New FDA-mandated cigarette pack photos unsettling

Man smoking through stomaToday's warnings on cigarette packs are one element that has driven down the percentage of Americans that smoke. Still, 23.5% of American men are puffing away, as well as 17.9% of women. The new Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 takes the warning requirement much further, requiring that by the summer, 50% of the upper portion of the front and rear panels of each cigarette pack carry a prominent text warning and a color picture illustrating the damage wrought by cancer sticks.

The FDA is circulating a bevy of proposed artwork for this change; some cartoon illustrations, some photographs of people smoking through the stoma on their neck, cadavers lying on the autopsy slab or a closeup of mouth cancer. Some are thought provoking, some lackluster.

Baby with mother smokingI'm not sure the FDA is really playing to what motivates us to smoke, however. Many, I believe, smoke because they believe it makes them appear sexy, mature or suave. In this case, perhaps some other images might make more sense.

How about someone French- kissing an ashtray? Or before and after photos of childhood beauties (nothing ages a woman more quickly than cigarettes). Or how about a lonesome dimwit standing alone outside an office building puffing away in a pouring rain?

Closeup or oral cancerSexy? If you could only smell yourself as a non-smoker does. Mature? Mature people would rather not be habituated, especially when the habit is increasingly being tied to lower economic classes, and costs a fortune. Suave? Yeah, those pinhole burns in your lapels, yellow fingers and the need to excuse yourself for a smoke halfway through Tannhäuser are so suave.

The FDA is inviting comments on the proposed artwork. To do so, go to www.regulations.gov and insert docket number FDA-2010-N-0568 into the "search" box and follow the prompts.

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