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Getting Gruesome to Stop Smoking

New FDA regulations call for gruesome labeling on cigarette packaging. Will this stop smokers?

Images proposed for the FDA's new anti-smoking campaign (FDA.gov)

In 1965, more than half of American men smoked, more than a third of women. And tobacco producers stoutly denied smoking was a health problem. 

Now we know better. More than 400,000 Americans die every year from smoking-related health problems: cance; heart disease. 

And still, twenty percent of Americans smoke — 46 million smokers. 

A new campaign will vividly put the price of smoking right on the cigarette pack. Big pictures of rotten lungs, heart attacks, dead bodies. Will it work? 

-Tom Ashbrook


Duff Wilson, reporter for the New York Times. Read his article: “Cigarette Giants in Global Fight On Tougher Rules.”

Andrew Strasser, professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral laboratory director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center. He’s an investigator for Penn’s Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Nicotine Addiction.

Cheryl Healton, president and CEO of the American Legacy Foundation, a not-for-profit organization established in March 1998 as a result of the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) between a coalition of state attorneys general and the tobacco industry. It is funded primarily by payments designated by the settlement. She is also a Professor of Clinical Public Health at Columbia University.

Paul Nelson, executive vice president and executive director of the ad agency Arnold Communications, which has been behind the award-winning “Truth” campaign, designed to drive young people away from smoking.


**Tobacco users anywhere in the United States can access cessation assistance by dialing 1-800-QUIT-NOW, a national portal that links to state quitlines.

Here are more images proposed by the FDA to be placed on cigarette packs:

And here’s an advertisement from the “Truth” campaign:

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  • cory

    At a certain point you have to say that you’ve done all you reasonably can to express the dangers of smoking. If you don’t understand it by now you may be hopeless. At a certain point you must decide if you are going to have tobacco as a legal product or not. I smoke 2-3 cigars a year and would hate for someone to tell me that I can’t.

    Leftfield, Wisconsin

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    I’m for absolute freedom in making substances legally available, and for absolute regulation of how they are marketed and advertised. Truth in advertising must logically include images of death on a product whose only real effect is to hook you and gradually kill you.

    You’re right, Cory, we shouldn’t tell you you cannot smoke. (I used to smoke for fifteen years and quit cold turkey before my daughter was born.) We shouldn’t be in the business of telling anyone what they can and can’t ingest. But we shouldn’t permit profiteering sellers of substances to lie about their product; we must enforce the absolute revelation of truth.

    Talent, OR

  • Zeno

    If we are to have images of death affixed to the apparatus, then I suspect that many industries will have some problems with the concept.

    -Auto showrooms should have gruesome images of crashes?

    -Should every hospital treatment room have posters of the people that have died from the treatment?

    -Window blinds be wrapped with an image of a toddler hanging from the cord?

    -The local eatery could have images of death by heart disease and diabetes?

    Where do you stop with this tangent of punishing the maker for the stupidity of the user? I agree with cory..at some point it Caveat emptor, because death can be caused by the most innocuous items and substances.

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    “But we shouldn’t permit profiteering sellers of substances to lie about their product”

    How far do you want to go? How about a nice picture of a destroyed liver on the label of every liquor bottle. How about a picture of an open heart surgery on the label of every corn fed piece of beef we sell.

    I think the entire thing is insane, this is social engineering gone terribly wrong. I don’t smoke and never have but the way our culture has turned smokers into lepers is no way to get people to stop.

    Ever notice that the best conversations at parties are out on the deck with the smokers? Give me a deck full of smokers any day over a deck full of people who attempt to legislate turning smokers into devils.

    Warren, Connecticut

  • William Maher

    To the FDA: Thanks for your genuine concern for my well-being. It’s just so heartwarming to once again know that anonymous government bureaucracies care so much about my life. You might now consider looking at Ritalin–you know–that Schedule II drug(High risk of abuse) which bears all the properties of cocaine(according to the DEA chart found in Dr. Peter Breggin’s book “Talking Back to Ritalin”)–a drug being pushed to the youngest children whose parents see no WARNING label as to its potential damaging short term or longterm effects. As an example, Dr. Breggin points out in his book that it is universally acknowledged within the psychiatry community that Ritalin inhibits the growth of a child–including the child’s brain. But some of the Ritalin pushers–somehow referred to as doctors–claim that parents shouldn’t worry because the child will likely resume normal growth once he/she get’s off Ritalin. Hmmm, sounds like nothing worth much to bother parents with, huh? How does anyone put a single ounce of trust into anything the FDA does? Once again, the FDA is a government agency; simply follow the money. What credibility does the FDA have to tell anyone anything? Vioxx, anyone?

  • Harry, Madison, WI

    Advertisers nag at us with a constant torrent of images meant to manipulate our sense of desire, adequacy and social norm. A little push back seems only fair.

  • Rebecca

    I don’t care if people choose to smoke, but it should be done only in the privacy of their own homes. I feel assaulted every time I walk down a city street and have to breathe in second-hand-smoke. I have also had a hotel stay ruined by being in a room across the hall from a smoker. Smokers should not have the right to foul the air of nonsmokers.

    Rebecca in Vermont

  • Bea Strong


  • Mark

    Maybe the benevolent government should put the image of some dead American soldiers, and some dead Iraqi and Afghan children on the cover of every tax return they send out. I mean you should know the dangers of the product you’re buying, isn’t that the idea? The US government lacks sufficient credibility for this kind of preaching.

  • Gary

    I was a three pack a day smoker and quit cold turkey 24 years ago. It can be done but it is not easy. I have also withdrawn from a narcotic addiction and believe me I would rather quit smoking cigarettes ANY day than narcotic withdrawal. I did both cold turkey. I really resent the comparison of quitting smoking with narcotic withdrawal. People who say this have obviously not gone through both. Sober now 4 years from narcotics and all drugs alcohol.

    Mukwonago WI

  • Rob (in NY)

    While I do not oppose these new graphic warnings on cigarettes, does anyone really believe it will be an incentive for smokers to quit? A person who claims not to know that cigarettes cause cancer and other diseases has either been living on another planet for the past 40 years or does not have a brain.

    The actions that have proven somewhat successful in reducing smoking are those which directly forbid smoking in public places. For example, the 2002 NYC law that banned smoking in bars reduced the number of smokers in NYC because is made it inconvenient for people to smoke in public and was the start of larger national trend. The same case can be made regarding earlier smoking bans on airlines, movie theaters,etc… While I would oppose any laws restricting smoking in the privacy of a person’s home I would like to see more laws that ban smoking in public places where non smokers are exposed to second hand smoke. If a person can not walk outside his or her office to smoke, it will make smoking even more inconvenient during work hours, which will provide another incentive to quit. The same goes for smoking outside restaurants. Why should non smokers have to walk through a disgusting cloud of smoke to enter a restaurant or an office building? I hold my breath when exiting a subway station in NYC.

    On another note, it amazes that some of these idiot Hollywood actors still indirectly promote smoking in movies, etc…

  • Ken

    What posters don’t seem to realize is that this is not a “new” power per se, but an attempt to make the long-mandated (>40 years) warnings more effective at warning of the dangers of smoking. These graphic warnings have been used for many years in other countries and are better at conveying the health risks of smoking. So, why is it bad to improve the ability of required printed warnings to convey those risks?

    Second, some here seem to take an “all or nothing” approach when it comes to regulating unhealthy behaviors, when regulation should be based on cost-benefit ratios. Cars, etc. have far greater benefits than the costs due to accidents, etc., and so similar graphic warnings are not warranted. Even alcohol, etc. have some health benefits when used in moderation. By contrast, tobacco is the only known legal product that kills when used as intended. Thus, tobacco warrants a much greater effort to control use than other unhealthy products.

    Third, the effort to improve warnings pales in comparison to the billions still spent by the tobacco industry to promote its products, despite the banning of many marketing approaches (free gear, cartoon characters, etc.). So, if you want to “level the playing field”, billions should be spent on counter measures to discourage tobacco use, these warnings being a very minor effort. Needless to say, nothing like that is spent by public health, which is why the tobacco industry still has such an influence on smoking behavior.

    Pittsburgh PA

  • Pancake in McAdenville, NC

    Some people get paid for siding with the tobacco companies. Checks have been handed out in Congress. I am not surprised if some receive chump change for posting. Someone once said it is hard to convince an individual of a truth when his/her income depends upon denying or ignoring that truth.

    A second thought about cigarettes: Many other deadly substances are contained in this engineered product besides nicotine and natural flavors. I imagine there might be a market for “organic” tobacco and low toxicity paper the user could fabricate while horseback riding or sexual encounters (or peeling potatoes at the kitchen sink: that’s pepper in them mashed spuds by the way, not my ashes). I’ve been in love with two smokers now. I cured one and the other is presently dying of lung cancer. Yep, Zeno: We are fragile and it is a cruel existence, but smoking was always the equivalent of crossing the Interstate on foot during both rush hours each day.

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    Just so long as people are able to extrapolate from tobacco to second-hand marijuana and cocaine smoke. If these were legalized, it’s possible smokers of these EVEN MORE TOXIC smokes will ALSO join the crowd on the front porch and seek to keep the living spaces clean.
    I live on a third floor, and someone smoking on the first floor will give me a headache, one that lasts about 18 hours, enough to put me out of commission, curling up next to a barrel of pain, allergy, homeopathic remedies, none of which help. I have thousands of dollars worth of air cleaners, and sometimes they’ll catch it. I’ll see one go red right when I smell the odor, and turn it up to maximum and the air is soon cleared, but other days nothing works. The picture of me curled up, vomiting, choking one time so bad the police dispatch sent an ambulance for me — this doesn’t make for a compelling picture. Doctors don’t treat marijuana sensitivity or cocaine sensitivity, and it certainly isn’t found in people who smoke those things or they’d stop right away. It is the neighbors who can’t make the decision to stop the second-hand smoke who have the bad time. Doctors can spend years, deciding nope, not migraine (migraine medicine doesn’t help), telling you you have recurring flu. Of course if you move to another building, you are at the same risk. Even a smoke-free building is liable to have marijuana and cocaine in use, just not on the front porch.
    I’m going to start thinking about photos of yours truly stumbling around too sick to find medicines, which don’t work anyway, keeping a bowl nearby in case of the heaves. Very impressive. What do the police think of this? Since marijuana is not criminal here, this is a very sensitive issue. They don’t seem to have an approach. They are working on the tobacco side of things.

  • Gary Casey

    You will pry my last cigarette from my cold dead fingers. Want to take them from me? Bring a gun.

  • Zeno

    IMO The government should not be involved in propaganda even if its intention is beneficial. The government has a clear purpose of regulation based on scientific data. Once the data is known and the appropriate warning is printed on the wrapper, the governments job is done.

    If I were to believe that the government should be in the propaganda business (and it is), then I would believe Saddam was gassing puppies and had weapons of mass destruction, and flew planes into the WTC.

    I want to be treated like a thinking and rational adult capable of making my own decisions based on the empirical data, and not as a child in need of a mother.
    Or should I say Big Brother…I reject in total the need of the government micromanaging our thoughts and opinions.

    The government is not a parent or teacher, and as it is now, should at best be considered an insane thieving sociopath.

    On TV last month, I noticed that the boob censoring FCC was blurring the cleavage of a police man dressed as a female prostitute of a police drama. Is that the act of rational government? The idea that perfect safety can be obtained by Orwellian government control is scary totalitarian nonsense. There is no perfect safety, the best we can do is exercise rational thought through fact based education.

    “Just Give Me the Facts, Ma’am!” -Joe Friday

  • Thomas Barnes

    What next? Photos of venereal disease on liquor bottles? Pictures of unhappy wives on your Super Bowl tickets?

  • Rex

    Obesity is quite an epidemic, too, and many Americans aren’t getting the picture.

    Should we put pictures of obese people on unhealthy food packaging?

  • BHA

    The tobacco business is one that should put itself OUT of business.

    There is nothing positive about spending millions on advertising trying to get the next kid to start smoking.

    And if it doesn’t work well enough here, let’s hit up the poor in other countries who already have plenty of health issues without adding lung disease and cancer. Yep, capitalism is king – make a buck anyway you can.

    The companies should give themselves a 10 year time line to transition to growing and marketing products that do not kill people – even people who do not directly use their products.

  • shannon B.

    Malden, MA

    Smokers have known about the health risks of smoking for decades. We’ve all already seen photos like these, but people still keep smoking because they enjoy it (and are addicted to it).

    I’ll tell you what works though – hitting people where it counts – in their wallets. I was a smoker for more than 15 years, often smoking up to a pack a day. I quit cold turkey as soon as cigarettes hit around $7/pack. I’ve never looked back and I’m much happier in the more secure financial situation I have now that I’m saving more than $150/mo.

    The real key to reducing the number of smokers is to increase the price, not continue to tell people that smokes will kill them.

  • Stephanie

    Montpelier, VT

    I should hope the new packaging curbs the craving for some smokers! While I understand both sides of this argument (and have recently quit myself) I feel that requiring gruesome images on the front of cigarette packaging will not have much of an effect. Smokers know the risk and won’t quit until they’re ready. Would the image of an overweight child on a McDonald’s Happy Meal prevent a child from asking for it?

  • Chris Monje

    Marketing consultant Martin Lindstrom asserts that gruesome images on packs do not deter smoking. He is the author of “Buyology”. Maybe smokers rationalize “that’s the other guy”. I’ll quit before I get that bad, or it won’t make any difference if I quit now.
    Youth would not be detered at all. Teen minds defy logic. “Buyology” is an interesting read. Martin Lindstrom would be a good guy to interview. martinlindstrom.com

  • John

    People should be able to poison themselves in any way that they want, but I’m tired of second and third hand smoke. Smoking should be banned in multi-unit dwellings, within twenty feet of a doorway, and in public parks. I’m sick of seeing cigarette butts all over the place. People who smoke in their cars should do so with the windows up instead of sharing their fumes with everyone else.

  • Chris Monje

    Marketing consultant Martin Lindstrom asserts that gruesome images on packs do not deter smoking. He is the author of “Buyology”. Maybe smokers rationalize “that’s the other guy”. I’ll quit before I get that bad, or it won’t make any difference if I quit now.
    Youth would not be detered at all. Teen minds defy logic. “Buyology” is an interesting read. Martin Lindstrom would be a good guy to interview. martinlindstrom.com
    Winooski VT

  • John

    Would the image of an overweight child on a McDonald’s Happy Meal prevent a child from asking for it? – Posted by Stephanie

    Probably not as one third of children are now obese so I doubt there is much of a stigma.

  • Susan Campagna

    When I was in my 7th grade science class we did a section on ciggarettes and the amount on nicotine that goes into your lungs. I remember a picture of a large poland spring bottle full of a black liquid which equated to what goes into your lungs for so many cigarettes. We were then told that smoking a joint is equivalent to smoking 20 cigarettes. After that we took a trip to the Boston Museum of science where they had a black lung on display. This was over 30 years ago and I have never had the desire to smoke! I think that the adds are right on!

  • Annie

    I think we should put birth control in cigarettes.

  • Muriel

    Everyone knows that cigarette smoking kills. We all know that cigarette makers push consumption of cigarettes among the youngest and the weakest (developing countries.) We all know the cost to people’s health, to public health, to society at large. Why are products known to be in the business of killing people in the not so long term legal? Why, as a society, can’t we say we do not want these products (once addicted, people have an amazingly hard time getting rid of cigarette smoking)Dangerous products can be banned by society/government (see the state of Washington banning the energy drink FOUR LOCO recently because it is a health hazard)

  • Ed

    Let ‘em smoke — and die. Maybe we’ll get rid of the “stupid” gene, and evolution will improve humanity.

  • http://wbur.org Richard

    Tom – Would you please have one of your guests discuss the degree that the American tobacco industry being subsidized by the United States government. Thanks.

  • Patrick

    The cigarette industry is allowed to add many different chemicals and boost nicotine to ensure addiction to there product. What discussion is there to strip that ability and thereby reduce the addictive quality of cigarettes? Am I over-simplifying?

    Rye, NH

  • Douglas

    I think it’s hypocritical to post gruesome images of smokers on the pack and yet try to limit peoples freedom of speech near planned parenthood clinics. Maybe they should require these clinics to post the horrible images of what they perform everyday.

  • Zeno

    “…Smokers know the risk and won’t quit until they’re ready. Would the image of an overweight child on a McDonald’s Happy Meal prevent a child from asking for it?” – Posted by Stephanie

    Exactly, there is the dividing line! Children vs Adults.

    The assumption (rightfully so) is that children cannot make informed decisions and are not lawfully permitted to purchase dangerous products.

    Adulthood comes with responsibility. You should be able to make informed decisions without the need of propaganda, and if we cannot then there is another problem that needs to be addressed.

    Personal Responsibility its not just a phrase.

  • Scott

    Pure hypocricy…

    If tobacco wasn’t a “legacy” product with its unique history it would be banned outright. Tobacco revenues help fund our gov’t. This is a dog & pony show to create an image that gov’t cares about our health, while gov’t continues to sin-tax tobacco users heavily.

    Those of us who became nicotine addicts have a new alternative – the personal vaporizor (or PV, termed by marketers the electronic cigarette). If gov’t wants us to reduce tobacco consumption, why are they actively attempting to ban or prevent this alternative product?

    Perhaps during a slow-news-cycle Tom, you could do a show about the red hot PV phenomenon & the gov’t efforts to quash it before it gets established.

  • John

    How about a label that says “Your friends are too polite to tell you that you and your clothes stink.”

  • Pete Jensen

    Cigarettes? Lets add Alcohol to the list too.

  • michael

    If someone wants to smoke let them, these actions are getting out of hand, everyone has some type of vice, Alcohol is nearly just as worst to the body yet, pot(much safer) will get you arrested and thrown in jail. Eating unhealthy is another.

    Where is all the folks saying keep government out of our lives, have some warnings but the pictures are way overboard.

    Since we are told that similar pictures are considered sensationist when it regards pictures of war and if people against war used such.

  • Mike

    The practice of putting these pictures on cigarette packs in Canada has been in place for years. Tobacco companies still make huge profits but at least it makes people think realistically about what they are about to do to their body’s before they buy a pack. I am one person who quit smoking due in small part to those pictures.

  • Abuela

    Sounds like people need to BURY THE HABIT!

  • msd

    Considering how arrogant, thoughtless, and aggressive smokers are about not only submitting to their addiction, but how they insist on subjecting those of us around them to the poisons they spew into the air,

    and to the odor they carry with them all the time which is disgusting to say the least… in short, in view of the assaults they inflict on nonsmokers’ health, ANYTHING that gets them to realize how awful their behavior is is not only welcome but necessary.

    As for smokers knowing & choosing what they are doing, when you point out that they are drug addicts, they act completely confused about what you mean.

    So graphic descriptors are needed.

    Thanks heavens this is happening.
    But of course, addicts are addicts…

  • BHA

    I kind of doubt current smokers want any more ‘in your face’ graphic reminders that they shouldn’t be smoking. They already know that and don’t care. Not everyone who smokes gets cancer. It is always ‘someone else’ who gets cancer.

    The images might get some ‘short term’ or casual smokers to quit.

    The best hope is that the ‘invincible teenagers’ will be turned off.

  • Pete Jensen

    Maybe they should sell smoking cessation products wherever tobacco is sold.

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    John, I wonder what California has in place for laws on multiunit buildings. I heard something about the last referendum about marijuana was as to single-family homes, which makes sense. Expose your own children, not mine.
    By the way, in my multi-unit building, anyone smoking outside the windows, it infiltrates my space right away.
    However, the front porch, two floors down from me, seems to provide ample insulation. There is a thick roof over the porch, which extends about 60 feet across, 10 feet deep, and people nestle in there and smoke. I think the person who lives in the apartment right by that porch is a smoker. So that works.

  • Sheri Kalona, IA

    I think we should put pictures of people with their brains splattered on the highway on motorcycles. McDonald’s fries should have pictures of fat, actual nasty body fat. Pop should have a picture of someone with their legs being amputated because of diabetes.

    But seriously, my mother died of lung cancer last year at age 61. She never smoked and was a nurse all of her life. During the two years between her diagnosis and her death, she told ANYONE who would listen that lung cancer IS NOT just a disease of smokers.

    Yes, smoking is terrible for us. Too bad we are allowing cigarettes to be the fall guy for ALL CANCER. Can we do something about smog and industry pollutants????

  • Muriel

    People seem to think that the government should not be in the business of outlawing products dangerous to people’s health or to public health. Think about DDT and lead in paints as 2 well-known examples. The public is much safer for these government interventions.

    It is all well to think that we can let people choose to get cancer via cigarette smoking provided they do not intoxicate others. Think about the actual cost of later taking care of these people (especially at a time when health insurance is so expensive that many people cannot aford it). We all pay the heavy cost of people smoking, financially as well as emotionally.

  • James

    I wonder how the sociological aspect of smoking has been approached. As a former smoker, one thing I miss about it is the RITUAL of smoking – the intersocial pseudorebellion of it, as well as the step-by-step mantra of the smoking process.

  • jim thompson, fort mill,sc


    Wonderful program. As a smoker I applaud the new graphic images. I also wish the federal government would increase the tax per pack by $2.00 a pack.

    I come originally from Boston, but am now paying less for cigarettes in South Carolina than I was fifteen years ago in Massachusetts-or even when I’d buy them in cheap smoke New Hampshire. It is so crazy that cigarettes are so cheap in South Carolina.

    I’d love to stop smokinbg and a drastic increase in the tax would help me to quit. HELP!!!!!

  • Ken

    Posted by Annie: I think we should put birth control in cigarettes.

    Smoking already contributes to impotence, along with all the other health risks, not to mention sudden infant death syndrome and perinatal problems.

    Patrick in Rye: The FDA does now have the authority to require disclosure of ingredients, and to control those ingredients in an effort to reduce the addictiveness of cigarettes.

  • Chris Semmelink

    Why not go after the retailers, such as convenience store chains and outlets like CVS & Walgreens. Require equally graphic advertising behind their cash registers if they want to sell these products. they should also be taxed for their cost to health care. Maybe they will get out of the business of selling cigarettes.

    Weymouth, MA

  • Steve Clark

    I live in Western New York where cigarettes are now as much as $10 per pack. Still nicotine addicts continue to smoke. While I think the graphic photos being discussed will convince some to quit, the true addicts will simply use cigarette cases.

  • Hassan

    The tobbaco companies know that when a teenager starts smoking on average he/she will smoke for 20 years. While if an adult starts smoking the adult will smoke on average for 5 years. That is why tobbaco companies target the teenagers and the developing world where the youth are more then the old (in terms of numbers).

  • Amy

    I applaud all of the efforts being made to help people to stop smoking or to refrain from starting. However, alcohol is source of far greater morbidity and mortality. Alcohol effects (and can effectively poison) every system of the body. Why do we hear so little about alcohol and efforts to reduce consumption?

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    James, I’ve never smoked, but I can totally get the elegance of a conversation punctuated by the ritual of the cigarette. You wait while the person inhales, you let the person contemplate for a moment and absorb the smoke, you focus a bit on the lips, the hands. There is a pregnant pause. The conversation resumes. I can appreciate that. Both the hands and the mouth are otherwise occupied, which somehow civilizes the interaction. Cheers for that.

  • John

    Alcohol can be used responsibly and in moderation likely has some health benefits. People have been drinking since the earliest agrarian societies.

  • K J

    As much as I hope that these images help get people to quit, or even better not start, I think a lot of the problem is the marketing to young adults. I, myself, began smoking at the age of 16 and think that images like this would not have been enough to keep me from smoking. The power of smoking advertisements, smoking in movies and music videos and social pressures would have been stronger. Starting at an age when you still feel “invicible” means that those images won’t have the power that they should.

  • R C Shaw

    If cigarettes are considered a drug, why can’t we limit the number of cigarettes a person can purchase per day or week, like we control the number of hay fever tablets we purchase at the drug store?

    If a person could only purchase a pack a day only at a drug store and sign his name for every purchase, the user might think twice about continuing the habit.

  • Ronald Johnson

    Hello…is everybody crazy? Tobacco is more addictive than heroin and cocaine (see smokers’ comments above). If those substances are illegal, why not something that’s worse? This country is truly insane…just make the manufacture and distribution of tobacco products illegal.

  • John

    Isn’t it true that if one is descended from lines of people who had long lives, then one likely has long, healthy telemeres at the ends of their chromosomes which tend to repair damage caused by things such as smoking? I gave up smoking for financial reasons as well as general health. But if I’m ever given a defined life expectancy of less than a few years, I look forward to resuming the pleasures of this filthy habit.

  • http://www.onpointradio.org Paul

    I don’t know if I agree with the graphic labels. I don’t know if you cause an adult to change a habit with pictures, it probably takes a desire to change along with treatment. We got my father-in-law to quit by using his grandchildren. They would constantly ask him to please stop smoking and he did! I will also add that in junior high we had a speaker come to our school and gave a talk about the dangers of smoking. He spoke with a device that he held up to his tracheotomy and that was it for me! I am 55 years old and have never wanted to smoke, with that image still in the back of my mind.

  • Tim

    Why are they not illegal? Because the industry creates tremendous tax revenue for federal and state governments. With all the talk about deficits and budget cutting do you really think the government is interested in cutting out the billions in revenue that cigarettes must generate?

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    John, I’ve been reading that second-hand smoke is AS dangerous if not MORE dangerous than smoking your own cigarette. So if you have grandparents and parents who have lived long heavy-smoking lives, great, then smoke. But remember that your neighbors, or children with different genes combined in, may not have the same kind of resilience.

  • Barry Draper

    This a perfect example of why it is so important to fight against Citiczen United vs FED. This ruling is totally in support of corporations to kill people as long as it makes money. Corporations have DO have more rights than humans.
    Let’s track which Senators and Congressmen except Tobacco Moneyand vote them out.
    Something else, is third world countries sell cigaretts as singles not even in a pack. NO Bad Images at all. Smokers need HELP. Make the Phillips Morriss Corporation pay for a National Health Insurance .

  • John

    I would think that resuming your filthy habit would accelerate your shortened life expectancy as many of the health benefits from stopping smoking start quite soon after quitting.

  • Steve T

    Nicotine is not the only thing that will get you.Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 different chemicals. At least 50 are known carcinogens.

    The tobacco companies have provided lists of ingredients to the federal Department of Health and Human Services for more than a decade but what gets me is that government officials are legally not allowed to release the information.?????? The tobacco industry also presented a list of 599 additives to Congress in 1994, that was never made public. What happened to the truth of information act?

  • Ellen Dibble in Northampton, MA

    Think of all the tax revenue that would be lost if the tobacco industry were throttled. Think of all the jobs that would be lost.
    For that matter, think of all the jobs lost if we throttled the health insurance industry and made the whole deal single-payer (no middleman).
    Lots of things on the chopping block are real job-killers. So we have to be careful.

  • dave

    Is tobacco a cause or a symptom?
    Give me job security, Whole Foods coupons and a nice gym membership and I promise not to smoke! People use tobacco to maintain equilibrium, and to get things done. This is a class issue. Making an unfortunate necessity even less appealing is obnoxious. The information is out there and people quit when they can. Excuse me while I go outside and breath more of Michael Bloomberg’s private jet exhaust.

  • Laureen

    There should be serious advertising campaigns and programs targeted towards the harm that is inflicted on us non-smokers. We also die from the lung cancers and other diseases because we are subjected to the harmful chemicals. Non smokers are at the mercy of smokers when they are in our lives.

  • John

    It is too bad that the aging effects of cigarettes on one’s face are more not visible to teens. All people in their thirties probably look equally old to them but when I see people my age who smoke and look much older, I’m glad that I never smoked.

  • Rachel

    From Somerville, MA

    The notion that scary photos will override the “cool” of smoking, especially for youth, ignores the fact that part of the cool is the danger, the rebellious self-destructiveness of it.

    (Who knows… If there are enough graphic warnings, kids might even start to “collect them all, amaze your friends.”)

  • Walker Bell

    As obesity is next behind cancer as a disease filling our hospitals and ultimately killing people – will we see a day when we some grotesque image on the Betty Crocker cakes mixes to deter our sweet habit? Frito Lays with skull and crossbones? RIP symbols on cans of coke?
    is it fear or education that is the light at the end of the tunnel?

  • Kathleen Monroe

    The individual smoking through a hole in his throat has had a laryngectomy, the removal of his vocal cords. He now breathes, coughs, speaks through that hole in his throat. It is not a tracheotomy. I work with this population as a speech-language pathologist. Yes, some will still smoke through that stoma (the name for the hole).

  • Betty

    working in cancer research, much much of my time is spent abstracting data from patient medical records for scientists to use in their studies. I see smokers with lung cancer, of course, but also bladder, kidney, oral, throat, esphogeal cancers as well as COPD, asthma, heart disease. Their stories are sad, the cost to society is huge. Any way that people can be reminded of what may happen to them is a service to us all.

  • http://birksontheground.org Jim Owens

    I smoked for 20 years, then quit “cold turkey” in my late-30s. What made it possible for me was hearing a report on the radio to the effect that the physiological effects of nicotine addiction can be overcome in 2-3 days. “I could stand on my head for 2-3 days,” I told myself. The rest was simply a matter of will power, I realized. I smoked my last cigarette on New Year’s Eve, 1992, and I’ve never, ever looked back.

  • David

    Quit when I found out I was going to be a dad for the first time at age 40

  • jeannie

    Looks like the future is in Cigarette Cases…

  • http://cyberfumes.blogspot.com Dave Eger (eager)

    The only way that I see these pictures preventing smoking is when people decide to leave the packaging intact to keep them as collectors items.

    As for Madmen, just talking about smoking anywhere advertises smoking. That’s how they get you!

    Newton, MA

  • Steve V

    I have no problem with trying to educate current smokers and aid them in stopping smoking. Having said that, I would suggest we put the bulk of our efforts in young people, the next generation of (potential)smokers. From the youngest age, children need to be educated to avoid ever taking up the habit. The message should be: DON’T START!!!

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    Jim, I’ve heard others say they quit cold turkey. You read it takes 2 to 3 days to get past withdrawal? Hmm. Then why all this marketing of umpteen products to aid smoking cessation?
    I’m thinking the tobacco industry probably markets those as well. First get ‘em addicted; then sell things that drag out the cessation as long as possible, using all sorts of marketable “aids.” I believe it.

  • India

    About MadMen and cigarettes: we recently watched the first season on DVD with our 14-year-old son. He was absolutely DISGUSTED by all the cigarette smoking and told us that it was a great deterrent to taking up the habit.

    Westford, Vermont

  • http://burythehabit.com john immen

    If any listeners are genuinely interested in “helping a loved one” stop smoking in a playful manner….check-out http://www.BuryTheHabit.com

    Chicago, IL

  • Gerald MacDonald

    Writing from Sydney, Nova Scotia Canada. Interesting story. The photos on the cigarette packages in Canada have delivered strong messages. Alone, they don’t do it, but in concert with other efforts, it clearly works.

    On a completely unrelated point, is Dr. Strasser, a Canadian, perhaps from Nova Scotia? Just wondering?

  • m. ramadhan

    SMOKING: 15 years ago I went Japan for the first time to meet family I had never met before. EVERYONE in the house smoked and there were cigarette machines on seemingly, all street corners like pop machines. I did not speak the language but of course, I knew well of the issue here (U.S.A.)- lawsuits, deaths, protests, legislation….I realized instantly, the strategy of the super cigarette companies- to go abroad and present themselves to unknowing people who do not culturally have the independence of power, as Americans do. So SAD for all humans to not be cared about. So SAD for my relatives.

  • Danya Baudis

    I gave up 4 years ago but have still many friends smoking. Nobody PAYS the official sticker price. There is a lot of cheap tabaco brought from other countries and also states where cigarettes are sold at a lower price, without tax, etc

  • Kristen Goodell

    I’ve been a family physician for almost 10 years, and wanted to offer a suggestion for an immage for chewing tobacco labelling: Either of the two toddlers I have now treated for acute nicotine ingestion after they drank a cup of dad’s dip spit. Could there be anything more disgusting? Could you feel any guiltier as a parent than when you see your child wrapped in a sheet in the ER with a tube down her nose to give her the charcoal she needs to counteract the toxic nicotine?

    Kristen Goodell
    Winchester, MA

  • Daniel

    I honestly believe that these images on packs will do nothing to people already smoking. I know I will not quit smoking because of them.

    Though I do wish this form of propaganda would be used on alcohol and liquor. I believe drunk drivers, liver cancer, and the various other things that can/will happen from drinking would be much more effective. Seeing a dead body mutilated from a drunk driving accident would turn a lot of people off from drinking. Though I doubt that will ever happen, because apparently smoking is more worrisome and deadlier than drinking.

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    Freudian psychology would say there is oral, anal, and genital need/anxiety, and it is easy to see that smoking addresses the oral neediness.
    I know whereof he speaks and never addressed it with cigarettes. I do hear that smokers who try to quit turn to food and become fat (fatter), so there might be something to this.
    My personal approach? When I get an attack of oral neediness (sometimes I think it is a vitamin deficiency, a need for say fresh fruit which isn’t right handy), I’ll buy a bag of sugarless candy or gum, or a large bag of no-fat popcorn. By the end of a few hours my jaws are awfully tired but the urge to bite is gone. Freud would be proud of me. I have succeeded in somehow localizing a lot of anxiety which was otherwise unavoidable. Something like that.

  • BHA

    Steve: “From the youngest age, children need to be educated to avoid ever taking up the habit. The message should be: DON’T START!!!”

    Sadly we DO exactly that. The grade schoolers are all against it. Then they get to middle and high school. Suddenly invincible and through what imagery I do not know, they start to think smoking is cool. And a large number (was 25% quoted on the show??) of them start smoking even though they have no legal way to get cigarettes.

  • John

    When I watch Mad Men, I am reminded about how awful it used to be when people could smoke inside. David Lynch makes smoking look aluring though. Unfortunately, there is often a visual beauty with cigarette smoke on film. It helps that you can’t smell it on film.

  • Megan

    I find it interesting that anyone would think that a graphic photo would deter a smoker from smoking. Every smoker out there knows that it is bad for there health, smokers are not stupid people. The addiction is intense and is very closely related to stress. Why aren’t these “tobacco regulators” addressing the intense stress, whether known or not, that most smokers are under, making it very difficult to quit?

    These photos may deter young smokers a small amount, but it’s a joke to think that any smoker out there will look down at the picture and say “oh my god these things are bad for me I ever knew that.”

    Death is not the worst experience from smoking. How about losing your voice, losing your jaw, losing your ability to breath, losing your tongue and many other things that you would have to live with for the rest of your life. I agree with the doctor that called in, if these other graphic pics were available to younger people that would help more than a picture of a lung or dead person. A persons looks is more important to the young generations, this would make a greater impact.

    Vershire, VT

  • Sam Osborne


    If the cigarette industry had bought into the above, they would have long ago gone out of business. They know that images do make a difference and have spent huge sums of money to affect smoking. They do not expect their effort to influence all people and the use of counter images do not need to affect all people to be worthwhile.

    If there is no counter images smoking problems will simply go unchanged and the images of promoters of tobacco will prevail. To think that there is an acceptable point to embrace futility is ultimate hopelessness.

    If someone is going to give up, it might as well be the tobacco industry. If it is going to persist there’s just as much reason to do the same.

  • Cynthia

    One of the screwier things about the U.S. is the free availability of substances like tobacco and alcohol and the strict regulation and classes assigned to narcotics. But we’ve always been conflicted in this way – just look at the Prohibition movement. If someone wants in their heart and mind to quit cigarettes, they will do it. I just don’t think that pictures of charred lungs and toothless mouths are going to inspire people to change their behavior.

    Smoking cessation should be a treatment covered by insurance in the same way as an addiction – because guess what? It’s an ADDICTION. And the 12-step approach applies here just the way it does for alcohol and drugs. I quit smoking on New Years Eve 1989 (after 2 previous failed attempts). I never looked back. I have achieved many things in my life, however, I am PROUDEST of successfully quitting those coffin nails. It’s like being released from solitary confinement after a 20-year sentence. Hallelujah!

  • michael

    “On TV last month, I noticed that the boob censoring FCC was blurring the cleavage of a police man dressed as a female prostitute of a police drama. Is that the act of rational government? The idea that perfect safety can be obtained by Orwellian government control is scary totalitarian nonsense. There is no perfect safety, the best we can do is exercise rational thought through fact based education.”

    Great comment Zeno, another is Big Brother involvement with Body Scanners and all so personal body searches. Studies have shown that such scanners give little more protection and would not have caught the underwear bomber.


  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    If 25 percent of young people take up smoking knowing full well the dangers, the question is why.
    One. Everything a teen needs to learn to do is risky. The older generation may be saying be careful, be careful, but you can’t be careful and actually grow up. The brain is actually in a risk-taking state, prone to courting danger.
    So how does one dare drive a car at 65 mph when one knows a slip of attention can cause multiple losses of life?
    How does one dare approach a person of the opposite sex to find out what one needs to find out (and wants to)? Does one know full well about at least half a dozen STDs, some of which could curtail your way of being as long as you live? Does one know full well that pregnancy could ensue? Does one know one could be lied to? And dumped? Flat out rejected from the beginning? There is no way out the risk.
    To accept risk is to become an adult. Part of that risk is manipulating states of consciousness, understanding that everybody else is doing the same, that life is inexplicable and you just have to go staggering through it half-aware. So you drink.
    And cigarettes make the same statement: that even though the adults mostly are telling you not to grow up so fast, to keep acting like a latency child and focus on teamwork and proficiency, even though adults are telling you not to act like an adult in many ways; in other ways you know it’s time to get a move on. Your peers are finding this likewise. A kind of pact acknowledging the same is smoking. It seems a lot less innocuous than, say, crystal meth. It seems the civilized way to start to shoulder the risks of being a grown-up. The fact it’s illegal just goes to show that adults don’t really know when kids need to start being mature.
    So to a teen, it looks like maturity to illegally get ahold of cigarettes and smoke them, especially if it is dangerous. That’s my take.

  • fredericc

    In addition to a highly addictive product the marketers of cigaretts are blessed by the knowledge that tobacco is entangled with the American mythology.

    In addition to idea of a blackened lung, I believe the graphic images smokers see should be comingled with images from the birth of this nation.

    It’s not just about tobacco.

    It’s about creating the new America myth.

  • The Redundant Repeater

    People should at least glance at the existing posts before they post. I’ve read the “fat kid picture on the happy meal” post about ten times.

  • Larry Thomason

    I am a retired Psychologist. Years ago, the U.S. Army had a campaign to get soldiers to do a better job of dental health care. They showed gruesome photos of horrendous mouth conditions (similar to some of the photos above for cigarette packs. The program failed because the images were so awful that the soldiers were able to dismiss them (“That will never happen to me”).
    I was curious as to whether there were any measures of actual smoking levels (i.e., cigarette sales in certain areas) before and after the graphic photos were introduced onto the cigarette packs in Canada. While the research your guests cited about people remembering the images was of interest, a direct measure of the target behavior would have been very helpful. Some other programs have had smokers put photos of their loved ones inside the cellophane wrapper of their smokes to remind them for whom they are trying to quit. I think it is more important to engage the emotions in this battle, than it is to engage the intellect. We all KNOW that smoking is very dangerous!
    Larry Thomson, Richmond, Vt. 05477

  • http://KUER90.1SLC Andy Rich

    Maybe this is ignorant, but why don’t we just make tobacco illegal? Or phase them out so that current smokers can be grandfathered in- e.g. nobody born after 1982 will ever be able to legally buy cigarettes.

    This isn’t a just a personal choice, this is a public health hazard.

  • lynda-mary

    Two of our children started smoking when they were around 20 and it was and still is for weight control…One of them is a professional modern dancer who started when he was at Alvin Ailey…you would be surprised at how many dancers smoke for this reason!

  • Marie thousand oaks california

    Though small compared with the incidence of lung cancer fatalities due to smoking, we need to also acknowledge that lung cancer among non smokers is on the rise. This may be particularly helpful to relatives whose family members have died from lung cancer without ever having smoked.

  • Bumstead

    I agree with William Maher@7:37.

    Government regulation of dangerous substances, especially those that are legally distributed, needs to be a lot tougher. Obviously doctors can’t even be trusted to protect us from the dangers of drugs they prescribe. Only a federal agency can do the job.

  • Trond

    The one element I do not hear in the smoking debate is the socio economic issue. Even when I was in high school in the 1980′s, there was a very real socio economic tilt of kids starting smoking. Today it does seem that smoking is not exclusively the domain of lower economic earning groups, but definitely leaned in that direction. As the job market of the future becomes even more competitive, reminding high school students of the very real negative consequences in the workforce and career development might make more of them think twice.

  • Brett

    I have been a non-smoker my whole life (life-long asthma kept me from finding
    smoking edgy and romantic in my youth). I am around smokers more than I would like (musician, mental health counselor). I teach music and play music gigs, as well as work with people who have mental illnesses. I have a wrap-around porch beside my music studio and allow smokers to go outside to smoke during breaks in teaching, jamming, rehearsing, etc. Most of the people with whom I work at the group home, who have mental illnesses, smoke. They congregate on their front porch to have their cigarettes. I try to avoid getting music gigs at venues where there are no smoking restrictions.

    Of the young people who smoke that I am around, it appears they feel (not surprisingly) smoking is something they will later cease to engage in as they age. It’s as if, should they be given truth serum, they would say it is a glamourous and edgy affectation that provides them a kind of carrying card into adulthood, or something akin to that. I agree with the one caller’s point that young people are not particularly moved by scary warnings of devastating illness and death with respect to smoking (be those warnings of the printed text variety or graphic pictures) and see themselves as, if not immortal, only having to grapple with thoughts and issues of mortality sometime in the very distant future. (And, as Ellen Dibble points out, risk taking is part and parcel with growing up). There is also not an immediate cause and effect relationship in smoking and illness; in fact, smoking’s addictive qualities (visceral, and perhaps psychological) seem to far outweigh any intellectualization of harm (to the young smoker, something bad that may happen to some or may not happen to some twenty or thirty years from now).

    Of the images shown at the top of this forum, on the one hand, I could see in some respects where this kind of “advertisement” could cause a backlash among smokers (not to mention more creative product development by tobacco companies). Smokers seem to subject themselves to a kind of behavioral intermittent reinforcer: some smokers suffer devastating illnesses and death, some don’t. Of the ones who suffer lesser problems (the cost of the habit, respiratory irritation, an increase in colds/flu, addiction, etc.) most smokers don’t seem to view these problems as having much weight, or they view these problems as “normal” problems people have. Other smokers seem to dig their heels in over campaigns such as this one, in an effort to exercise their rights of individualism. In any case, problems with smoking seem to be attributable by smokers to “other” smokers and non-smokers and not to themselves.

    On the other hand, many myriad factors have reduced smoking over the years, e.g., restrictions on glamourous advertising, restrictions on where and how products can be purchased and consumed, warnings by the medical community, societal shifts in mores, etc. If this campaign has some positive effect in making at least some young people pause for a moment, then I don’t mind. Long-standing smokers probably won’t be affected much because the facts about smoking are well known and the emotional response to these pictures will probably be one of seeing it as propagandist and absurd in an over-the-top sense. But, again, if it reaches a small percentage of long-standing smokers…

    I have a friend who owns a convenience store, and it amazes me how aggressively tobacco companies still market their products. They are constantly creating “new” products and ways to advertise their products in more politically acceptable ways. There must be forty different kinds of smokeless tobacco products on the market, with more developed all the time. There are also so many types of cigarettes, it is staggering, and those products seem to increase in incredible numbers each year. Every store offers deals on cigarettes, too (buy two packs, save 50 cents a pack; buy three, save 75 cents a pack; buy the newest pack of cigarettes, get a pack free, get a coupon to try another “new” tobacco product for free, etc.). Word gets around among smokers as to which store sells the cheapest tobacco/offers “deals.” Also, most stores rent out their display counters to tobacco companies (it is the only way they often can get contracts to sell tobacco products) who, in turn, dictate how their products will be marketed and sold. I see tobacco companies marketing cigarette pack covers in response to this campaign. There might also be an increase in old-school-type cigarette cases being sold, as well; then one can discard the pack with the ugly picture and put his/her cigarettes in glamourous, silver and gold cases that slip elegantly in and out of one’s pocket!

    Personally, I don’t mind smoking, as long as there are restrictions to where it is allowed (somewhere other than where I am, particularly). Now the over use of cheap perfumes and cologne in public, now that should be banned completely, with penalties of long incarceration and even capital punishment for offenders!!! ;-)

  • David

    Education is the answer to not smoking or drinking alcohol. Man it’s a no brain er, If a person would just spend a little time contemplating what they have with just being alive on a plant in this vast solar system and the short time they have. Why would anyone waste the time and money to shorten their life by 10 years. Do the math I rather have the MONEY to spend.

  • Rachel

    I’m so sick of people claiming it’s UnAmerican. When smoking started hundreds of years ago, there wasn’t health care so people just croaked and everyone else wasn’t responsible for the cost of their treatment. This puts an enormous pressure on our already faltering system.

    If you want to smoke then sign a waiver that states your health care issues will never be a responsibility of anyone other than you. Then you can smoke in your home – not in the street where everyone else has to breath it.

    And yes alcohol kills people, but that is a separate issue so stop trying to drag everything else in because it doesn’t make a good defense. If you were on trial for killing someone would your defense be that other people are murders too so it’s ok?

    Also – if I put together the ingredients in cigarettes and tried to market it as something for people to ingest, it would never be allowed because it’s poison. There is no way ammonia would be marketed as an ingredient in soda.

  • http://www.neocon-panic-attacks.blogspot.com/ dael

    I believe tobacco usage is being used as a scape goat for meat eating/animal product consumption diseases.

    Granted too much of anything is bad. Today in America I believe it is meat eating and consumption of animal products that are the amin causes of disease!

  • http://www.neocon-panic-attacks.blogspot.com/ dael

    Outville, Ohio

  • Zeno

    We banned tobacco and hard liquor advertising from network television in an attempt to protect children from the adverse effects of such drugs. Yet quite recently we have permitted the seemingly unceasing advertisement of prescription drugs.

    Apparently, prescription drugs are not as dangerous as Alcohol or tobacco. Its a good thing too, or the whole country would be using prescription drugs, and massive profits could give pharmaceutical companies unforeseen influence on media and government policy?

    I could be wrong though.

  • http://WYSORadio(91.3FM),YellowSprings,OH Al Pierce

    Cigaretts in the U.S. are a legal product. The FDA does not have a clue how to prevent the public from using cigaretts. The high tobacco taxes that go to schools, and other “programs” are commendable, but let’s be real – it’s about getting more money from a public seqment that choises to buy a legal product. Put gruesome graphic pictures of end-result(s) of using a legal product such as: liquor bottles, soft drinks, fast foods, cosmetic products, artificial sweetners, automobiles, x-rays, all kinds of prescription drugs, etc. The government is more hazardous to MY health than cigaretts.

  • Mimi

    So, if we are REALLY interested in reducing smoking, please tell me why we as a nation continue to subsidize the tobacco industry?

    And don’t tell me it’s to protect the livelihood of the tobacco farmer. Surely there are other crops that could be grown on the same land that currently grows tobacco.

    If this isn’t crazy, I don’t know what is.

  • Zeno

    I’m no supporter of big tobacco, but. It should also be noted that the primary holding in most peoples 401K’s are the tobacco giants. Are you willing to take the financial hit, to keep the world from getting theirs?

  • Scott Newman

    Excellent show. Thank you for addressing this issue. I smoked for 17 years, and quit last April. I have not touched a cigarette since I’ve quit. My success would not have been possible without an NRT(nicotine replacement therapy)and the great help of online quit assistance. Quitnet has been a vital part of my success.

    Best wishes.


  • Zeno

    In response to michael at 11:11 AM

    Agreed. Of all subjects, the psy ops that are run by governments and Mad Ave are the most fascinating. I read a Mad Ave advertising document once and was forever changed.

    Everyone believes that they are immune to advertising and propaganda, but are surprised when they get cancer from smoking, or are dodging gunfire in downtown Fallujah.

    This was an interesting documentary on the subject: http://www.freedocumentaries.org/int.php?filmID=140

    I am fascinated by the puritan hypocrisy of this subject, and how it relates to the FCC’s boob blurring. I am bemused at how all of the graphic violence on TV is shown in slow motion, but the female breast and butt is considered so heinous that it needs to be censored. I would at least have it the other way around, but perhaps considering that the government considers female breasts more dangerous than violence, drugs, gore, etc….maybe packs of cigarettes should have pictures of breasts on them ;)

  • Mary Brooks

    If the government is so concerned about this why hasn’t tobacco been made illegal? I say let’s do that. Let’s do that for everything that is available to us that is bad for us and could kill us. Let’s just shut down all the Starbucks, the McDonalds, Burger Kings, Dominos, Pizza Hut, KFC, Taco Bell, Anheiser Busch, Miller Brewing Company, Jack Daniels, Coca Cola, Pepsi and the makers of Red Bull. Let’s make it all illegal and then we will all be healthy and happy and hearty. Makes way more sense. For addicts, putting a gruesome picture on the front of their drug of choice isn’t going to stop them. You could wrap a cheeseburger in a paper with a picture of a clogged artery and it wouldn’t stop anyone OR pursuade them to choose a salad instead. You could put a nice snapshot of 10 lbs of belly fat on a pizza box but it wouldn’t convince anyone to hold the pepperoni much less stop them from picking up the phone to order one Deterents of this nature are theatrics and serve only to make those that DON’T have the habit feel better. Either do it all the way and make ALL of the stuff that clogs our veins and causes cancer illegal or leave it alone and let each man pick his poison.

  • peter nelson

    How far do you want to go? How about a nice picture of a destroyed liver on the label of every liquor bottle. How about a picture of an open heart surgery on the label of every corn fed piece of beef we sell.

    Bad analogy. There is no evidence that alcohol consumed in moderation is dangerous. Likewise, humans evolved as omnivores, modest amounts of meat in the diet is not an independent risk factor WRT health.

    But there is NO safe amount of smoking. Even a few cigarettes a day dramatically increase all sorts of health risks.

  • peter nelson

    So, if we are REALLY interested in reducing smoking, please tell me why we as a nation continue to subsidize the tobacco industry?

    If the government is so concerned about this why hasn’t tobacco been made illegal?

    I think you both know the answers to these questions. It’s because your friendly neighborhood congressman is in the pocket of the lobbyists. Sometimes I think we should stop teaching civics in high school; it just fills kids’ heads up with nonsense.

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    Mary, I’d save paper on food blurbs and just post something on the foods that are actually healthy, that is, those where no additives are involved, no sweeteners, no oils that are not healthy. So non-hydrogenated peanut butter could have a picture of a lean and smiling oldster on it, and a flag meaning NIH-approved. And every tomato and banana could have a little sticker with that flag on it. Maybe a green flag if it’s organically grown, a blue flag if not.
    But so many of the prepared foods have questionable ingredients that you’d have a miserable individual on every single one, which is a little unfair, because you can eat these unhealthy foods in moderation and have a very good time of it, and remain healthy. I know how to enjoy a Big Mac, but it’s a Saturday treat for a young person, usually coupled with bicycling somewhere and stopping off for that treat. If you want coffee with that, you may be offered pseudo-cream that is worse than cream. Only the skim milk would have the green flag on it — or might have it. Plain milk might have a blue flag, or blue with a stripe meaning green for youngsters.

  • Bush’s fault

    Schizo nanny state wags finger with one hand and taxes with the other…mmmmmmmmm…love those revenues that spell disease and death for others, because in the final scene it will always be……

  • Bush’s fault

    Actually, tobacco subsidies are money laundering to local governments who tax tobacco heavily.

  • peter nelson

    Let ‘em smoke — and die. Maybe we’ll get rid of the “stupid” gene, and evolution will improve humanity.

    No, doesn’t work. Smoking doesn’t kill you until you’re past reproductive age.

  • John

    Prohibition doesn’t work – some idiots even inhale glue. Try to educate children and protect them from marketing and minimize the hard to nonsmokers with strict smoking bans in public places and multi-unit dwellings.

  • Bol Locks

    $Trillions spent on decades of War On Drugs®, yet simply shutting down the tobacco industry like we did the Asbestos industry is a taboo topic as it is once again in this show.

    show heard on wlrn 91.3 FM miami fl

  • John P

    Madison, WI.

    If you’re going to put these photos on packs of cigarettes then you’ll have to put photos of car accident victims on all automobiles, photos of those that have died of an obesity related illness on all candy, soda pop, and in all restaurants, and photos of gunshot victims and stabbing victims on all guns and any kind of knife you purchase.

    Go ahead and equate the costs of things that will kill you and the things that are addictive that cause human issues that are sold to humans and you’ll find many other products you’ll have to go after. You can’t restrict them all and I’m certain many Americans will not stand for it.

    Go ahead and argue that 2nd hand smoke kills others and it’s not fair to them- they didn’t have a choice. Well then- many more people are killed every year at the hands of other people driving cars. You should get rid of those too because a friend of mine didn’t have a choice when a sober driver ran a red light and ended his life.

  • Timothy Beler

    Lenoir, NC

    I am a non-smoker for smoking. My mother died because of smoking and I have asthma because of smoking, but this is America. To put this kind of labeling on cigarettes is facism and would be the equivalent to showing morbidly obese people on potato chips and soda.

    That is not the kind of America I want. Some people are okay with dieing early for the pleasure and social benefits of smoking. It’s not anyone’s bussiness to tell them not to smoke. I buy gas at Tobacco To Go to support the ability for Americans to smoke if they so choose. Not one of the founding fathers would be proud of anti-smoking laws, but Hitler would. Food for thought.

  • Mark

    The biggest barrier I had when I was a smoker was the anti-smoking kooks telling me that cigarettes are more addictive than heroin. I finally stop believing them and quit on the first attempt (not cold turkey but with my own home grown behavioral method, which would not work for 99.8% of smokers).

    What made me quit smoking was

    1) For some inexplicable reason, I suddenly believed I could quit.

    2) Like most smokers I planned on quitting some day, but it was not the right time. I realized that the ideal time would never come, and now was the best time, because the sooner I quit, the more benefit I would get for my effort.

    Anti-smoking ads need to get off the negative, puntative path and become more positive. Instead of emphasizing the long-term harm of smoking, they need to concentrate on the short-term benefits of quitting, such as increased stamina.

    They need happy, smiling, slim, attractive people dancing around being vigorous telling us that x thousand Americans a day quit smoking successfully.

  • Mike B

    Though I hate the fact that I smoke, it’s my body and no amount of self-righteousness coming from anywhere outside of my closest friends and family will influence what I do with it.

    If I quit, it won’t be because of graphic images on the packs. I’ve seen them before anyway (before I started smoking, I should add).

    When I started, there were huge warnings on the boxes. Covered half of the back and 1/3 of the front. I was 16 at the time and we thought they were hilarious. We always loved getting the “Cigarettes Cause Impotency” ones. I don’t imagine we would have reacted much differently to images.

    Anyway, people who are bothered by the images will just buy cigarette holders: problem solved.

  • Mike B

    Just read Mark’s comment and had to add he’s completely right. That would be a much more effective method to getting people to want to quit.

  • Benjamin Parviz

    Being a young person, I don’t think that the issue of main concern is health; we have had these pictures force fed to us since 4th grade health class. The issue is still that smoking is cool. I’m 22, I am a college graduate, I know how unhealthy it is, but most people still see it as cool. The labels I have seen on packs in Europe are just funny and seen as a novelty to young people who have been seeing these images our whole lives.

    -Ben Parviz, St. Louis, Mo

  • Michael W

    Although I am a smoker, I do agree that smoking is a terrible habit! I also agree that more measures should be taken to eliminate as much of the tobacco products as we can. However, I have certain issues with the FDA concerning how they approach the problem!

    First, I want to question why…when the tobbacco companies increased the nicotine levels in cigarettes to 17% (I believe it was) that the FDA didnt immediately step in and say no. Better yet…why doesnt the FDA have the nicotine content REDUCED by 17%?

    Next, like many of the folks posting comments here, I wonder why only smokers are being discriminated against? I too would like to know why warning labels arent placed on alcohol. We know now that it produces many health problems and yes, also many deaths each year.

    And finally, why does the FDA allow an INCREDIBLE amount of sugars to be placed in our food each year? Or place warning labels along with higher taxes on candy and sweets? As I understand it, Diabetes is, or will be, an even larger health problem soon!

    It seems the FDA wants to say something to look busy by increasing their campaign against smoking, however…it also looks as if they just want to look busy…and yet, not GET busy by working on these other unhealthy products!

    Lastly, although I dont have a dog in the fight, I would like to comment on the warning labels on the packs of cigarettes. If I were the manufacturer of ANY product, I certainly would NOT agree to cover up 80% of my product or its advertising! 20%…sure! 30%…maybe! But 80%…isnt that a bit much?

    Thanks NPR for letting me voice my opinion on this issue!!

  • Guy Dobson

    I smoked – for a while i smoked a lot – but never became addicted – i stopped for ‘cultural’ reasons (wasn’t hangin’ with that crowd as much) but still bummed a cigarette once in a while – I don’t do that anymore because i don’t want to push my luck – how could I smoke that much without ever becoming addicted?

  • Rita B/Farmingdale NJ

    I don’t think the graphic pictures will work to aid in smoking cessation. My father died in my mothers arms, a violent, bloody death all due to our friends at Pall Mall. She didn’t quit smoking, and neither did my sister. Hell, my dad was one of those people putting the cigarette up to his stoma to smoke it. I don’t know how much more graphic it gets than that and it didn’t deter my family members. I think the better route is helping those who want to quit, money better spent. And that is what it is all about – money.

  • http://onpoint.com marina

    please comment on the ill effects of pot smoking. There are so many people who think the cigarettes are worse than pot, when clearly both are equally terrible for ones health.

  • pearl

    I quit in the 80′s after smoking 20 years.
    For the second time.
    cause I read that nicotine addiction was worse than heroin addiction. Rally every 15 minutes of my life…!
    struck a cord with me.
    Was not easy.
    Dreamed a lot about smoking….
    but clearly knew that if I lit a ciggie, I might as well buy a carton again.
    still know I cannot light up for fun….
    ever ever

  • steve power

    The best anti-cigarette ad was a teenaged Brooke Shields in tight jeans saying how a boy she was interested in turned her off when he lit up a cigarette.

    There were congressional hearings about this ad because some suppossedly thought it was too sexual. The ad was removed. The real reason for the opposition was, of course, that the ad was effective.

  • Pam Brown

    I say load those packs up with everything you got!!While all of these people are troubled about their rights to smoke and the rights of these companies to addict us to their poison, please keep in mind that we all pay thru escalating health care costs for these people to have the right to destroy their health. If people want to smoke, stuff their faces with all kinds of poor quality food and saturated fat, I say fine, let them pay more for their health care so the rest of us do not have to

  • peter nelson

    If you’re going to put these photos on packs of cigarettes then you’ll have to put photos of car accident victims on all automobiles, photos of those that have died of an obesity related illness on all candy, soda pop, and in all restaurants, and photos of gunshot victims and stabbing victims on all guns and any kind of knife you purchase.

    I can’t believe how many people – NPR listeners, all – have posted this false analogy today.

    I will explain it again: read it slowly so you can comprehend it. Cars, candy and restaurant food may be utilized with complete safety. There’s is nothing intrinsically dangerous about them.

    And even guns are not intrinsically dangerous. While they CAN be used to cause death and injury, it’s also possible to use them with complete safety. I learned gun safety as a teenager and I’ve been a gun owner most of my life and I’ve never had an accident nor do I know anyone who has. I knew one person who was shot to death on purpose but he deserved it.

    But there is no safe mode of use for cigarettes. Use them a little they hurt you a little, use them more they hurt you more.

  • peter nelson

    Though I hate the fact that I smoke, it’s my body

    I’m having trouble parsing that. If you hate the fact that you smoke why do you still do it? The statement “it’s my body” normally means that you are claiming dominion over your body, no one has a right to tell you what to do with it because you have autonomy. But if you really had autonomy you would quit, right?

  • Renoir Gaither

    Wonderful American ingenuity in fighting against the tobacco industry, tobacco profits, and tobacco lobbyists. This package imaging is a small step towards fighting the industry. Like running up huge government deficits and creating a health care system that works for the good of all, tobacco is a pervasive problem, rife with political influence and corruption and mass indifference. If any other industry peddled an addictive, poisonous, cancer-causing substance that if used as intended impaired health that industry would be quickly driven underground. Tobacco’s unique place in U.S. history, say as opposed to marijuana or cocaine (think opium in Afghanistan), keeps it off-limits to a great extent. There’s a similarity between opium profits used to kill U.S. soldiers and tobacco profits used to kill U.S. citizens; both are historically and culturally tied to the economic interests of governments and powerful corporations and cartels.

  • peter nelson

    I too would like to know why warning labels arent placed on alcohol. We know now that it produces many health problems and yes, also many deaths each year.

    1. There ARE warning labels on alcohol!

    2. How many times do you need someone to explain this to you? Alcohol is not intrinsically dangerous. The fact that some people abuse it does not mean that the vast majority can’t enjoy it in moderation with no ill effects.

    Whereas there is no safe mode of cigarette use. Apples and oranges. The people who equate cigarettes to alcohol or driving or steak or dessert are typically smokers who are trying to rationalize their disgusting behavior by convincing themselves that it’s a normal activity like eating or having a glass of wine. Whereas in reality it’s drug addiction.

    I remember in Zurich years ago I once passed “Needle Park”, an open air park in the city where all the heroin addicts would shoot up in public. It was a pathetic experiment that the authorities shut down in the 1990′s. But now whenever I pass an office building that has some little corner or alcove where the smokers are banished to I see the same pathetic looks on their faces.

  • James

    I think this is a great step in the right direction. I only wish politicians cared proportionately to the real toll cigarettes make us pay. On 9/11 more people worldwide were killed by tobacco than terrorists by more than a 2:1 margin. Why aren’t we paying a trillion dollars per year to fight tobacco use?

  • Edosa Eweka

    The type of label that the FDA is proposing will not be as effective – for a start, it tells, in a comic form, WARNINGS. The UK and other countries did this a decade or so ago, but have since moved on to more graphic pictures. There is a significant difference from actually showing REAL pictures of the EFFECTS of smoking. In the UK, this is what we see in cigarette packs. It has been very effective – at least it has prevented me and some other people from smoking or being close to the dangers of second-hand smoking.

  • Renoir Gaither

    Want to see interesting facts about politicians who receive tobacco industry donations. See opensecrets.org.
    An interesting mix of both political parties. In 2008, Barack Obama took $50,000 in donations from tobacco; McCain, $120,000. Take a look at Congress. Where the donations go, so goes influence–and so goes ethics or rather any real moral stance against tobacco. If it were known or could be traced that Presidential candidates were taking donations from the porn industry (perfectly legal) or drug cartels would there be some outcry?

  • Renoir Gaither

    From opensecrets.org, here is the list of 2010 top recipients of big tobacco:

    1 Burr, Richard (R-NC) Senate $114,251
    2 Meek, Kendrick B (D-FL) House $82,975
    3 McConnell, Mitch (R-KY) Senate $35,900
    4 Rubio, Marco (R-FL) $35,200
    5 Camp, Dave (R-MI) House $34,050
    6 Boehner, John (R-OH) House $32,000
    7 Hurt, Robert (R-VA) $30,750
    8 Crist, Charlie (I-FL) $28,800

    Say anything about a certain party and a certain group backed by . . . well, you know, think “Tea” leaves.

  • Beverly

    It’s about time we got in sync with the rest of the world.

    Overwhelming evidence shows that these images work. Granted, the ones being proposed for the U.S. are much less gruesome than those used in other countrirs, but they will still have a positive effect.

    Last week, after seeing the proposed warning labels, TWO of my friends quit, cold turkey, & are still not smoking. I hope that behavior will continue.

    To retaliate, the tobacco industry is coming out with new ads, AIMED AT ELEVEN -YEAR-OLD CHILDREN! Is that ethical? It’s legal! Pretty scary, I’d say. The new ads will prevent many children from death by tobacco. It has been proven.

    37 countries have already seen very positive results since using these very graphic reality warnings. They have changed perceptions & behaviors of countless individuals around the world, & that’s a good thing.

    Tobacco products kill 1 out of 2 consumers. There has recently been a dramatic increase in smoking, in countries & groups which are being successfully targeted by the tobacco industry.

    We can’t let this continue. Our children are supposed to outlive us, not die from lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease, or any of the other diseases which are caused by smoking.

    The ads work. There is indisputable evidence worldwide, that graphic images are saving childrens’ lives, which is the whole purpose of the warnings. I salute them.

    Drug companies must warn consumers of every risk, but, until now, cigarette companies have been exempt.

    The graphic ads

    For more information, you may listen to “Radio Times”, NPR, November 16th

  • Beverly

    BRAVO! 

    The graphic warnings are saving our children, putting them off cigarettes, so they will never succumb to the lure of Big Tobacco. That’s the purpose of the new packaging, & it has been proven to be successful in every country that has tried it. Once they realize what will happen to them if they smoke, they don’t even start.

    It may also help people who have tried, unsuccessfully, to quit smoking, but the main thing is that it prevents our children from ever starting. Once someone is hooked, it’s usually too late. We will now have the satisfaction of knowing that they will be spared years of needless suffering caused by tobacco addiction.

  • http://Kelleytf T F Kelley

    I didn’t see much commentary on why cigarette smoke is so powerfully addictive. Blame it on the fact that you, like all mammals, have a four-chambered heart. The oxygenated blood in your lung, now exposed to the smoke, returns directly to the heart only to be quickly discharged. It exits into the aorta and as it turns two arteries leave the aorta, one for each side of your brain. It is a remarkably effective and efficient drug delivery system. You get your “hit” with the least possible dilution.

    Another thing I was impressed by was the amount of information cigarette companies knew about their customers. For example the average smoker sucked 35 mL of smoke from a cigarette with every puff. The average smoker took a sampling every 2 min. There was no end of “behavioral” studies.

    Cigarette smoke is white for the same reason that milk is white. Milk is an emulsion of fat and water. Smoke is white because it’s an emulsion of oil in air. A quick experiment for you. Take a clean drinking glass and slowly fill it as best you can with smoke. Then, if with cover it with a saucer. Now wait; eventually smoke clears. It didn’t go away, it is now a brown-colored film on the inside of your glass. Take your finger and wipe a bit of it. Now smell your finger. The suspension was billions of tiny droplets of oil, each much smaller even than a red blood cell. While you were waiting and playing scientist the droplets coalesced with each other. The droplets got bigger and finally deposit or on the wall of the glass and created the brown film.

  • Sheri


    I am a nurse on a cardiac surgery floor. I see this all the time. At least I could tell them they were warned before sending them back to the intensive care unit for a nice, BIG, comfortable plastic tube. Oh, well…

    -Sheri, Philadelphia P.A.

  • Jefreys

    I was seething when I heard the comments on wed 6/22 show about the
    smoker who enjoyed smoking and wanted everyone to stay out of his
    business.  The arrogance of this “chimney” placing his rights over
    everyone else was A typical of the smoke addled brain.
     I wish someone could explain how they “enjoy” something that makes them stink, gives them yellow teeth and horrendous bad breath.
    To me the issue is not what you put in your body, but what comes out of it.
    believe you can and do have the right to do what ever you want..as long
    as it does not interfere with me or COST ME MONEY!  And it is proven
    that smoking does both.
    spew exhaled smoke and their “cooties” out of their mouths. Plain and
    simple.  They blow out that mess in any direction and they have no
    concern for where it goes.  I have walked by them to
    get to public places and have had to contend with their activities. 
    Why! Why! why is it their rights supersede mine?

    Well I have a weapon.

    I occasionally chew tobacco.  I contain my waste and do not do it in areas that interfere in any way with any other person.

    here is the deal..Your smoke gets on me..I spit on you!  Sounds fair
    and equitable to me.  And since I am taking on the smokers mantle, ME is
    all I care about!  LOL

    And the comparison about helmets is
    ridiculous.  It is a State LAW..don’t like it, move to a state where the
    law says you can ride without it.  better yet wear the hemet while you
    smoke since you enjoy it so much.

  • Mark


  • Sy2502

    This frenzy against smoke is childish and ridiculous. Every smoker knows smoking is bad for you. But they also have every right to choose their own poison. The program insists in portraying it as if the tobacco companies were tricking and cheating people. This is insulting. People make their own decisions. Some decide to go skydiving. Some decide to ride motorcycles. Some decide to use alcohol. Some decide to smoke. They make that decision and the whole point of a free country is precisely that people should make their own decisions, right or wrong as those may be.
    Moreover, why don’t we put graphic pictures of diseased livers and beat up wives on bottles of alcoholic beverages? Why don’t we put graphic images of diabetic amputees on boxes of donuts? This crusade against smoke has become as unreasonable and single minded as a religious cult.
    On a side note, this is why I am against nationalized health care. As soon as I let others pay for my health care, I give them the right to tell me what to do. It is unfortunate that Americans are so used to freedom that they have stopped appreciating it altogether.

    • Bb08636

      People certainly have the right to choose what they put in their bodies, but smoking is different in that it immediately leaves the body of the smoker and goes into the bodies of others who are close by.  I think this fact makes it fair game for extra regulation.  In addition, smoking tobacco is extremely addictive, impossibly hard to quit, and has been undeniably linked to a vast number of health problems.  I would argue that while these things are also characteristics of alcohol to some extent, smoking differs in its profound lack of redeeming qualities.  It really only fixes the problem it creates in the first place (i.e. it temporarily extinguishes the craving for cigarettes that was caused by smoking cigarettes).  Also, alcohol and donuts can be consumed in safe quantities, whereas smoking is harmful in any amount. 

      • http://police-state-watch.blogspot.com/ JTWilliams

        You have certainly bought up the propaganda, hook-line-and sinker. How do you think second-hand smoke compares to automobile exhaust while sitting in a traffic jam. You people (the antis) just enjoy being able to exert your will on a HIGHLY TAXED, generally less-affluent and unpopular minority. To act as if smoking is some kind of unparalleled source of harm to others is an act of sheer demagoguery. In a short time, you have used the government to disallow the owners of businesses to decide on their own discretion on whether they want to allow a smoking section in their establishment. Do you realize the precedent this sets?

  • Bugbuster

    Smokers’ health or “rights” don’t matter. What does matter is secondhand smoke and the effects of smokers on the cost of health care paid for by the rest of us.

  • Anonymous

    I am sorry to say that while I applaud the FDA’s attempts to lower the rate of smoking, I do not have faith that this tactic will be very effective. Most people start smoking when they are quite young and do not consider the health consequence associated with their actions. That being the case, I do not think that they will equate trying cigarettes with pictures of old, sick people. http://michaelmaczesty.blogspot.com/2011/06/graphic-pics-for-cigarette-packs-if.html

  • Marv

    So much death… so many health risks… so addicting… yet the government spends exponentially more trying to stop people from smoking marijuana… which has caused zero deaths….

Aug 22, 2014
Attorney General Eric Holder talks with Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol at Drake's Place Restaurant, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, in Florrissant, Mo. (AP)

The National Guard and Eric Holder in Ferguson. ISIS beheads an American journalist. Texas Governor Rick Perry gets a mug shot. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Aug 22, 2014
In this image from video posted on Facebook, courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, former President George W. Bush participates in the ice bucket challenge with the help of his wife, Laura Bush, in Kennebunkport, Maine. (AP)

The Ice Bucket Challenge: ALS, viral fundraising and how we give in the age of social media.

Aug 21, 2014
Jen Joyce, a community manager for the Uber rideshare service, works on a laptop before a meeting of the Seattle City Council, Monday, March 17, 2014, at City Hall in Seattle. (AP)

We’ll look at workers trying to live and make a living in the age of TaskRabbit and computer-driven work schedules.

Aug 21, 2014
In this November 2012, file photo, posted on the website freejamesfoley.org, shows American journalist James Foley while covering the civil war in Aleppo, Syria. In a horrifying act of revenge for U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq, militants with the Islamic State extremist group have beheaded Foley — and are threatening to kill another hostage, U.S. officials say. (AP)

An American is beheaded. We’ll look at the ferocity of ISIS, and what to do about it.

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