sins
posted by Salvor Hardin at 12:12 PM on November 10, 2010


Yes. I do. You, as a smoker, make my life hell. I will judge you as I see fit, because you are a bad person who imposes externalities on the rest of the world and doesn't give a shit. You can take your indignation and shove it.

I'm just going to go out on a limb here and suggest that perhaps your real issues go a bit deeper than simply the selfish imposition of externalities by smokers...
posted by Skygazer at 12:14 PM on November 10, 2010 [10 favorites]


Impressive. I didn't think much of the first third or so, which seemed very old hat (and thus, too easy to ignore). But the variety of designs and messages as a whole really work. I think having a big number of different warnings is key, because the chances you'll see the same one twice in a row is pretty low. Similarly, the mix of photographic, illustrative and conceptual visuals reset message awareness, and offset the fact that some will be mis-targeted (eg a warning about child health isn't too important to a single man, but he'll only see those a quarter of the time and each one that he does will likely be different from the previous one).

The last few 'positive' images are great too - the beardy guy who quit, cigarettes in the toilet, and bubble-blowing. Having those appear about one time in ten doesn't seem like a lot, but it will give them way more impact, and 1-3 times a month (depending on how heavily a person smokes) is often enough for the suggestion to stick but so much that it starts to seem like a nag. The only omissions, which are surprising, are references to impotence or suggestions that smoking is sexually unattractive (bad smell/taste). Anyone know why these are not present? I'm guessing that focus groups found the 'naughty/badass' dynamic of smoking in sexual attraction was more powerful than the long term negatives, but that's only a hunch.

It's time to overhaul the slogan though: 'Quitting smoking now greatly reduces serious risks to your health' is carefully constructed for legal accuracy, but it's overlong, and too hard for many people to read. I still remember the confusion the first time I encountered it. Two present participles (quitting smoking) is an awkward and unusual beginning; 'greatly reduces' is so vague as to lose meaning, as are the 'serious risks.' and '///risks to your health' misses the mark badly. Instead of addressing the reader directly, it speaks of one abstraction (risk) affecting another (health) in the possessive case (your health, her car, my pants). Health is presented as a matter of property rather than identity, and we all know how people feel when anyone, but especially the government, starts telling them what to do with their property. The reader is reduced to a mere preposition; 'your' has no more rhythmic weight in the sentence than 'to' and 'the,' and here it implies poor guardianship too. It's redolent of warnings like 'you'll damage ____ if you keep ____ing it that way,' a questioning of the hearer's competence that is the more acute for its indirect nature.

Finally, the word 'now' is badly placed. '[N]ow greatly reduces...' sounds like 'now washes whiter' - does this mean that quitting before wouldn't have reduced the risks so much? Of course this is wrong, but those two verbs at the beginning of the sentence are so weighty that they drag each other down before 'quit' can be linked with 'now.' Look again at the rhythm of the words: quitting smoking now greatly reduces serious risks to your health. The two strong beats for 'now great[ly]' carry far more emphasis than the strong beats in the first two words, both of which are neutralised with a weak beat on 'ing'. (Try rapping it or reading it aloud in Shakesperian style if this isn't clear. You'll find it's almost impossible to emphasize quitting now without adding a long pause to separate the two parts of the sentence: Dada Dada Da, Dadada Dada Dadada Dadada Da.)

I suggest 'Quit now - protect your health' or alternatively 'quit now, you can save your health.' Though it still uses a possessive metaphor, it emphasizes the reader's interests, is enabling, can be read with a grade 3-4 education, and is easy to remember. I'd rather say 'quit now, feel healthy' but since implied promises in PSAs are a legal minefield, the next best thing is to empower the reader on behalf of their own wellbeing.


Overall, this is one of the best public-health campaigns I've seen. I quit completely this year but was after 2 years of struggling to do, despite having stopped a couple of times when I was younger (when the costs were less apparent, and so quitting didn't feel like it had made an obvious difference to my health). Many people smoke for addictive reasons without actually liking it anymore, and effective health warnings can help a good deal. The current US warnings are no longer effective: although they do feature stern black on white type and are suitably large, they're mostly too wordy* and easily filtered. The Canadian ones are better, but like others around the world (pdf, extreme medical imagery) they're too visually similar, and the overuse of worst-case examples undermines the message and is easily offset by putting the box/cigarettes in an accessory case; extreme ads are better for prevention than persuasion of existing smokers. These new US ones are strong enough to make an impact, varied enough to make it afresh with every purchase, but conceptual enough to to avoid reflexive disgust which prevents the message from being processed. In short, these are likely be very effective in making smokers think differently about their habit, and give people an excellent variety of mental tools to help quit.

* I know, I should talk.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:14 PM on November 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


thesmophoron: I met you every single day I lived in San Francisco city and happened to step outside my house. Even when minimizing myself and humbly moving aside as Mrs Pterodactyl said, you judged me. You didn't stop with a dirty look, you felt you had the right to walk up to me and tell exactly what you thought of me. Would you do that to every homeless guy, junkie or wino you came across or was it simply the smokers you were carefully targetting with your self righteous venom? I make your life living hell? I am a bad person? I am the smoker you had to walk past on the street and smell the acrid smoke choking you? Personally?

I am choosing to smoke as an adult, knowing and dealing with full consequences of my actions as mentioned so clearly in this thread. But until you are able to create an environment where smoking is as outlawed as heroin or smack, you also have the responsibility to hold your judgements to your self. Or does my smoking in your fair city give you the right to make me shrivel up and die inside?

This will be the key issue, I think. The only way to stop smokers will be to make it illegal. Then you may judge me for my "badness".

Until then, reserve your judgement for big tobacco who hands out free cigarettes to college students in the "third world" or whatever we're calling it these days. Selling a pack of 20 Marlboro for USD 1.00 in villages of teh Philippines. Nairobi has managed to kill the habit by making it illegal in the street. There I respected the law and deserved your judgement.

/end humiliated in public by random people rant
posted by The Lady is a designer at 12:16 PM on November 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't get why people are confused about hwy people smoke. It's the same reason people drink or smoke pot. It's a drug, people like drugs. The War on Drugs has made this clear, since people love drugs even more than they love not having to worry about the cops.

I'm an ex-smoker. I like being healthy again, so I don't plan on starting. I don't want to get lung cancer, and I hope I didn't quit too late (won't know for a very long time). But if there was a magic pill I could take that cancelled out the health effects (at least the long-term serious ones) but let me get that nicotine rush, I'd start again tomorrow. I really, really liked smoking. I did get lucky enough to have almost no physical addiction (no withdrawl pangs or anything, I could skip a couple days of smoking with no issues, etc), but it still took me a while to disassociate various activities from smoking (bars/clubs were the hardest, even in CA where you have to go outside).
posted by wildcrdj at 12:17 PM on November 10, 2010


mr_roboto: Percent greater and "times over" are different animals.
posted by raysmj at 12:17 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thesmophoron, not all smokers contribute equally to the externalities. As someone who grew up with asthma I completely understand your 'but why would anyone...' argument, but as someone who later started smoking (perhaps because after asking myself that question so many times, I was compelled to find out) I now look at people smoking with the same feeling I get when I see people passed out drunk or with a heroin addiction. Obnoxious and irresponsible towards others as the habit is, the ravaging of the smoker's own body is umpteen times worse; and the co-option of the smoker themselves does almost as much violence to the psyche as the smoke to the lungs and heart.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:28 PM on November 10, 2010


and the legal co-option of the smoker themselves does almost as much violence to the psyche as the smoke to the lungs and heart.
posted by The Lady is a designer at 12:30 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


(lights smoke).
it is horrid to smoke around children. most smokers know this, some do not. It is still a right in this country. 'The Legislate Morality' opinion is invalid IMO. This is a health matter and morality becomes mortality in that leap of phrase. Most have seen this stuff, the lungs, half a jaw, reports on second hand smoke...hell it did not take a genius to see why 5 yr old clav wuz rolling down the window when dad(smoker) and I went to the Hardware store. Tangent...
A person has a right to smoke when it does not harm others.
I will not itali-itali.

* Make tobacco a prescription drug.
* Restrict the legal sale of cigarettes to include licensed dealers and a waiting period, like you do with firearms. Better plan ahead, Captain Smokey.
* Remove any farm subsidies or any kind of government assistance for tobacco growers.
* Ban imports of tobacco.
* Allow health insurance carriers to deny coverage to smokers.
* Allow smoking in bars that want to allow it, but ban the consumption of tobacco in view of minors, in the same way you cannot drink in public outside of your home or outside of a bar. Go ahead -- smoke inside the bar. But you can't smoke anywhere else, just like I can't walk down the street with a beer.

popa cool bells comment.

This has done more to...scare, no, make aware, no...THINK.
this is a neat plan and at least of them is already in place across the country(s)
Prescription is hard, that would create to much wasted money, if im gonna smoke, ill be going to viginia and seein some friends YKWIM.
not ban but make equal in trading practices, big chunk of cash comes from u.s. tobbac sales. the rest can be worked out.

* Allow health insurance carriers to deny coverage to smokers.

that is the key but help must be given to smokers who want/need to quit. education, prescriptions for the withdrawal etc.
unsquawk {yinnn-neh.krk}
"TIA"
posted by clavdivs at 12:36 PM on November 10, 2010


That stopped me for a while. Until i discovered how delicious Canadian cigarettes are, and c'mon, everyone knows Canadians are nice and even tempered and sane...


Dear god how I used to love Export A and Rothmans.

Eighteen months and going strong....eighteen months and going strong....
posted by slogger at 12:37 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


mr_roboto: Percent greater and "times over" are different animals.

Yes they are.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:45 PM on November 10, 2010


Yes. I do. You, as a smoker, make my life hell. I will judge you as I see fit, because you are a bad person who imposes externalities on the rest of the world and doesn't give a shit. You can take your indignation and shove it.

Most smokers I know tend to only smoke outside (not in crowds), in their own home without any children, or in private establishments that nobody is forcing you to enter. And they'll probably die earlier than the rest of us, making their overall impact on health care costs ambiguous.

You're painting with a pretty broad brush.
posted by ripley_ at 12:48 PM on November 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


I eagerly await the labels featuring the elderly with captions like "Quitting smoking now will let you live long enough to have other people wipe your ass."
posted by davelog at 12:52 PM on November 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Warning: tangent. scroll by. concerns a smokers stigma in public.

{as a smoker, at break, even at a coffee place, in Ann Arbor Mi, i got to know some pretty smart skateboarders, they said i was ' a johnson' being 40, in a suit. I imparted great secrets of the city, odd buildings, Blue Front, shaky jake, riots, some apt comparison of hash bash days, being a third generation smoker who has patronized Masion Edwards. smoke and chin wag two bits. frikkin i like skateboaders skate boarding by Boarders thinking they are sure this is the original site}

"shit sir you left the squ-box open"
"dont worry son we are 120 ft underwater....."
posted by clavdivs at 12:53 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow! I had no idea that smoking was actually harmful to my health! Thank you government, you saved my life! Where do you get your amazing ideas?
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:57 PM on November 10, 2010


If I promise to spray myself with air freshener can I give this thread a hug and then go for walk?
posted by The Lady is a designer at 12:58 PM on November 10, 2010


Yes, thanks for that, FDA Man. Yes, certain deep physical pleasures are dangerous and bad for us, and will even kill us in profoundly unpleasant ways. Thank you for this astonishing revelation. Regrettably, I have to report that many people would still far rather die in great agony with veins full of needles and lungs full of black, bloody snot and angry cauliflower growths than to spend their destined-to-be-prematurely-truncated lives lectured and tut-tutted at by infinitely tedious, joyless, endlessly disapproving neo-puritan sparts like you, FDA man. Still, I must at least thank you for inspiring me to go pour a really, I mean really and inexcusably huge glass of Laphroaig. Oh my! Won't somebody think of the livers?
posted by Decani at 1:01 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Where do you get your amazing ideas? Largely from international as well as US government-funded research, that taxpayers of decades past paid for.
posted by raysmj at 1:01 PM on November 10, 2010


Still, I must at least thank you for inspiring me to go pour a really, I mean really and inexcusably huge glass of Laphroaig. Oh my! Won't somebody think of the livers?

I don't smoke, but as a scotch drinker I would love to pack a bowl with a chunk of liver from a life-long Laphroaig drinker.
posted by bondcliff at 1:04 PM on November 10, 2010


I think a better campaign would take the abstraction of time lag and the mystery of the illness out of these campaigns and instead of presenting the threat as some horrific terminal cancer or, and this is even more deadly, coronary disease, and instead dealt with the immediate physical responses that come from smoking a cigarette, or a certain succession of cigarettes, in a real world situation.

Present a youngish unsick person, show the damage of a night of drinking and smoking, the slight damages of it to the heart, the lungs, the blood vessels the heightened blood pressure, the slight tightening and loss of elasticity in the veins and arteries and capillaries, the loss of oxygen that muddles the mind and makes it less sharp, and then combine all these effects to someone who perhaps isn't exercising, or has a sedentary job at a desk, and could stand to lose 10 or 15 pounds, and perhaps also is eating too much red meat more breathing in bad air from highway pollution and show the real time effects on a real person over a real time frame and how all these physical stressors combine as one ages and begin to aggregate, with normal aging....showing a step by step palpable sense of things, not a dead body with deformations, it's like who gives a fuck about that person, it's just a dead body, there's no emotional investment in that....

But honestly, I think this is what the industry wants, they want dehumanized, depersonalized victims, that deserve to be sick because they were stupid and fucked up individuals anyway, and who the fuck in their halfway right mind is going to identify with that?? Not only that, but who, as a non-smoker is going to need to give a flying fuck about that person ever? Really, they're a parasite and an inconvenience, a less than human, human cockroach who never thought aboit their health, never cared about anyone, never loved or dreamed or hurt and how dare they impose their miserable externalities upon my precious air and life for even one nanosecond, better that they're dead and the devil sort them out, they were second rate humans anyway. Fuck'em six ways from SUnday....


And so, we have the creation of an exploitable expendable underclass, that the multinational tobacco/food companies can kill, the legal profession can exploit, the government no longer has to treat like humans, the medical industry can be indifferent about and the citizenry can look down upon as vermin. It's beautiful in some ways this synergetic ball of equiposed capitalistic horseshit.

Someday perhaps these cadavers will make good fertilizer and be resold to some dynamic visionary conglomeration.

Now, where the fuck did I hide that pack of cigarettes, i really need one now.
posted by Skygazer at 1:04 PM on November 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


Cigarettes should carry photographs of the politicians who take tobacco company money. I would have quit years ago.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:16 PM on November 10, 2010 [9 favorites]


I only drive because they won't let me smoke on public transport any more.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:19 PM on November 10, 2010


I made a logo that said cigs kill but it wound up looking like 'cig skill'.

PR campaigns are way harder than I thought!
posted by mazola at 1:26 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dear god how I used to love Export A and Rothmans.
posted by slogger


Are you my uncle?
posted by mazola at 1:27 PM on November 10, 2010


that's why i throw away the boxes and put my cigs in pretty Pylones tins.
posted by liza at 1:36 PM on November 10, 2010


with a chunk of liver from a life-long Laphroaig drinker.

In Mandarin, I believe, liver is a term of endearment (but so is Green Cask ;p )
posted by The Lady is a designer at 1:44 PM on November 10, 2010


I realized the terrifying motivational power of spite when all it took for me to quit smoking was some smug recent non-smoker telling me that I'd never be able to quit as easily as he did. I have never even considered smoking a single moment since that day, maybe 9 years ago. He, meanwhile, has started and stopped about a dozen times since then.
posted by elizardbits at 1:57 PM on November 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


I know about the dangers of smoking, but I've only today found out about the dangers of breaking into a house with a mouse in one's rectum.

We need better warning labels on mice.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:03 PM on November 10, 2010


I once quit smoking accidentally, elizardbits. I just sorta forgot to buy a new pack for a while. And then I did and i was like ewwwwww....

But that problem has been resolved.

*ducks*
posted by Skygazer at 2:03 PM on November 10, 2010


btw: i always find it amusing how US Americans go batshitinsane over smoking. my great-grandmother used to roll her own cigars and she would smoke one maybe over the course of a week until she couldnt anymore. when she died, we thought she was 99 years old. she had lied to us --she actually was 104 years old.

she walked everywhere. had a rather active social and dare i say sexual life. she would make almost everything from scratch; including her moonshine and backyard wine. had no idea what fast-food meant. only ate meat in special occasions.

tabaco is indigenous to the Americas and it has been used by first peoples since time immemorial. in my family (we are part first peoples), cigars were always a special kind of thing adults would smoke on special occasions. they were looked at amenities, not entitlements.

when it comes to cigarettes, well, yeah, i had 2 uncles addicted to cigarettes but they were also alcoholics. almost every person i know who is addicted to cigarettes (at least in my family) has also other addiction problems.

with me? smoking comes and goes. i just dont have the discipline to become addicted to them. i can spend weeks without smoking and then i'll have a few and that's it. sometimes it's stress related but other times it's just because they have that ritual quality of capping a social moment with a smoke.

and there's the fact i had us cigarettes. in nyc they banned european cigs; so unless i go to NJ i can't find my GITANES easily. so whenever i get them i treat them like cigars: only leave them for special occasions.

i'd be more happy if the FDA spent as much time and effort on attacking frankenfoods or on NOT pushing wheat and cow-milk centered foods on communities of color and especially our children. and then there's their complete lack of interest in the "male pill".
posted by liza at 2:04 PM on November 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


urgh: "and there's the fact i HATE us cigarettes".

btw: you can tell the difference between US cigarettes and cigars from elsewhere. they taste differently. tabaco as processed by US companies is the devil's weed.
posted by liza at 2:11 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


A lady I know finally quit smoking after 30+ years when the company she works for decided to terminate all employees who use tobacco.

They'd kill the smokers? Hard core!
posted by binturong at 2:16 PM on November 10, 2010


I smoke.

I try not to bother other people.

I will die younger than you, and I will have paid more taxes than you (relative to my income).
posted by Dumsnill at 2:20 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Are you my uncle?

You are not my uncle. You are a snort.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:25 PM on November 10, 2010


And now this - one of the possible designs features a Canadian woman deathly ill with lung cancer, who advocated in her final days against smoking. My favorite part of the story is the bitterness that she may end up on American tobacco packaging before Canadian. Yes, that's the crappy part about Canada, you've got head to the US if you really want to make it big.
posted by stevil at 2:33 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Like many of you, I have a complex relationship with cigarettes. I've never smoked nor have I ever really had the desire to. No one ever smoked in my immediate family.

But I have this one aunt, a fast-talkin'-butch-gun-totin'-lesbian-firecracker-from-Wyoming with whom I spent many summers as a youth. She smokes like a trucker. In so many way's it's absolutely disgusting. Her house smells like a cheap hotel. Long car trips are taxing and detrimental to my respiratory health. And yet...

I still love that first smell of a cigarette lighting up, and I still think James Dean looked really cool with that cigarette hanging out of his mouth. I love old cigarette packaging, I even love the simple design of the cigarette itself. And yet...

I was also extremely happy when my state banned smoking in bars and I really hate going into casinos in Vegas for the same reason, and if I ever caught my kids smoking I'd probably send them to military school or something.

But I also really hate when the government gets involved in nannying activities, and these kinds of pictures just seem so dumb. And I really hate those self-righteous truth ads. So cocksure and holier-than-thou. And yet... if they keep even one person from dying a horrible death, maybe it's worth it?

Whew, after all those mental gymnastics I think I need a smoke!
posted by jnrussell at 2:39 PM on November 10, 2010


Please, no smoking in this theater.
posted by sonascope at 3:12 PM on November 10, 2010


I'm an ex-smoker, and I sure don't mind hanging out with smokers. And yet...

Think of the huge additional health care costs due to smoking. And then think of the enormous profits the tobacco companies are making selling a product that's highly addictive. This makes no sense from a public health perspective (see: heroin, cocaine).
posted by sneebler at 3:12 PM on November 10, 2010


Yes. I do. You, as a smoker, make my life hell. I will judge you as I see fit, because you are a bad person who imposes externalities on the rest of the world and doesn't give a shit. You can take your indignation and shove it.

At least the smokers require I be in their physical presence to suffer their stink.
posted by applemeat at 3:23 PM on November 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


Think of the huge additional health care costs due to smoking. And then think of the enormous profits the tobacco companies are making selling a product that's highly addictive. This makes no sense from a public health perspective (see: heroin, cocaine).

Actually, legal heroin and cocaine make perfect sense from a public health perspective. The idea that people are going to simply stop using "products that are highly addictive" is a fantasy; harm reduction is far more effective than banning things and/or trying to pressure everyone into quitting. And frankly, if the government were at all serious about reducing "the huge additional health care costs due to smoking", they'd be pushing e-cigs, nicotine gum & patches, snus, and/or chewing tobacco rather than spending taxpayer money to put dumb ads on cigarettes.
posted by vorfeed at 3:42 PM on November 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


This ungrammatical UK warning kind of bothers me:
"Smoking is highly addictive, don't start"
(from here)

Can someone confirm they actually printed that on cigarette packs?
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 4:13 PM on November 10, 2010


I'm just going to get a head start on this, and say they should legalize tobacco use for adults. I admit it's unhealthy, but there's a long history behind it, and you have to die somehow. What you do to your own body is your business. I know, they'll never legalize tobacco, and it's a total lost cause, but anyhow I think it's a good idea to let people enjoy themselves and have a good time if they want, and not try to control every thing they do.
posted by nervousfritz at 4:15 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


What it took to make me quit smoking.
posted by ColdChef at 4:20 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


thesmophoron: I quit smoking four months ago. I believe I've quit for good. It's sometimes difficult for me to stand outside with my friends and neighbors -- the ones who still smoke -- and realize that I can't smoke anymore. Is this a living hell? Well, it's difficult. But I have to accept my friends and neighbors for who they are. And ultimately the pleasures outweigh the discomfort. But maybe I'm just a foolish optimist.

I take in the whiff of second-hand smoke and sometimes it's disgusting. But sometimes, very often, the inner adolescent says, "Christ, why did I stop?" Thankfully, I'm civilized enough to resist that beast. Entirely my choice. Just as it is the choice of my smoking pals to continue smoking. And thankfully my friends and neighbors are kind enough to understand that sometimes I zone out like this when they are telling me some interesting story because the blue fumes lull me into a nicotine dream. Just the way they did when I puffed right up. Because even now, after conquering the addiction, I still have associations. Other ex-smokers have described this as a living hell to me. But to me, it's just part of staring down the beast. And if I can't do that, I may as well smoke again.

One thing I can tell you: they're not bad people. And they actually do give a shit about the world I live in. Much as I'm interested in their world. And while it's sometimes very uncomfortable for me to feel such internal temptations, I don't believe for a second that my smoking friends and neighbors are imposing externalities upon me or the rest of the world. In fact, I recently interviewed an esteemed cultural figure who enjoys smoking, who was very uncomfortable smoking in the cold, and I told the publicist that if that was what made him comfortable, I'd do the interview a room where he could smoke and where we could be warm. And the publicist suggested that I was as "disgusting" as the esteemed cultural figure. Much as you have. Which seemed odd, given that this esteemed cultural figure had made some world-changing art. Stuff that I thought transcended his bad habit. Work that made him impervious to a label. Labor that made him human. But none of his great qualities, none of what he had given the world, mattered so long as he was on the fags. In the estimation of this publicist, he was somehow second-class.

It's easy to capitulate to a majority viewpoint and base your viewpoint on snap judgment. It's harder to embrace the uncomfortable spectrum of the human experience. I'll tell you this much. One is far more fulfilling than the other.
posted by ed at 4:41 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I predict a rich and rewarding career for that crying toddler as a meme in Fark photoshop contests.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:45 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm going outside now.
posted by ovvl at 4:55 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I hate cigarettes, but the guy having a heart attack and a stroke at the same time? That's some seriously shitty bad luck.

Of course it's fake, if the guy were having a stroke one of his arms would be dangling uselessly. Same goes for Mr Autopsy; since when did they stop making Y-incisions in favour of the zipper approach?

Only the guy with mouth cancer was remotely gross.
posted by bwg at 5:01 PM on November 10, 2010


Speaking as an ex-smoker I can say that this will not make anybody quit. People stop when they decide they want to stop. I will admit, however, that the $11/pack prices in New York do keep me from backsliding.
posted by jonmc at 5:10 PM on November 10, 2010


I think they know exactly what they're doing, producing stupid warnings like these. If the warnings were effective, they'd erode a great tax base. So they screech to the choir.

Seconding Halloween Jack, that image of Toddler Agony rocks. We're supposed to think "the tragedy of lung cancer," but what she's probably reacting to is brocolli.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:11 PM on November 10, 2010


* Allow health insurance carriers to deny coverage to smokers.

I'm amazed they don't already, considering how many other much less voluntary conditions limit peoples' coverage.

Ugh, it makes me sick just thinking about it. You guys have such an ass backward system.
posted by sunshinesky at 5:15 PM on November 10, 2010


I just wish dropping butts on the sidewalk actually counted as littering.

A few $50 tickets would very quickly change some habits. Or, a cleaner sidewalk. Either way that would be nifty.

(Comparing sidewalks in Vancouver BC and Cambridge MA is rather shocking.)
posted by andreaazure at 5:26 PM on November 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


So smoking has become more metal? Awesome.
posted by Betty_effn_White at 5:32 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just wish dropping butts on the sidewalk actually counted as littering.

A few $50 tickets would very quickly change some habits. Or, a cleaner sidewalk.


Or, a rash of garbage fires.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:32 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


But yeah, an overwhelming number of studies show that you'll either die young or die a horrible, slow, expensive death. That's not sanctimonious. It's true.

figure out the costs of smoking to society (due to premature death, healthcare costs etc.) and slap that on as a tax.


Somebody please correct me if I'm wrong, but I've heard a number of times that the "cost to public health" argument is a complete red herring.

It seems to make intuitive sense, though: smoking is bad for your health; bad health requires medical attention; ergo smoking is a big drain on public health funding.

In reality, supposedly smokers are actually awesome for public health funding because they cost a LOT less over time than "healthy" people who live to ripe old ages.

Smokers tend to die relatively quickly. Fatal heart attacks are instantaneous, and strokes can be too. Even "prolonged" deaths from cancer are usually over within little more than a year or two.

In contrast, oldies from 70 onwards require almost constant medical care. I can't think of any I've known who weren't on daily cocktails of subsidised drugs, not to mention very regular visits to the doctor, spells in and out of hospital, and from around 80 onwards there's a high likelihood of being institutionalised in nursing homes. All the while, the naturally deteriorating condition of the body demands ever more drugs, more surgery, more doctors & nurses & palliative care.

Not only that, the crisis of diminishing childbirth & ageing populations in the West is putting increasing strain on the economy, with wage-earners & taxpayers forced to subsidise more & more retirees every year.

Whatever bad things one might say about smoking, the idea that it's a greater drain on the public purse than a healthy lifestyle is apparently just not backed up by fact.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:42 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just got a tip that the Australian packages are even more worser!

Hey, next year all tobacco packaging will be forced to go plain! No logos, no branding, nothing but a Repo Man style grey box labelled "Cigarettes".

(presumably, the graphic warnings will remain, though)

Amusingly, the tobacco industry funded a bunch of prime time ads, featuring an "association of concerned small shopowners" whining that "it won't work, so why do it?"

(um, if it won't work, then why spend tens of millions of dollars opposing it?)
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:45 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Man, these are terrible. Especially the ones that are, like, a female figure in a coffin. I can easily see someone getting that tattooed to their arm.

I've never smoked a cigarette. My parents smoked like chimneys when I was a kid--my dad had a pack-a-day unfiltered camel habit--and I remember taking in big, deep gulps of second hand smoke and thinking about how tasty it was, while my asthmatic sister wheezed in the next room. My dad refused to quit even when he got emphysema when I was 7--and even when he couldn't bathe himself a year later. After he died, my mother kept promising my sister she would quit, but she wouldn't. My sis was 13, really emotional about it. I remember them having huge blow-up fights about it. Once, after a fight, my mom dragged me down the street to her friend Janelle's house, where they chain smoked and she blew smoke in my face and told me to go tattle to my sister about it. Janelle died of a stroke a year or two later, which is when my mom finally tried to quit in earnest (and eventually did).

It's an emotional, loaded thing for me--I still have nightmares about people blowing cigarette smoke in my face. Every guy I've ever kissed was a smoker. The Mr. had recently quit when I met him, but sometimes back slides (now, he's in grad school, and stressed and has picked up e-cigs as a way to avoid huge screaming fights between us, pretty much. I know he'd smoke real ones, given his druthers, though he tells me he's glad he hasn't picked it back up permanently). The funny thing is, I don't really know anyone else who hasn't at least tried smoking. I don't know if any of this stuff works in the face of something like smoking, unless you have a history with cigarettes like mine. Because I can't even tell people about these things that happened to me without being told that I'm being sanctimonious. And the FDA really thinks that they won't look like Big Brother with these shittily photoshopped graphics, like the man to rebel against? Puh-lease.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:24 PM on November 10, 2010


Do cocaine and heroin actually cause the same level of health problems as cigarettes? I mean obviously junkies have all kinds of problems, but couldn't most of those be ameliorated by legal drugs?
posted by delmoi at 6:28 PM on November 10, 2010


If I wasn't tired to death of tattoos, I might consider getting the li'l lady in a coffin as one. As my reward for quitting.

They really could do better with the "quitting now improves your health" ones. No, images of a bald dude with a lota facial hair, a toilet bowl, and a woman blowing a bubble kind of make me want to make a smoke because I'm bored.
posted by angrycat at 6:59 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I smoked for almost twenty years, and quit about a year ago. Part of me thinks that this will do absolutely nothing to deter smokers. Smokers already know smoking is stupid, and nasty, and dangerous. They already know this, believe it or not. Maybe that's why they are smoking, in part, to do something stupid and dangerous. So in that context, smokers will simply blinder out the warnings and pictures.

On the other hand, there is a unconscious, cumulative effect on the smoker's mind if he sees these kinds of images over and over again. With some people it probably could, in time, tip the scales.
posted by zardoz at 8:15 PM on November 10, 2010


According to yesterday's "Death Wish" shrub killer skate-boarder, various zombies, nannie vampires, and Harry Reid, this will be good news. They need to rethink this campaign and show something like Obama going to a big white (that's paint, people) Christian church with a Holy Bible in his hand shaking his finger at puffer Malia.
posted by wallstreet1929 at 8:34 PM on November 10, 2010


Just a couple of thoughts from someone who used to smoke and still enjoys the occasional cigarette or cigar with friends and family.

Someone above mentioned the "weak-ass buzz" without realizing that's actually kinda the point of nicotine as a drug (aside from the addiction.) If you want a slightly altered consciousness via chemical means, but you still would like to be mostly functional with no impairments to your operation of heavy farm equipment, then nicotine is your choice. It's really a perfect drug, at least in abstract. Gives a nice buzz, doesn't interfere with clear thinking, can actually improve memory a bit, is somewhat effective for certain mental conditions such as schizophrenia.

In terms of getting people to quit smoking, I agree with others that the best strategy would involve pushing alternatives. I'd love to see local / state / federal taxes reduced or eliminated for things like nicotine lozenges, e-cigarettes, snus, etc. Emphasize the alternatives with things that would actually appeal to smokers. For example: a public campaign that would point out you could have nicotine with your meal or beer, without having to go outside into the cold, if you use the alternatives.

Whatever happens, I just don't want to see another black market created. Somehow, I don't think that will make anything better, not even for the most sanctimonious anti-smoker.
posted by honestcoyote at 8:54 PM on November 10, 2010


A $10 or $20/pack health care tax on cigarettes would be a good start.

did you know that people can grow their own tobacco?

it's a plant, just like marijuana is - and there's going to be a price point where the black market will take over - go on, keep kidding yourself that you can somehow magically tax or ban or regulate this stuff so it will be gone, just like we did with marijuana, cocaine, heroin and meth, just like we tried to do with alcohol

it doesn't work, it never does

you think the tea party is bad? - wait until there's a tobacco party
posted by pyramid termite at 9:08 PM on November 10, 2010


there's going to be a price point where the black market will take over

The situation with taxation in Australia is that it's just about reached the price point whereby it's financially worthwhile to fly to New Zealand (from Sydney or Melbourne, at least) just for the duty free savings on tobacco alone, even if you do absolutely fuck all in NZ & return the same day without even leaving the airport.

All the moreso if you pick up the allowed 2L of sweet sweet single malt.

This is much the same thing as the high-taxing Scandinavians do, with their bogus "cruises" to Estonia or wherever, which are nothing but huge duty-free stores.

I've noticed it becoming more & more common even for non-smokers to pick up the full duty free allowance to sell off at a profit to any friend or workmate who'd be buying the stuff anyway. I don't know if that would be called "black market" but it seems to me that anybody prepared to sit in a plane for 2-3 hours each way could make an OK living just shuttling back & forth every day. What they choose to do with their bought belongings once they pass through customs is their own private business, as long as they're not setting up a formal shop. (IANAL, IANYL)
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:27 PM on November 10, 2010


Do cocaine and heroin actually cause the same level of health problems as cigarettes? I mean obviously junkies have all kinds of problems, but couldn't most of those be ameliorated by legal drugs?

It depends. There's a big piece of longitudinal work by Stimson and Oppenheimer of heroin addicts in treatment under the old British system, in which legal heroin was made freely available to pretty well any addict that asked for it. Few controls, take home doses and they die at about the same rate as people using illicit heroin.

The later work from Switzerland, Netherlands, UK on what they now call 'Heroin Assisted Treatment' shows much, much better outcomes, but the treatment regime is much more onerous. No take homes whatsoever. Dosing at the clinic, 365 days a year. Medical team on hand to resuscitate in case of overdose, etc. So, better outcomes, much more expensive.

That said, it's mostly not the heroin that kills people as much as the lifestyle, the compulsive nature of the addiction and the other accompanying illnesses. But exactly the same is true of alcohol. The richest 10% in the UK tend to consume more units of alcohol per week than the poorest 10%, while experiencing virtually none of the negative alcohol-related health consequences so prevalent in that poorer population.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:58 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Really? They couldn't do better than a poorly cut out "I Quit" vinyl t-shirt transfer for their photoshoot?

They probably wanted to but the Republicans in Congress blocked funding.

I saw the Tobacco Use Prevention presser on CSPAN today (about 50 minutes). Dr. Howard Koh uses the word "epidemic" over and over. Like the "crack epidemic" in the 1980s (his segment starts about 8 minutes in).

But I'm most taken by the utter hypocrisy of society. Tobacco use is an epidemic. But where is alcohol in this equation. I haven't seen the FDA come out with scary new warning labels about alcohol despite the recent studies showing alcohol is more harmful to the user and to others than just about every illegal drug out there, tobacco included. By the way, people didn't just start saying this.

So what is it about tobacco? The years of deception by the companies? Did they just piss off the wrong somebody. It reminds me of the hit campaign waged against marijuana for years.

Can I just show up drunk and no one cares? Maybe not. But all we get is the FDA talking about banning alcoholic energy drinks.

I had a friend show up drunk to work, they gave him a "get out of jail free card", they let it slide. It wasn't until it was habitual that he was fired. I have another buddy who just lost his job and needs something to tide him over until the next campaign job comes along. He applied at Panda Express and one of the questions was "Have you ever been arrested for marijuana?" FFS. It's Panda Express. What is that? A "don't eat all the orange chicken" policy question?

You are no good for Panda Express you weed-smoking, tobacco using hippie!

Look, I wouldn't ever drink a drop of alcohol if there were a better, legal alternative. But that is what is accepted, DUIs, domestic violence and all.

Yeah, I smoke, yeah I know it sucks, yeah I want to quit. But a fucking epidemic? Is everything that harms us an epidemic? Is there an epidemic of car accidents, homicides, nightshade poisoning? Talk about taking the punch out of a word.

Maybe alcohol is the next target in the war against shit that hurts us. Probably not. Wasn't it the alcohol companies that played a big role in the defeat of prop 19 in Cali? How long before their business practices draw ire equivalent to the demonization of tobacco companies (I agree they all suck). Sorry this just bothers me.
posted by IvoShandor at 1:41 AM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't even notice the pictures on my cigarette packets any more. Which I think hints at their efficacy.
posted by seanyboy at 1:45 AM on November 11, 2010


The pictures (these American ones are pretty pathetic) aren't a "Did you know? Smoking has a detrimental effect on your health" type of condescension.

They're a reminder of the long-term problems presented right at a moment when you're only focused on the short-term pleasure. Like in the procrastination thread recently, people have a tendency to discount future issues in favour of doing fun stuff right now, even if they know they'll regret it later. The pictures are simply a reminder of what you already know, in the hopes that you make a smarter decision this time. They won't convert any serious addicts, but they'll make things easier for someone trying to give up.

As mentioned earlier in the thread, anti-smoking campaigns have been amazingly successful considering that tobacco is addictive and makes huge piles of money for corporate types. I think they know what they're doing.
posted by harriet vane at 2:19 AM on November 11, 2010


These pictures are basically just a smug asshole coming up to you while you're minding your own business and saying "You know those things'll kill you, right?". Nothing makes me want a cigarette more than some jackass being sanctimonious.

I agree - and I'm not even a smoker! This is my new favourite anti-smoking ad or, rather, pro-quitting ad. It has actually inspired at least one of my smoker friends to try quitting. He's going on four months now.

Also, I agree that the Australian warnings are way more graphic and disgusting. These just look like bad clip-art.
posted by mosessis at 3:14 AM on November 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Australia's smoking rate has dropped quite successfully in the last decade, it's now about 18 percent of all adults. Most professionals give some credit to the graphic packaging (but far more to the fact that they are taxed the shit out of). It's about $15 a pack of cigarettes now. (And our dollar is at about parity)
posted by wilful at 3:54 AM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


But I'm most taken by the utter hypocrisy of society. Tobacco use is an epidemic. But where is alcohol in this equation.

Agreed. Here are some things smoking does not make you do, as a rule, basically ever:

* Crash your car
* Neglect your children
* Beat your wife
* Die from cirrhosis of the liver
* Die from complications resulting from mixing alcohol with a diabetic physiology

But we've decided that alcohol is pretty much A-OK and tobacco is the Great Satan. Why? I'd guess much of it has to do with where the tobacco industry's money is going; it also probably has something to do with the, er, historical lack of success w/r/t prohibiting alcohol. But it's important to remember that this is a choice we've made that's pretty much based on nothing rational, and could have gone the either way just as easily -- imagine an America where we have decided to demonize alcohol and turn a blind eye to the dangers of smoking. It's pretty easy to do, since the main in-the-moment effects of smoking are stinky clothes and maybe a persistent cough; if you get drunk, you could be cracking up your car or running over my kid or puking all over the sidewalk -- what? -- an hour later? It is extremely easy -- effortless! -- to make the case that drinking is the greater evil. Keep this in mind, because I'm guessing that within a decade or two smoking will have dropped to such low levels that the morality police will have nothing to do on that score anymore, and those guys? They've always gotta have something to do. So drunks! Get ready. You're the next contestant on...!!
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:03 AM on November 11, 2010


You can still smoke in bars in VA???
posted by frecklefaerie at 6:04 AM on November 11, 2010


Effing nanny-state bullshit. Appropriate for all the nipple-suckers out there- this makes them feel better.
posted by PuppyCat at 7:10 AM on November 11, 2010


You can still smoke in bars in VA???

You can still smoke indoors in a lot of states.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 7:33 AM on November 11, 2010


Tobacco use is an epidemic. But where is alcohol in this equation.

What does one have to do with the other? I know that alcohol makes it harder for smokers to quit. Is that what you mean?

(I didn't vet sources much, but) Stats show tobacco kills ~400,000 Americans per year (NCI says 438,000), and alcohol kills about 80,000 (more than half from car crashes).

Addictions are addictions, but alcohol vs. tobacco is "apples vs. oranges" here, imo. If the goal is to minimize harm (or reduce health costs for mr. red state), focusing on tobacco makes more sense. (This doesn't take into account the possibility that alcohol may be more physically harmful outside of mortality stats, nor factor psychological nor spiritual harm.)

I get your point about double standards. I don't watch cable TV much, but I know they have Bacardi, Campari, and other liquor commercials back on in the US now. I almost wonder if the bans on smoking ads make the activity seem less harmful by removing the issue from the public eye.

But a fucking epidemic? Is everything that harms us an epidemic?

I don't know enough about medical science to know if there is a clinical definition for epidemic. Per wiktionary, there's a #1 general use (disease that hits a lot of people) and a #2 epidemiology definition, "An occurrence of a disease or disorder in a population at a frequency higher than that expected in a given time period."

But again, if you take that 438,000 number from NCI, that's 1 in 5 deaths in America. That's a lot of people. I dunno. I guess I'd call cancer the epidemic, and cigarette smoking one of the major causes.

I'd think the underlying assumption of "disease" would be more contentious than the use of "epidemic." Addiction is a chronic disease. ... no, it's not.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:44 AM on November 11, 2010


Well, in a study that a number of reputable news organizations seem to find credible (but had an FPP that was, I believe, deleted from MetaFilter), alcohol was found to be the worst thing around. By an extremely wide margin. But a lot more people drink than smoke, so good luck getting a picture of Mel Gibson pasted onto every bottle of PBR.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:24 AM on November 11, 2010


The presentation of the results of the study kittens mentions was extremely misleading, provocatively suggesting that alcohol was more deadly than meth, heroin, etc. rather than that the cumulative societal harms of alcohol exceed those of the other [and far less frequently used and abused] drugs. Rhetorically similar to concluding that the common cold is deadlier than being attacked by a shark, because common colds kill far more people every year than do shark attacks.
posted by applemeat at 10:34 AM on November 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, in a study that a number of reputable news organizations seem to find credible

This really isn't a reliable indicator of methodological and scientific rigour. Particularly when the author of the study was involved in a big public bust-up with his government bosses, who he then casts as 'anti-science'.

If John Nutt got around a table with three of his buddies tonight, smoked a few bowls and issued a report on how Cannabis is a Gateway Drug tomorrow, it would get reported by newspapers all over the world in following days.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:34 AM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rhetorically similar to concluding that the common cold is deadlier than being attacked by a shark, because common colds kill far more people every year than do shark attacks.

That...would actually make shark attacks the bigger problem, however.

This really isn't a reliable indicator of methodological and scientific rigour. Particularly when the author of the study was involved in a big public bust-up with his government bosses, who he then casts as 'anti-science'.

I'm neither a doctor nor a statistician, so it's hard for me to speak to the validity of the study. But I think it's significant that this was a lead story with The Economist, which generally is a fairly credible source, and maybe less significant that the author had a falling out with his government bosses, given what his government looks like at the moment.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:41 AM on November 11, 2010


(Correcting myself: I meant to say that would not make shark attacks the bigger problem. Because it wouldn't! Unless you were being eaten by a shark. Then...okay.)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:43 AM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Of course common colds are deadlier than sharks! Hardly anybody, ever, gets killed by a shark. Also, most sharks are pissweak & pathetic, and can't kill you even if they do attack.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:06 AM on November 11, 2010


Well, in a study that a number of reputable news organizations seem to find credible (but had an FPP that was, I believe, deleted from MetaFilter), alcohol was found to be the worst thing around.

Now why you want to go and kill The Economist? (Really? 503?)

Whole site seems down. I'll check out that study when it's back, but it sounds a little nutty. (Wordplay!)
posted by mrgrimm at 1:57 PM on November 11, 2010


I think they should have a sarcastic TEAM SMOKER FIGHTS CRIME cartoon. WHEEZER: turns out to be really bad at foot chases, WRINKLES: goes undercover for the alchoholic beverage control enforcement arm to see if they don't check ID when they are supposed to, STOMA-DART: coughs curare darts at criminals, but they tend to fall short.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:30 PM on November 11, 2010


But I'm most taken by the utter hypocrisy of society. Tobacco use is an epidemic. But where is alcohol in this equation.

In Australia and NZ at least, graphic cigarette warnings appeared a few years after a massive campaign against speeding and drunk driving that used depictions of gory car-wreck scenes to shock people straight. Quite probably, the success of the gory anti-drink-driving ads was what led to the use of gory cigarette warnings. So alcohol actually gets a fairly similar treatment. Alcohol is also taxed to hell and back just like cigarettes. If the USA is drastically different please correct me.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 6:35 PM on November 11, 2010


Alcohol is also taxed to hell and back just like cigarettes.

Yeah, whenever the party in power needs a bit of an injection of funds, they hike the taxes on booze & cigarettes, always using the same "public health" arguments. So, the prices rise at something like 5 times the official inflation rate, and naturally not a cent of the extra revenue ever finds its way into the hospitals.

You'd think that any candidate promising "By 2012 no Australian will pay more than $2 for a beer" would be a shoe-in at the elections, but I doubt if there's ever been a lowering of taxes.

I guess governments are just greedy like that, and love the opportunity to raise extra taxes in a way that satisfies busybody puritans that they're doing something about the problems and / or thinking of the children, when in reality their main motivation is that these products are generally price inelastic - you can charge more & most people won't substitute different spending choices.

(gotta say, though, that when a schooner of non-horsepiss beer went past the $5 price point, that was about the time i started hanging around in pubs less & got more serious about home brew)
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:00 PM on November 11, 2010


What does one have to do with the other?

It isn't that one has anything to do with the other, other than they are both unhealthy, both drugs and both harmful to society. But they are clearly getting different treatment in the public arena. That's my point. I'm not saying that cigarettes aren't bad, dangerous, unhealthy to me, you and everyone around. But so is alcohol.

(This doesn't take into account the possibility that alcohol may be more physically harmful outside of mortality stats, nor factor psychological nor spiritual harm.)

They are both public health risks that cost money and are taxed pretty heavily because of the health risks and the fact that governments are broke. I don't think it's apples and oranges in this case. I'd say a campaign, like the anti-smoking campaign that has smoking rates between about 1970 and 2004 by about 20% or so, could have been successfully implemented against alcohol just as was with nicotine. Maybe it's that alcohol only smells bad after 25 drinks and 20 hours of drinking.

In Australia and NZ at least, graphic cigarette warnings appeared a few years after a massive campaign against speeding and drunk driving that used depictions of gory car-wreck scenes to shock people straight.

Sure the U.S. has had similar campaigns, but we still have a lot of DUI. It has curbed the numbers but I don't know of any evidence that shows such campaigns actually did anything about alcohol abuse itself, maybe it's out there. Point is, people still drink. A lot.

I'd guess much of it has to do with where the tobacco industry's money is going; it also probably has something to do with the, er, historical lack of success w/r/t prohibiting alcohol.

Perhaps, alcohol and tobacco are both big money. As far as prohibition, it just doesn't work period, not with alcohol, not with illegal drugs, and it certainly couldn't work with nicotine but at some point neither do the high tax rates and scare campaigns.

Like I said, I don't think cigarettes are a good thing. But a lot of things we do to ourselves aren't good. Why has alcohol got what appears to be complete acceptance and a free pass on abuse?
posted by IvoShandor at 9:40 PM on November 11, 2010


Why has alcohol got what appears to be complete acceptance and a free pass on abuse?

If you really think alcohol abuse has gotten a "free pass," I'm sure I won't convince you otherwise, but my contention is that, based on death statistics (linked above), smoking is 5x more harmful than alcohol. (I would bet the health cost difference is actually higher than 500%.)

It stands to reason we should be fighting cigarette addiction 5x more than alcohol addiction.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:36 PM on November 12, 2010


If you really think alcohol abuse has gotten a "free pass," I'm sure I won't convince you otherwise, but my contention is that, based on death statistics (linked above), smoking is 5x more harmful than alcohol. (I would bet the health cost difference is actually higher than 500%.)

It stands to reason we should be fighting cigarette addiction 5x more than alcohol addiction.


Actually, alcohol has recently been shown to be the most harmful substance to a person and society overall, in terms of mental and physical damage, addiction, crime and costs to the economy and communities.. I also find it hard to separate alcohol from cigarettes completely, since I'd be willing to bet that serious alcoholics are pretty likely to be heavy smokers as well. Hell, I still don't know if it's the lung cancer or the cirrhosis that killed my grandfather.
posted by sunshinesky at 5:47 AM on November 13, 2010


If you really think alcohol abuse has gotten a "free pass," I'm sure I won't convince you otherwise, but my contention is that, based on death statistics (linked above), smoking is 5x more harmful than alcohol. (I would bet the health cost difference is actually higher than 500%.)

You don't have to keep telling me cigarettes are harmful. I know that. But can I buy a pack of smokes at baseball games, football games, every festival in America, community fish frys etc. etc.? It's become part of the American experience, drinking. Smoking not so much. If I could make cigarettes five times less harmful would they be accepted and flowing freely at major events nationwide? I doubt it. Take that recent report about alcohol, it's only saying what many have said for a long time, alcohol is by far the most harmful substance out there (and damn it I can't find the link, but the DEA had this claim on their website several years ago), it coupled with tobacco are perhaps the greatest preventable public health risks. But it is all "damn you Altria," and "hells yeah Anheisur Busch!"

It stands to reason we should be fighting cigarette addiction 5x more than alcohol addiction.

It does stand to reason, but is there anything that states government agencies are fighting alcohol addiction/abuse/use 5x less?
posted by IvoShandor at 3:57 AM on November 14, 2010


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