Wait … So You’re Saying Cigarettes Kill?

The newest (useless) weapon in the war on tobacco.

So I should begin by saying that there are few things that I hate in this life as viscerally as I hate cigarettes. Aside from the vile stink of the things, I still harbor strong associative feelings of fear and worry and anger—those springing from the years spent as the daughter of a smoker (who managed to quit a decade ago, thank God). Had I the power to wish evil things off this planet, Big Tobacco, with its unabashed attempts to poison countless victims, would be right up there with The Taliban, the KKK, Rush Limbaugh, etc.

That said, I’m still not sure I’m for the new labels that the FDA is imposing on the cigarette boxes. Have you seen them yet? Those super-graphic photos of destroyed gums, sick lungs, tracheotomies and so forth? They’re disgusting and disturbing, for sure—but as to whether they’re a smart counterattack against smoking, well, I’m not convinced.

Here’s why: We see violence in almost every form, every day, all the time, and that hardly prevents violence. (If anything, we’re desensitized to it, which arguably leads to more violence.) Can a cadaver on a cigarette box retain its shock value for long? Let’s say, though, for the sake of argument, that it does. There’s still the question of whether  it’s really the job of the government to flood our consciousness with images reminding us that certain choices are bad for us. (How long will it be until our Big Mac boxes come with photos of the morbidly obese, or our bottles of Jack Daniels with diseased livers, or our suntan lotion with shots of cancerous skin growths?)

But even these questions, I think, are pretty much beside the point: To me, the real issue here is why we’re still messing around with ugly pictures and not just pulling out the big guns. If cigarettes are so dangerous (we know they are) as to inspire the government to resort to images of smoke curling out of a hole in someone’s neck to remind us what we already know, then why not stop with the gentle suggestions about quitting and start actually legislating against the companies themselves?

I mean, if Four Loko can be banned in an effort to protect  us from ourselves, why not Camels?

And yeah, I believe in personal responsibility and free will and all the corresponding red- white-and-blue whatnot—but I also believe in the intentional and addictive and deadly power of nicotine coming to us courtesy companies who more than happily feed the addiction.

Maybe it’s time for the government to stop being so creative about keeping cigarettes from killing us, and start being serious.

What do you think, Internet?