The FDA has recently informed cigarette manufacturers that they must affix large, graphic warnings to their tobacco products by October 2012. Here’s an example of some of the photos that will be attached to those cigarette boxes.
I will first admit that I’m not a smoker. I actually hate, hate, the smell of cigarette smoke. I think that people who don’t smoke are statistically more likely to live longer and I wouldn’t want my wife to smoke because I want her to be around as long as possible. I’m supportive of TV ad campaigns like the TRUTH commercials. I think friends and family are within their rights to be as condescending about smoking as they wish.
Now with that said, I think these ads are bullshit. And having read the paragraph above it is not for the reasons people may first assume. My beef (and I’ll get to beef in a moment) is that I don’t like the government plastering a legal product with the equivalent of “You’re a asshole for buying this” stickers.
Now I admit, cigarettes have not held the upper ground in many years. Unlike, say, riding a motorcycle without a helmet, or wearing your seatbelt (activities that are also dependent upon having a license to do them), smoking is something that can genuinely effect another person via second hand smoke. So, strike one against them there. However, we’ve outlawed smoking in many public places and I think that’s fine. If your activity can have an averse effect on me I shouldn’t have to secede the freedom to go where I please. Simple enough. This new labeling law however is a different beast altogether.
There are already warnings on every pack of cigarettes, there is also a warning on the label of the beverage I’m enjoying right now. I’m no more ignorant of the risks involved in my beverage than those who smoke are of their activity. Does anyone honestly believe that smokers do not understand that there are health risks involved with smoking? So why the labels? Well, now that I’ve shown up most every objection to an individuals right to smoke (Distance is observed, warnings are already in place, and I have no bias towards it) the last one rears its head. Money.
Smoking costs the government and taxpayers money in healthcare costs. This is the sole reason left that allows the government to plaster your unhealthy (and more important, socially unpopular) habit with what they hope to be graphic images. So, where do we go from here? Who’s habit will be the next to be targeted by the government for a propaganda campaign? Alcohol has been targeted in the the past to great effect (and disaster). What other activities do you partake of that might infringe upon my newly invented “pocketbook rights”? “Pocketbook rights” meaning that if you cost me tax dollars I can have a say over what you do.
And lets ignore for a moment the simple fact that this idea is abhorrent to any idea of freedom of the individual. If all I have to do is complain that your activities cost me money, via taxes, in order to get it banned, then what isn’t on the table? So what’s next? Beef is my number one example. Red meat consumption causes any number of medical problems. When should I expect to start seeing photos of people dead from heart disease on my sirloin package? (As a side note, Mary Jane also introduces smoke into the lungs, oddly, we’re fighting for it’s legality!) Cars that can drive above the speed limit have always fascinated me in reference to this question. High speed car crashes must kill, maim, and wound more Americans every year than cancer, yet I’d be shocked to see a gory photo on the side of a Porsche.
Have I made my point yet? Public opinion and the governments wish to cut spending while waging 3 wars, does not excuse the blatant attempt to keep me from freely purchasing a legal good. In the future, it can be easily imagined that any and all socially unpopular activities, what ever those may be in that day and age, can be first exorbitantly taxed and then subject to a totally uncalled for scare campaign to adjust our behavior. Meat is only exempt not because it is healthy, but because it is popular.
Should what we do privately, legally, and to ourselves, be subject to scare campaigns because of public unpopularity? I leave this as a question for the reader.