Thursday, June 23, 2016

Should Cigarette Pack Labels Include Grotesque Images?

One way to get smokers to quit smoking, according to authorities in Australia, is to make cigarette packaging as unattractive as possible. In 2012, Australia commissioned a market research company to find the most unattractive color. Today, cigarette packs in Australia are a green-brown color known as “color 448c”. The packs are emblazoned with photos of the potential damage caused by smoking, along with messages such as “smoking kills” and “smoking doubles your risk of a stroke” displayed in letters larger than the brand names themselves. According to Australian authorities, the new packaging (new since 2012) is at least partly responsible for a steady decline in smoking in Australia. Other countries, including France and Britain, have taken note of Australia’s success and are planning to do develop their own similar rules for cigarette pack labels.

Attempts by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require large warning labels and grotesque images on cigarette packs in the U.S have been blocked by lawsuits brought by tobacco companies. The tobacco companies argue that under the First Amendment right to free speech, they have a right to advertise their products without having the government use the companies’ packaging to carry the government’s anti-smoking message. In this country at least, our First Amendment rights to free speech trump the government’s interest in changing behaviour. The FDA is working on new cigarette pack labelling requirements that will pass muster with the courts, but that will take some time.

What do you think? Should cigarette packs in the U.S. carry prominent, grotesque images?

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