Are new health warning labels on cigarette packages too graphic?

PHOENIX – Each Sunday, ABC15.com debuts an Arizona issue – along with two opposing sides on the topic.

Photographer: http://www.fda.gov

Don’t worry, you always have the opportunity to make comments at the bottom of the page. Yeah, your opinion matters, too.

This week we’re tackling the debate on whether or not the new health warning labels on cigarette packages are too graphic and disturbing.

Wayne Tormala, bureau chief of the Arizona Department of Health Service Bureau of Tobacco and Chronic Disease, says the FDA’s new, graphic warning labels are a proven way to educate smokers and others, including youth, about the dangers of tobacco use and encourage smokers to quit.

George Koodray with The Citizen’s Freedom Alliance, The Smoker’s Club, and The Metropolitan Society asks how everything got so carried away. He says the shocking images regrettably come as no surprise at a time when it’s open season on smokers.

So, are the new health warning labels on cigarette packages too graphic and disturbing? Please read below for two sides of the story.

“Warning labels represent milestone in fight against tobacco”
By Wayne Tormala, Bureau Chief
Arizona Department of Health Service Bureau of Tobacco & Chronic Disease

The large, graphic cigarette health warnings unveiled by the Food and Drug Administration represent a milestone in the fight against tobacco use in the United States.

The FDA’s new, graphic warning labels are a proven way to educate smokers and others, including youth, about the dangers of tobacco use and encourage smokers to quit. In implementing these, the U.S. will join 43 other countries that already require pictures or images on cigarette packs.

The evidence that warning labels work is solid and extensive. Research shows that large, pictorial warnings are effective in motivating smokers to quit, and the 1-800 number will direct smokers to the help they need to quit successfully. In Arizona, people who call the national 1-800 number will be redirected to the Arizona Smokers Helpline (ASHLine). ASHLine provides free help to quit to all Arizonans. It offers personalized quit coaching and free nicotine replacement therapies and is one of the most successful quitlines in the United States with a greater than 40% quit rate.

Arizona is already a national leader in tobacco control with a current smoking prevalence of just 13.5%. In 2010, more than 166,000 Arizonans quit using tobacco, as nearly one out of five smokers kicked their addiction.

Also remarkable: In addition to building healthier lives, reduced tobacco use brings much needed relief to Arizona’s economy. In a report published by Penn State University in April, 2010, it was estimated that the direct costs attributable to smoking in Arizona were in excess of $5 billion, including losses in workplace productivity ($1.3 billion), premature death ($1.9 billion), and treatment of disease ($1.8 billion). According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, every Arizonan’s individual tax burden from smoking-caused government expenditures is $539 per household.

ADHS’ Bureau of Tobacco and Chronic Disease and its many partners across the state have not taken their foot off the accelerator in preventing tobacco use among youth and reducing tobacco use among adults. The new warning labels from the FDA will be a great complement to our existing efforts in Arizona. Despite the strides we’ve made in Arizona, 6,800 people die in our state each year due to smoking. Tobacco use remains the number one preventable cause of death in the U.S., killing more than 400,000 Americans every year (1,200 per day). The FDA’s new warning labels are an important step in all of our efforts to reduce that toll.

“How did everything get so carried away?”
By George Koodray
U.S. assistant director of The Citizen’s Freedom Alliance, The Smoker’s Club and president of The Metropolitan Society, America’s oldest private cigar club

The smoking debate in America has been an interesting one indeed. For the fervor against smoking has sent a number of American concepts falling by the wayside in a very big way in recent years. It’s things like choice, freedom and private property, yes private property, to name a few, that immediately come to mind. And, as is usually the case when it comes to the encroachment on smokers’ rights, not a lot running to our defense.

The most recent installment is shocking, graphic advertising that attempt to scare the wits out of us in an effort to save us smokers from ourselves. These kinds of images are not unfamiliar in the New York area, thanks to the efforts us former smoker and current mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Anti-smokers, not content with all of the messaging and severe warnings that they’ve succeeded in getting onto tobacco packaging in recent years, have decided that we all need more: shocking, graphic photos and other images of the frightening physical damage that smoking can cause.

As much as I have been involved with the debate, I think this issue was best encapsulated by my daughter a few weeks ago, who, when she saw one of these commercials asked me (without provocation, mind you) ”doesn’t everyone know that smoking isn’t good for you?” Yes, they do. But, not satisfied with all of the restrictions on businesses that have been imposed by local governments, the stern warnings on tobacco products and all of the accommodations made for scowling anti-smokers, the opposition had to go further.

Originally, the debate began, as most do in the public arena, with a completely different spirit. It was about “second hand smoke.” Remember that? Our leaders were most concerned about those upon whom smoke was being involuntarily imposed. Not all of the science agreed on the impact of second hand smoke, but the “accommodation” since has not been separated rooms, ventilation, you name it. It’s pretty much been wholesale bans, across the board, sometimes even for entire city limits.

Lost in all of the chatter now are principles such as the freedom people have to consume a perfectly legal product (which does much to fill government coffers in taxes). And, since the acrimony is directed against smokers, not many others will be quick to come to their defense. And, at the same time, we’ve been lulled into a dangerous new subtlety, the phrase “places of public accommodation,” which is often interchangeably used with “public places.” I don’t know about you, but the last time I looked a restaurant, or a bar or any other privately owned establishment is, well, private property.

So, while the images are shocking, regrettably they come as no surprise at a time when it’s open season on smokers and there’s no apparent limit as to the catch. Just imagine if these bomb throwers attempted to target with these kinds of images those who are overweight and may be vulnerable to the nation’s leading killer, heart disease, which is largely attributable to our diets.

Read the article online here.

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