I lived in Thailand a few years ago, and the most frustrating thing I found besides the traffic was the use of graphic warning labels on cigarettes. As a smoker, I felt as though I should not have been continuously bombarded with graphic warning labels. Education through public and private education, as well as advertisements on television and billboards has taught the mass of children in the United States the dangers of cigarettes and tobacco products. Purchasing a package of cigarettes and being haunted by vulgar images is much like driving down a road in the Bible Belt and being terrified by anti-abortion billboards. It’s as brutal to be mentally attacked by a mutilated fetus, as it is to be attacked by anti-smoking advertisements. Even those who don’t buy tobacco products will be disrupted when they go to check out of a business and notice such atrocities. If we allowed the FDA to mandate graphic warning labels on tobacco products, it could lead to a possible slippery slope. Obese children on candy bars? Reproductive organs with sexually transmitted infections plastered on condom packages? For this reason, the government should not allow graphic advertisements to be distributed on tobacco products because it’s a violation of free speech and there’s a more effective way to raise smoking cessation within the United States.
A graphic warning label is defined as an image that displays something that the general public could consider as vulgar, or disturbing. For example, they show black shrunken lungs, a corpse with a toe-tag on it, a man smoking through his tracheotomy tube, a child coughing in the back of a smoke-filled car, mouth-cancer infected gums and teeth, and so many more. The graphic images express a subjective point of view and give a message beyond pure facts, claiming if you smoke, you will suffer. Maggie Fox, journalist for the National Daily Journal, establishes the graphic warnings are required to take up the top half of both front and backsides of each tobacco product and the warning labels will also cover 20% of cigarette packages (Fox, par. 3). Companies have become enraged because “the government anti-smoking labels are more prominent on the packages than the brand name” (Fox, par. 4). Tobacco companies filed a lawsuit against the FDA’s use of graphic warnings since “the warning labels violate their right to free speech because the labels don’t allow people to make their own decisions on whether to smoke” (Fox, par. 4). Allowing people to make their own decisions is a very important part of living in the United States, as we have the Constitution by our side to protect us.
Sally Rooke, a senior research officer for the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, John Malouff a professor at the University of New England, and Jan Copeland, a professor and director at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre assert lung cancer and smoke related illnesses kill approximately 5.4 million people worldwide. Richard Daynard, professor of law at Northeastern Law School, explains “despite the halving of smoking rates in the past 50 years, cigarettes continue to kill more than 400,000 people per year.” Twenty-three percent of women and eighteen percent of men smoke regularly in the United States alone. (Rook, Malouff and Copeland, 282). Stephanie Carter, author of Nicotine and Tobacco Research asserts, “smoking remains the largest preventable source of mortality in the United States” (473). Smoking has decreased over the years, but there are still too many people dying of smoke-related illnesses. The United States needs to kick it into high gear and get the ball rolling on anti-smoking campaigns that aren’t using graphic warning labels.
According to Danielle Weatherby, professor at University of Arkansas School of Law and Terri R. Day, professor of law at Barry University, “nine graphic images released by the FDA for publication on all cigarette packages this fall were designed specifically with the intent to shock the consumer and change his or her habits” (123). The government is using fear appeal in hopes that it will impact consumer decisions. Congress claims the images will drive long-term smokers to quit and decrease the incidences of first time tobacco use in adolescents (Weatherby and Day, 124). However, the government is unable to implement this, as it is a violation of the First Amendment. Compelled speech is supported, but only when it’s purely factual and non-subjective.
If smoking cessation is the ultimate goal, the Smoke-Free Millennial Generation is the United States’ best chance at succeeding in this adventure, as it limits the smoking population. It’s not an official organization yet, but Richard Daynard has suggested it to the anti-smoking campaign multiple times. In order to raise the smoking cessation rates, smokers need to stay educated, but without being bombarded with images. The Smoke-Free Millennial Generation will ban cigarettes to anyone born after the year 2000. It has many benefits that lead to an effective alternative to graphic warning labels. First and foremost, the Millennials are people aged 13 or younger, and will never have to start or quit. Nobody wants his or her child to start smoking, and with a capped birth date, no parent will have to worry. Since there is still a population of smokers, the impacts on tobacco companies and establishments that sell tobacco will only suffer a marginal impact. Retailers can easily enforce this policy, due to the fact there is a strict age limit. Since the nicotine limits are completely in sync with the FDA, the Smoke-Free Millennial Generation is completely compatible with United States policies. Thus, there will be no need to change manufacturing structures. All of these positive associations with the Smoke-Free Millennial Generation will even provide state and local officials to deliver focus on advocating for change, on top of all the other positive associations.
In order to carry out an effective solution to raise smoking cessation rates, the United States cannot accept the idea of graphic warning labels. Using another solution, specifically the Smoke-Free Millennial Generation, will have a greater impact on the general public since it limits the population of smokers. There is no better long-term solution than the Smoke-Free Millennial Generation. Our right to free speech will be protected, since the Commercial Speech Doctrine was enforced upon the FDA’s mandate. The public cannot allow itself to become a victim of brutal graphics by force. If they want to subject themselves to graphic ideas, they may do so, but it should not be a mandate on the general public.
Daynard, Richard. “Regulatory Approaches to Ending Cigarette-Caused Death and Disease in the United States.” American Journal of Law & Medicine (2013): 290-97. Academic Search Premier. Web. 21 Sept. 2013.
Fox, Maggie. “Judge Blocks FDA’s Graphic Cigarette Warning Labels.” National Journal Daily (2011): n. pag. Academic Search Premier. Web. 22 Sept. 2013.
Rooke, Sally, John Malouff, and Jan Copeland. “Effects of Repeated Exposure to a Graphic Smoking Warning Image.” Current Psychology (2012): 282-90. Academic Search Premier. Web. 21 Sept. 2013.
Weatherby, Danielle, and Terri R. Day. “The Butt Stops Here: The Tobacco Control Act’s Anti-Smoking Regulations Run Afoul Of The First Amendment.” Albany Law Review (2013): 121-65. Academic Search Premier. Web. 21 Sept. 2013.