Public Health

Suddenly I Don't Feel Like a Chili Dog Anymore


New York Times columnist Clyde Haberman is skeptical of a city health department plan to require icky pictures of smoke-damaged body parts (similar to the image on the right, which is from a British warning label) on signs wherever cigarettes are sold:

The photo is the latest idea from the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, part of its nonstop campaign to acquaint the citizenry with the wickedness of smoking. Show smokers right there at the checkout counter how much gunk coats their lungs and maybe they will reconsider plunking down that Hamilton for a pack of cigarettes. That's the theory.

You might have thought that by now, even the most benighted smoker must know that the habit is destructive, no matter how satisfying in the short term.

Even if we accept that smokers need more vivid reminders of where their habit may be leading, says Haberman, why should the rest of us suffer?

Under the proposed new regulations, anyone who goes to the corner store will have to look at blackened lungs and possibly more. An assistant health commissioner, Sarah B. Perl, was quoted in The Daily News as saying that people are going to see what cancer of the mouth and the throat look like.

Really now, is it necessary to be subjected to such photos when all you want is a carton of orange juice?

Far be it from me to defend the Big Apple's professional paternalists, but I think the idea is that the disgusting images will deter people from starting to smoke as well as encourage current smokers to quit. That's what New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley has in mind when he says "we need to balance" point-of-sale cigarette advertising "with some information that protects people." Information is not really the issue, of course, and neither is balance, especially since the pro-smoking images to which Farley objects are banned by the new federal tobacco law (although that provision may well be overturned on First Amendment grounds). The point is that every nonsmoker is a potential smoker and therefore needs to be pre-emptively harangued. Because you might make the wrong choice in the future, you do not have a right to buy your orange juice without looking at graphic depictions of what could happen if you do.

Haberman speculates about how far this principle might be carried:

Why not require pictures of morbidly obese people at candy counters, to show what too many Snickers bars can do? Or photos of clogged arteries at fast-food restaurants, to discourage orders of double cheeseburgers? To promote safe sex, graphic examples of Kaposi's sarcoma could be placed by condom racks. Displays of horribly diseased livers in liquor stores ought to deter people from drinking to excess.

Farley's resonse is not "don't be silly." It's more like "we'll get to that later." He tells Haberman, "I'm not prepared to think about things like that now."

NEXT: Your Stimulus Dollars at Work: Being Misspent!, Sez GAO

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  1. Stupid, pointless, and all it’s gonna do is desensitize people to pictures of tumors. Thomas Farley is an idiot.

  2. I’m assuming they will also have pictures of people who smoked and didn’t get some awful disease. It’s about balance, right?

  3. Actually, a chili dog sounds pretty good right about now.

  4. What kinds of pictures will they display at polling places?

  5. What kinds of pictures will they display at polling places?

    Chuck Schumer.

  6. This will surely convince both of the people in America who don’t know smoking is bad for you to not take up the habit if they happen to live in New York City.

  7. What kinds of pictures will they display at polling places?

    Chuck Schumer.

    Even better.

  8. What kinds of pictures will they display at polling places?

    Chuck Schumer.

    …with a pornographic caption by SugarFree.

    Thing is, no one will ever vote again.

  9. Reminds me of the ad campaign in the NYC Subways back when I lived up there showing people with yellowed faces covered with disgusting purplish lesions and a caption something like: “I bet you’d care more about hepatitis… if it was ALL OVER YOUR FACE!!!”

  10. Reminds me, though not via government fiat, of prolife gatherings that show pictures of aborted fetuses/babies. Just about everyone I met that weekend thought the pictures — billboards really — were counterprodcutive, including many prolifers. I wonder how many prochoicers think that was bad but this is good.

  11. And that’s not meant to be a threadjack.

  12. What kinds of pictures will they display at polling places?

    Chuck Schumer.

    …with a pornographic caption by SugarFree.

    Thing is, no one will ever vote again.

    No, the sad thing is the only person not deterred by this strategy would be Chuck Schumer. He’d be the deciding vote in every election!!!!

  13. He must be Canadian, In america, a person never has to wait till a tumor gets like that to have treatment.

  14. Even better.

    J sub, you fucking asshole…that is possibly the worst picture I’ve ever seen of Waxman, and that’s saying something. It’s hideous. OH GOD HE IS UGLIER THAN HEPHAESTUS

  15. I thought the scared-straight pics were part of that silliness that Obama signed recently? Enhh… it’s getting harder and harder to sort out which level of government wants to “save” me the most.

  16. I haven’t read the article yet, but the commercial picture to the right and title of the post are somewhat comical.

    No kidding you don’t want a chili dog. It looks like a chili dog is trying to eat that guys head!

    The stache and face fuzz deserve an honorable mention.

  17. They probably made him grow the ‘stache so he’d look more like what the average smoker in their heads.

  18. OK, that didn’t come out right… enh, whatever.

  19. I’m OK with this, as long as they put this picture on fat-people food.

  20. Wouldn’t a fat and happy person be an advertisement? I mean if they are fat they ate the food and if they are happy then the food was good. So fat + happy = good food!

    Just think of the Pillsbury dough boy.

  21. Who cares if people are desensitized. People make much more rational decisions when they are not freaked the fuck out. I say post all the nasty shit you want, let the people get used to it. Then the fear mongering will become less effective and people will stop making rash retarded decisions.

  22. > that is possibly the worst picture I’ve ever seen of Waxman, and that’s saying something. It’s hideous. OH GOD HE IS UGLIER THAN HEPHAESTUS

    But is he uglier than HEPATITIS?

    Seriously, the polling place pictures I envisioned were more abstract/symbolic — say, funhouse mirrors.

  23. My god what will they think of next? Amazing they worry about protecting children from seeing nakedness on tv, yet will show that nonsense in a store. Of the two, that picture is the more disturbing.

  24. What, no Clerks reference? Remember the guy brings the diseased lung and puts it on the counter? Turns out though he is a chewing gum representative.

  25. New regulation: Force all fast food and mini mart places to hire really obese cashiers and have them point to the fattiest item(s) being bought and say “OOOOH I love those!”

  26. If you were that guy, wouldn’t you be wearing a turtle-neck or something?

  27. “…with a pornographic caption by SugarFree.”

    I eagerly await the piece he writes that incorporates a fart fetish.

  28. “Just think of the Pillsbury dough boy.”

    I’m not fat. I just have big bones.

  29. Thing is, no one will ever vote again.



  30. …then post a picture of how many days the man will have to wait for tumor removal once we have socialized medicine in place – It’ll be a double wammy! “If you think smoking can kill you now…just wait. then wait some more” muuuuwhaaahhhaaa.

  31. It’ll be even more effective when they require 110db recorded wailing from the funerals of smokers to play in all places that sell cigarettes. That should help to make cigarettes unavailable anywhere but the black market educate people about the dangers of smoking.

  32. Bear Grease,

    I have touched on the subject, without devoting an entire piece to it.

  33. Seems like an okay idea to put pictures up of the consequences of using a given product. What’s the problem? Refined sugars, risky sex, tobacco: thinking twice or more about these things can’t hurt, can it?

    And I’d love to see such cautionary pix at polling places.

  34. Dammit, 30 some posts and NO ONE notes the disquieting existance of a DEPT of [Health &] MENTAL HYGIENE?

    Mental FUCKING Hygiene?

    In New FUCKING York City?

  35. That reminds me. It’s almost time for me to go to Manhattan for my annual cigar.

  36. Mental Hygiene in laymen’s terms? Brain Washing.

  37. To promote safe sex, graphic examples of Kaposi’s sarcoma could be placed by condom racks.

    Once saw a picture of an immune-deficient, HPV infected woman’s labia. It was covered, and I mean covered in papilloma warts. I’ve seen some gross stuff, but this almost made me lose my lunch.

    I’d wear rubbers even without the grossness, just to avoid the worst STD I know of.

  38. Seems like an okay idea to put pictures up of the consequences of using a given product.

    But it’s only acceptable is said product is the current most-vilified product. Once all the smokers are rounded up into re-education camps, then it’ll be time to go after the fatties.

  39. Shouldn’t that picture be captioned:

    “I got cancer in the UK and the rationing board voted to let this happen.”

  40. Buying Marlboro Lights in Malaysia brings these helpful hints right on the pack. I have one on my desk right now: a lovely color photograph of an advanced throat cancer.

    I should have collected the whole series when I was there a couple of weeks ago. Dammit!

  41. The right wing christian nuts do a similar thing in sunny san Diego. They drive a 16 wheel big rig with an aborted fetus on the side that says ” abortion kills.” and “jesus is lord” They’ve been fined and told its a road hazard.

    I saw it still parked along the 8 last time I was there in May.

    all that does is make me hat prolifers even more.

    Ugly pictures don’t stop people from doing stupid things.

    I had a “gore” board in my medical department depicting various injuries caused by dumb choices.

    Do you think that stopped anyone?




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