What’s In A Label?

Posted: November 11, 2011 by jerkmag in VICES -- sex, drugs & alcohol
Tags: , , , , , ,

The first time I saw a graphic warning label on a cigarette pack was during a semester abroad in Chile two years ago.

A couple months ago a friend who’d studied in Chile with me mentioned the government was going to start requiring tobacco companies to include them on every pack produced. I hadn’t seen or heard about them prior to that, but it’s interesting that a federal judge blocked the requirement.

If passed, the Food and Drug Administration would have required tobacco companies to “put big new graphic warning labels on cigarette packages” by next September. The “proposed labels” used a variety of less-than-appealing “staged photos,” including those “of a corpse and of a man breathing smoke out of a tracheotomy hole in his neck.”

The labels that most stuck with me from my time in Chile were those with images of dead babies. The judge ruled against the labels because they weren’t “factual” and appeared to be pushing the government’s anti-smoking agenda. The dispute regarding the labels was not so much the message being conveyed as it was, and still is, the “‘grotesque’ images” being displayed.

Personally, I don’t think the images really do much for the cause. If someone is going to buy a pack of cigs, an image is not going to do much to stop him or her. I don’t recall my friends smoking any less despite the images.

The risks of smoking are pretty well-known nowadays in the U.S. I’m not claiming that every single person in the U.S. knows all of the health risks and issues associated with smoking, but that knowledge is more widespread than many other countries in the world.

Maybe, in this case, images aren’t worth a thousand words?

-Erin Elzo

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