Sunday 2 January 2011

What? Smoking is bad?

I need photographic proof. Large photographic proof, right there on my cigarette package, otherwise I will forget that it's bad.

Last week, Health Canada unveiled it's new larger warning labels for cigarette packages. Like this:

The new labels are 50% larger, now consuming a full 75% of the cigarette package. The current labels, that take up a hardly noticeable 50% of the package, "have reached their maximum potential" they say.

I don't smoke. I have never smoked as a habit -- never bought a package of cigarettes -- therefore these warning labels don't directly impact me, however I have to say that they make me uncomfortable. Not uncomfortable as in "ugg ... that is gross! I will never smoke!", but uncomfortable as in slightly embarassed.

I can't quite put my finger on it. I don't know if I'm embarassed because having these huge warnings on our cigarette packages is so uncool ... so un-James Dean. Or if I'm embarassed that Canadians are so stupid -- or the government thinks we're so stupid -- that the message will only penetrate our iron skulls if it takes up a full 75% of the package. It's like giving instructions to somebody who doesn't speak english. When they don't do anything, yell at them. When they still don't do anything, yell louder. Pretty soon you look like an idiot, screaming with your beet-red face as the other person stares at you like you're some kind of alien.

The obvious question is: what do we do when the current labels "have reached their maximum potential", (which will probably be in, oh ... immediately)? Make them fill 90% of the surface of the package? 100%, with a toll-free number on the side of the package that you can call to find out what brand of cigarette you're smoking?

"Alright, Mr. Smartypants", you might be saying. "What's your big idea for getting people to stop smoking?" Well, first of all, Mr. Snarky Reader, I didn't say I had a better idea, and further more, it's not my job to come up with one.

The anecdotal info that I have is that people quit because smoking is beginning to have a negative impact on their lives. They're sick of standing outside and freezing their ass off, or they're tired of losing their breath after walking up the stairs, or it's just too damned expensive.

I think that's the biggest factor right there -- money. Especially for young people. In 1994, the Chrétien government decided to combat cigarette smuggling -- not by cracking down on the smugglers, or by imposing manufacturing restrictions and export taxes on the cigarette producers -- but by reducing tobacco taxes.* In that one fell swoop, the government probably caused more smoking deaths than all of the tobacco advertising and music festival sponsorships ever did.

Smoking is on the decline anyhow. It is gradually becoming more socially unacceptable, and eventually it will become a niche vice rather than a mainstream one. You can credit this to the warning labels if you's like, although you'd be wrong. Shock advertising loses it's effectiveness pretty quickly, and making the pictures 50% bigger isn't going to help. Everybody knows the consequences of smoking by now, and they either choose to do it or not.

*see Smoke and Mirrors By Rob Cunningham


reedsolomon.matr1x at said...

I used to work at an establishment that sold cigs. I'd have people go "Not the heart" how about "dead baby"? Okay. Kind of surreal sometimes. But it does open up the aftermarket cigarette package cover industry to hide the image. At the same time, the packages aren't aimed primarily at you or me or people who already smoke (though if it does become a factor in someone quitting, even better), but instead to deter first time smokers and kids who might see a package of their parents lying around and think its cool. I have to assume that the amount of smokers in Canadian society has decreased substantially in the last decade and I see no problem with this. Now, if they start putting images of gastric bypasses on McDonalds hamburger wrappers, I might have to protest.

the Stiff Rod said...

I have not allowed smoking in my home for many years, mind you I have not been in Canada a great deal until this last couple of years....hahahaha. As to my smoking habits, I enjoy them when I am drinking and I do not drink every day....I exercise and do not have processed foods in my home. A pack will last me a week...I have no plans of quitting anytime soon so I see this tactic as being just another hypocritical exercise by big brother. Sure, make money off of cigarettes but then tell me that I should not occasionally indulge myself with one? Bwahahahahahaha - I blow smoke rings in Herr Harper's general direction.

Gustav Nelson said...

I think this is another example of the government fulfilling it's need to appear to be useful and accomplishing something.

What they should do is just buzz off and let people decide for themselves whether they would like to smoke or not.
Time to knock it off with the social engineering.

cherenkov said...

Reed: good point about the burger wrappers. Booze too: can you imagine a bottle of Jack with a giant picture of a guy's face crushed against a steering wheel on it? We have to draw a line somewhere!

DriveGoddess said...

Oh god this really opens up the possibilities for realistic (and totally funny) packaging. Do not tempt for it is winter time when an evil genius's mind is restless.

Colin said...

Get people to stop smoking?

Easy. Make them pay the full cost of medicare for their inevitable lingering death.

None of this sh!t about "my taxes pay for it all so I deserve to do whatever I want"...that's demonstrably false and psychologically weird, to boot.

Why should I pay for someone else's poor choices?

cherenkov said...

We all get sick and die from something. Smokers just get it sooner.

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