Will graphic new warnings on cigarette packs reduce smoking?

John Fisher
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Stopping Medical Injustice
Graphic new warnings and photographs on cigarette packs are long overdue.  In October, 2012, all cigarette packs will show graphic images and stern warnings about the dangers of smoking, according to a new announcement of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The pictures include women blowing smoke in children's faces, diseased lungs, a cancer-riddled mouth and a smoker puffing through a tracheotomy hole in his neck.  The images will cover half the space on packaging and will also be shown on all cigarette ads.  The warnings on cigarette packs include: "Cigarettes cause strokes and heart disease".  Cigarette makers must add the warnings and images to cigarette packs and advertisements by late 2012.

The warning labels on cigarette packs and cigarette advertisements has long been considered among the weakest in the industrialized world.  Furthermore, the warnings on cigarette packs, such as "Cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide", haven't changed in 25 years.  In 2000, Canada became the first country to add images to text warnings on cigarette packages.

Notwithstanding the massive healthcare costs associated with cigarette smoking, tobacco companies have filed lawsuits to block the new warnings and images. R.J. Reynolds, the second largest tobacco company, is challenging the "legality of requiring larger and graphic warnings." 

It is completely ridiculous for the tobacco companies to fight the new warnings.  Tobacco is the number one biggest killer in the world and the illnesses associated with smoking related illnesses, such as cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cost our healthcare system billions of dollars every year.  In light of the hundreds of thousands of people killed in the US by smoking every year and the cost that non-smokers must pay for the healthcare of smokers, the new warnings are just a small step in the right direction.

An even better idea is to compel smokers to pay higher insurance premiums for health insurance coverage. For example, instead of paying the same health insurance premium as everyone else, a smoker should be forced to pay an extra 15% in health insurance premium.  The best way to stop smoking is to force smokers to pay in the pocketbook for their dirty habit and raising insurance premiums of smokers will be a great move.

If smokers want to increase the cost of healthcare for non-smokers, let's make them pay for it.  Raising health insurance premiums for smokers is a no-brainer for reducing the number of smokers.

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