Graphic New Images Proposed for Cigarette Package Warnings

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New images just unveiled by the  Health and Human Services Department intended for cigarette packages are pretty graphic. "WARNING: Cigarettes are addictive" may appear next to a photo of a person exhaling smoke through a hole in his throat. The words "Cigarettes cause fatal lung disease" are paired with a shot of feet peaking out from under a covering at the morgue, complete with tag on the toe. First reactions are already in, gossip and humor sites beating some of the more standard evaluations to the table. But the commentary even from these sites, on this occasion, veers into the serious:

  • 'It's Like the United Nations of Tobacco Victims,' writes The Awl's Alex Balk. "They're all here: hole-in-the-throat guy, child at risk, toe-tag dude, skeletal cancer man, preemie, zipper-chest fella, weepy lady." His review:
I'll tell you what: As a smoker, I have no objection to this. I know I'm going to die. (So are you, non-smokers!) I don't have any illusions that when I'm drawing that sweet nicotine into my lungs I'm actually doing something healthy for myself. So this is fine. I'm happy to see a little extra graphic design on my pack of cigarettes. It's pretty bland right now, it'll be nice for them to shake things up a bit.
  • 'No Design Breakthroughs Here,' agrees Gawker's John Cook. (He dubs "that guy with the hole in his throat," among others, "familiar," and "basic 'smoking is very bad' messaging.") But while bemoaning the lack of "cool" new campaign ideas, he does add a "quit smoking" message at the end of the post.
  • 'Poorly-Designed, Depressing'  Some of them look "downright amateurish," complains Ernie Smith at Shortformblog, "like they just got a bunch of random stock photos to use."
  • Interesting  "The FDA is asking for public comment before it narrows [the contenders] down to nine," writes New York Magazine's Nitasha Tiku. "Here is a comment: How did you get Garry Trudeau to do that cigarette-in-the-vein illustration? Kudos."
  • 'The Nanny-State Moves Into Its Self-Parody Phase'  "The message here is clear," writes Daniel Foster at National Review:
1) Your government believes that you are an idiot and a child. 2) Your government knows what is best for you. 3) Defy your government at your own (mortal) peril.
  • 'Sure Isn't Pretty'  But Politics Daily's Tom Kavanagh adds that the HHS also "called the new warnings 'the most significant change in more than 25 years' in cigarette packages and advertising." The public will have until January 9 to comment on the offerings. Then the FDA will "select nine final warning statements and images by June 22, 2011. The regulation will go into effect Sept. 22, 2012."
  • 'Will They Work?'  NPR's Scott Hensley writes that "some research shows that bold graphic warnings do a better job than text alone in communicating risks and affecting behavior." Yet, at the same time, "the scare tactics can sometimes backfire." He points to other research showing that reminders of death actually made well-established smokers smoke more. (See Wire coverage of the matter here.)

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.