Editorial - Cut through the smoke

Staff Writer
Woodford Times

Scare tactics have been known to work in political advertisements, and now, members of the Food and Drug Administration are banking on the fact that such tactics will help deter smokers from lighting up.

Last week the FDA released images that will be featured on cigarette packs Each of the pictures is gory or frightening.

The idea is to further deter tobacco use, which is responsible for more than 400,000 deaths in the U.S. every year. Tobacco companies will not have to use the graphics until 2012, but will be required to comply with the FDA’s packaging guidelines due to legislation passed in 2009 that allows the federal government to set guidelines for tobacco marketing and labeling.

While it has been proven that tobacco does kill, and the fewer people that smoke the better, the idea that the government can dictate what goes on cigarette labels is ludicrous.

It is a continuation of the violation of the tobacco companies’ constitutional rights. Regulations on tobacco companies’ advertising and labeling campaigns is nothing new.

If the hateful Westboro Baptist Church is allowed to “peaceably assemble” under the bridge of the first amendment, why is the freedom of speech and expression being stripped from these companies? A warning of the dangers of smoking has already been on the packaging since the 1980s and several advertising limitations on the companies have been in existence for years.

Besides, if the government is determined to eliminate health-related deaths, why stop at cigarettes?

These standards should be applied to every industry, with graphic melanoma pictures placed on tanning beds, images of someone with liver cirrhosis on alcohol products and photos of morbidly obese people on the junk and fast food. Also, why is the FDA giving chewing tobacco products a pass?

There’s nothing wrong with broadcasting ad campaigns about the danger of tobacco, but interfering with the advertising of an industry is not the way to handle the issue. If tobacco use is so dangerous, why not make cigarettes illegal, rather than raising the taxes on them?

The biggest irony is that Illinois politicians were recently looking to allow smoking in casinos again.

Where’s the commitment to health and safety with the different signals coming from the different branches of government?