Congratulations to the Food and Drug Administration, which today released proposed warning labels that must take up at least half the front and back of packs of cigarettes. They are effective eye-catchers.
The FDA released 36 labels. It certainly has come a long way from the initial warning label, “Cigarettes may be hazardous to your health.” So jittery about offending tender sensibilities of readers, the Associated Press story about the new warning labels carried a warning about “graphic images.”
Corpses, rows of tombstones, dying cancer patients and a mother blowing smoke into the face of her held infant are personal highlights of the label collection.
The FDA has opened a public comment period for the labels. Nine labels are to be chose by June 22. The warnings are to go on the packages at the end of Sept. 2012.
Smoking accounts for almost 450K deaths a year, according to the Dept. of Health and Human Services. Forty-six million adults smoke. Many are lost. They will simply ignore the warnings. My dad used to call his cigarettes "cancer sticks" and continued smoking them.
Other smokers will simply empty their smokes into other containers, holders that are sure to be big sellers. The graphics are aimed at the 20 percent of high school students who smoke and their younger brothers and sisters.
The tobacco companies do have a valid gripe. They say there won’t be enough space on the cigarette packs to promote their brand. That is something the nation can live with.
FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg says the “health consequences of smoking will be obvious every time someone picks up a pack of cigarettes.” She got that right. The only question: Will the business-friendly Republican Congress and possible incoming GOP president upend the graphic labels that are currently in use in more than 30 countries?
For America’s future generations, let’s hope not.