Sick Cigarette Labels Gross Out Big Tobacco

Major U.S. cancer providers are feeling picked on.

Big Tobacco is fighting so you won't see these images. (Photos: Courtesy FDA)
Allan MacDonell is TakePart’s News + Opinion editor, with a focus on social justice.

The understanding that smoking cigarettes will inflict cancer upon every living thing within range of your exhalation before killing you with cancer too is clear to any human being capable of comprehending something as basic as the theory of evolution. Still, that leaves a sizable portion of the American population that needs to be force-fed the irrefutable facts about tobacco addiction. This is where the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is stepping in.

The FDA realizes the importance of communicating smoking’s grisly realities to a consumer base that (sad but true) often lacks either the educational development or free time required to read text-only disclaimers. Working on the assumption that one good picture is worth an open-mouthed, gasping failure of words, the FDA has produced nine photographic warning labels that—starting in September 2012—will be mandatory on all cigarette packaging sold in the U.S.

Take a look. If these gruesome depictions of sliced corpses and rotted lungs and tracheotomy puffers don't leave you speechless, then perhaps you are among the snapping pack of lawyers who filed suit on behalf of America’s tobacco companies. R.J. Reynolds and Lorillard Tobacco Company, among others, want the FDA to tone down the emotional vibrancy.

Big Tobacco claims the labels violate its right to free speech. A more accurate argument might be that the FDA is disrupting Big Cig’s self-imposed right to engage in a gross, negligent silence that results in 443,000 American deaths annually.

The Associated Press reports:

The companies wrote in the lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington: “Never before in the United States have producers of a lawful product been required to use their own packaging and advertising to convey an emotionally-charged government message urging adult consumers to shun their products.”

That is correct, lawyers, but only halfway so. The packaging and advertising is also meant to convey an emotionally charged government message urging children to shun the deadly and highly addictive products.

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