Nanny State

Evidently Smoking Is Bad for You


Last fall I noted that the Food and Drug Administration was considering 36 different designs for the new, bigger, illustrated cigarette warning labels required by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. Today it unveiled the nine it has settled on, which will begin appearing on cigarette packages in September 2012. It's a pretty undistinguished group. This is the best one. It's not great, but at least the image is striking and apt.

The rest are about what you'd expect from a day's work using Google image search or a clip art program: icky brown lungs next to healthy pink lungs above the warning that "cigarettes cause fatal lung disease," a businessman in an oxygen mask next to "cigarettes cause strokes and heart disease," a dead body showing that "smoking can kill you," etc. Especially weak: a bald (but living!) dude in an "I Quit" T-shirt to demonstrate that "quitting smoking now greatly reduces serious risks to your health" and a generic crying woman who could be personifying any misfortune to illustrate "tobacco smoke causes fatal lung disease in nonsmokers." I'm not sure why the dead smoker has an autopsy zipper down his chest (wasn't it obvious what killed him?), why the FDA went with a mildly alarming mouth lesion to illustrate "cigarettes cause cancer" instead of, say, a face horribly disfigured by cancer surgery or a bald, emaciated cancer patient (one of the original contenders), or why it settled for a comic-book-style drawing of a baby in an incubator instead of a photo to go with "smoking during pregnancy can harm your baby." At least the FDA took my advice and ditched the guy who seemed to be simultaneously suffering a stroke and a heart attack (or possibly a migraine and indigestion).

As I said in November, the impact of the new labels will be impossible to track, since they are being introduced nationwide simultaneously, smoking rates have been declining more or less steadily for decades, and other factors that would be expected to discourage smoking (such as higher cigarette taxes and ever-stricter smoking bans) are coming into play at the same time. But the new labels do prove that the FDA is about as good at hectoring us as a moderately intelligent 10-year-old.

NEXT: Congress Moves to Ban Frankenfish

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  1. Quit Smoking or Die!

    1. I want to see the truth come out from the Tobacco industry:

      1 in 3 smokers will die from smoking related illness, sadly the two that won’t are named Barack Obama and John Boehner.

      1. Or a new slogan:

        “Only the good die young; be a bad ass with Marlboros.”

  2. Reminds of Denis Leary’s No Cure for Cancer. He said something like you could make the whole fucking pack the warning label and smokers would be lined up around the block to get them.

    1. You’re thinking of Bill Hicks

  3. They have warnings like this in Canada. Didn’t think twice about buying them when I was there for business.

    1. In Phase Two, we’re going to coat the packs with micro-encapsulated poison ivy sap.

    2. And at least cloves aren’t illegal there (they must really hate their children).

  4. I smoke and I will not even notice the images except to maybe doodle all over them to make something diff.

    The Feds are a waste of space.

  5. What, no Shepard Fairey pack?

    1. “Hope” springs eternal.

  6. Bonus smoking pictures with every pack! COLLECT ALL 9!

    1. This right here is an EXCELLENT idea!

  7. Everybody knows smoking is harmful. Why are we even bothering with this?

    At this point, instead of this silliness, why don’t cigarette haters just take the next small step and make the damn things illegal?

    We know they kill people. We know you are itching to outlaw them. Just pull the trigger already. Be honest. Tell us what we already know: You want to control this behavior.

    1. They’re addicted to the tax revenue.

      1. Yeppers.

  8. If you don’t like cigarettes, don’t smoke them.

  9. If they were actually interested in bringing down the smoking rate, and with that the number of tobacco-related diseases and deaths, they’d allow tobacco companies to tell the truth about how e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco are 99% less hazardous than smoking.

    Too bad that’s never going to happen.

  10. I’m just wondering which of these pictures will be the one high school guys make sure to keep on the outside when they reach for a cig, to show everyone how badass they are.

    If you really want to cut down on teen smoking, you should mandate that every pack be pink and purple with fluffy bunnies all over it.

    1. And emitting classical music.

  11. These will fill the gaps in my Negro Misfortune and White Dudes: The Fattening decks.

    1. +1000 – I just about fell off my chair laughing.

  12. Pelosi don’t lie: we really did need to pass it to find out what’s in it.

    President Barack Obama’s health care law would let several million middle-class people get nearly free insurance meant for the poor, a twist government number crunchers say they discovered only after the complex bill was signed.

    The change would affect early retirees: A married couple could have an annual income of about $64,000 and still get Medicaid, said officials who make long-range cost estimates for the Health and Human Services department.

    Up to 3 million more people could qualify for Medicaid in 2014 as a result of the anomaly. That’s because, in a major change from today, most of their Social Security benefits would no longer be counted as income for determining eligibility. It might be compared to allowing middle-class people to qualify for food stamps.

  13. Like most addictions, one can bet the user is all too aware of the risks, the highs and the circumstances of why they continue to use. Ultimately no amount of images can get someone to put away a cancer torch to their lips until they themselves are ready to finally move on. Then again knowing your teeth are cracking and capitulating could be enough of a push to get some going, or perhaps not?…..ou-or-not/

  14. Don’t let people who smoke get any public assistance for smoking related disorders.
    Don’t buy from insurance from companies that treat people who smoke (after they’ve agreed not too).
    It wasn’t that long ago that people whose livers crapped out couldn’t get help if they drank. Until Larry Hagman and Mickey Mantle.

    1. Hurr durr hurr durr hurr!

  15. Would like quick survey amongst all the Republicans here…



    Want to profit from Intrade-trage.

    1. Paul or Johnson. Probably Paul, as he looks most likely to be around for the Florida primary.

      I’m usually only “Republican” for primary purposes. Unless Paul or Johnson (or some other libertarianish candidate to be named later) is the nominee, I’ll likely vote LP.

      1. thanks.

        The Far Right hates Romney – other than that this is a complete goatfuck.

        I have no idea.

        1. Funny how much Team Blue hate-fuck there’s been over Mormons lately… except for Huntsman and Harry Reid. It’s okay if THEY are Mormons, of course.

        2. You are so investment-savvy.

    2. Paul. I’ll vote for him in the primary.

      Johnson is my #2. I’ll vote Republican in the general election, but that doesn’t mean I’ll like the candidate. It just means than anyone is better than the statist we have now.

    3. Cain will win the nomination. Never underestimate the magical negro theory.

      1. Two black men facing off for the American presidency and yet, we’dstill all be racist.

        1. Especially when I vote for the LP candidate. Unless the LP could nominate Walter Williams….

    4. Johnson.

      I think of that group Cain & Bachmann may actually have the best shot at the nomination, though.

    5. I’m not a Republican but I registered as on so that I could vote for Ron Paul in ’08. As I haven’t changed my registration back, I’m going to cast my worthless, useless vote for Gary Johnson, who will be long-gone by the time the NM primaries take place next June.

      If, by some miracle, Paul or Johnson gets picked for the #2 slot then I’ll vote R in the general election. Otherwise I’ll vote LP.

      After 2012 I’m done voting, as it makes no sense to cast a vote in a one-party election.

      … Hobbit

      1. I’m not a Republican but I registered as on so that I could vote for Ron Paul in ’08. As I haven’t changed my registration back, I’m going to cast my worthless, useless vote for Gary Johnson…

        Yup. My scenario too, unless Paul actually looks like he has a longshot chance at taking the Florida primary, in which case I’ll vote for him.

        Then, another pointless LP vote in the general. Unless Root gets on the ticket again – I’d probably have to sit that one out.

        1. Looks like we’re of the same opinion.

          I feel cheapened by voting for Barr last time. I won’t make that mistake again.

          … Hobbit

    6. Cain and Newt are nutjob bigots against Muslims.

      Paul and Johnson have no chance and Paul is a terrible speaker and too old.

      I don’t particularly trust T’Paw or Romney but I think they have the best chance of beating Obama probably.

      Santorum actually performed well at the debates but he’s on my eternal shit list. Bachmann actually has been doing well. I know nothing about Huntsman other than that he’s lackadaisically Mormon.

      So — I’d say Romney at this point. Not happy about it though. Can’t Bob Barr come back and run?

      1. Exactly my confusion! Its a goatfuck for now!

        1. Assuming you’re serious, shrike, you might consider ignoring the top two candidates and go after the “field”. Consider all the times a “nobody” has come out of left field to become the nominee – Reagan, Carter & Clinton come to mind. Obama wasn’t exactly the odds on favorite at this point in the 2008 race, either.

          I ignored the top two – Perry & Romney, and looked at the next ten declared candidates and their current prices, then calculated what a $10 bet would bring assuming no vig.

          Pawlenty – 9.6% – $104.17
          Huntsman – 9.8% – $102.04
          Bachmann – 8.4% – $119.05
          Palin – 4.4% – $227.27
          Cain – 2.0% – $500.00
          Paul – 2.0% – $500.00
          Giuliani – 1.6% – $625.00
          Christie – 1.5% – $666.67
          Santorum – 0.7% – $1,428.57
          Johnson – 0.5% – $2,000.00

          Pawlenty, Huntsman & Bachmann would get your money back, and the rest would bring a nice profit.

      2. Yeah, as much as Santorum makes me cringe with his cristfaggery (to adopt shriek’s term), he was the only one with the balls to fully endorse Paul Ryan’s plan all while looking at the 100+ year old woman with the disappearing jaw sitting in the front three rows in the last debate.

  16. “smoking rates have been declining more or less steadily for decades”

    Nuh-uh! The FDA Weasel-In-Charge was on NPR News this evening and she (“Dr.” somebody) said that smoking rates have leveled off (thereby necessitating more action). Who are we to believe: Mr. Sullum or the Official FDA Weasel?

    1. You can be declining and leveling off at the same time.

      1. Asymptote much?

  17. But the new labels do prove that the FDA is about as good at hectoring us as a moderately intelligent 10-year-old.

    When I was in 4th grade, we had to draw comics illustrating why drugs, alcohol, and/or smoking were bad, mkay. They were about on par with this material. I won second place for my riveting work depicting a man who coughed to death.

    1. When I was in 4th grade, the teachers had their own personal smoking lounge. You could literally smell the freedom.

      1. We had smoking room (Seniors Only, please!) when I was in high school.

        Yeah, I’m that fucking old.

      2. My first real job out of college was at a hospital in 1988. There was a smoking room on property with luxurious chairs and massive nicotine stains on the ceiling.

  18. In 20 years, smokers will be treated like Neo-Nazis. Mark my words.

    1. They are now in the U.S.
      Ironically, not so much in Germany.

    2. Google “the anti-tobacco campaign of the Nazis”

  19. where is my skull and crossbones and poison label?

  20. I am waiting for an enterprising cigarette company to actually incorporate the grotesque warning label into the whole package design and call them “death sticks” or something to illegally market them towards goth/emo teenagers and alike. The danger/life sucks/i don’t give a fuck sort of angle.

    In Ontario up north, they banned that crystal skull vodka for the exact same “appeal” I am talking about, lol.

    1. You’re about 20 years behind the times. There actually was a “Death” brand of cigarettes:

  21. On a related topic, it turns out that no-smoking signs may lead to MORE smoking, not LESS, according to research my colleagues and I conducted at Yale University — … The signs boosted craving in smokers whether they consciously noticed them or not. Here’s a link to an article about this finding:…..ttes-more/

    1. That’s a point and a feature of this law, not a bug. Lawmakers know anti-smoking campaigns encourage smoking. Lawmakers get sweet sweet tax lucre from cig sales. Therefore, they are all about encouraging activities to increase their sweet sweet lucre.

      1. I would love to see a study of this…a real scientific study. Is it true that smoking (or at least nicotine sales) increases during an uptick in anti-smoking advertising or signage? This would be a very important study if controlled well.

        1. the study is under review right now in a scientific journal — the reported results are from a conference presentation. an abstract of the presentation is available here:…..on_priming

    2. I quit after smoking for 20 years, the only reasons being that I didn’t like being an addict and I got into martial arts and smoking will kill your endurance in a sparring or grappling match.

      That said, the only thing that ever makes me want to start again is to give a big “fuck you” to all the nannies out there who want to control what people do with their bodies.

  22. Yeah, I don’t know how I quit smoking last year WITHOUT the benefit of these groovy new pics.

    I can’t get over how helpful the Federal Gummint is to us citizens. Shore am glad they cares so much about my healf. God Bless Brock Obumma.

    1. Over 20…shoot….almsot 30 years of smoking, down the drain. I just quit one day.

      Still got the half pack of Marlboros? and my Zippo? with the anarchy sign sitting on the counter where I set them when I came home the day I quit.

      Maybe I’ll start again when I’m pretty sure I’m headed toward imminent death, just to be an asshole. Yeah, I like that idea!

      1. Maybe I’ll start again when I’m pretty sure I’m headed toward imminent death, just to be an asshole

        Yeah, I’ve been saying for several years now that I’m going to resume smoking on my 80th birthday* just to piss “them” off. I figure the health effects don’t kick in for twenty years or so and no way in hell that I’m making it to 100, anyway, so why not?

        … Hobbit

        *Assuming they’re still available in 22 years.

        1. I can hook you up.

  23. I predict a resurgence in chic, 30s-era cigarette cases. I may be wrong.

  24. Thisis absolute bullshit. What are the odds that we’ll see accident pictures on doors of GM cars? They kill too. Tens of thousands of people every year.

    Fuck the state.

    1. Strangely, the interviewer on NPR this evening did not mention that scenario to the FDA Weasel. I was thinking gruesome pictures on jars of mayonnaise, myself.

      1. Liquor lables too.

        1. Potato chips, bacon, soda pop…


  25. And birth control pills, which don’t protect against STD’s. You know a big cunt sore on the pack.

    1. Grandpa is grumpy tonight.

      1. I don’t post at Reason often (though nearly read it all including H&R), but this just pisses me off.

  26. Police cars should be forced to have a photo of the result of a dead victim of a SWAT raid, with the caption, “Government Kills”.

  27. Here’s some science. That one 120 year old French hag (famous for being world’s oldest person) smoked daily. Europe and Asia have markedly higher rates of smoking, yet most also have longer average life spans than Americans. Smoking is also correlated with lower obesity rates.

    Why does the government want us to live shorter, fatter lives? This is death panels in action.

    1. Its the wine.

      1. It’s also the relative lack of highly processed foods, frankenfats, etc. Saturated fat is good for you.

  28. “Evidently smoking is bad for you”

    Why am I always the last to know!?

    1. Yo,…

  29. Why do you give a shit, shrike? You’re just gonna swallow the choad for Obama again, like you did in Aught Eight.

  30. By the way… most of the most virulent anti-smokers are liberals.

  31. Time to buy a cigarette case I guess.

  32. At what point (if not already) are people going to just stop believing the overblown anti-smoking propaganda?

    Don’t get me wrong; I watched my grandmother die from smoking-related lung cancer, and it was horrible. But I’ve also known dozens of smokers in my life, and have never met one with teeth falling out, laryngectomies, or any of these pictured maladies. Smokers are going to look at this and maybe shiver a little before lighting up again. People who know smokers are going to look at this and eventually think, “why haven’t I seen this before in real life? Is this just propaganda?”

    Am I just isolated in that I have never seen these kinds of visible health problems in smokers?

    1. Note that I’m referring here to the “gross” pictures, not the ones with insipid platitudes backed up with vague photos.

    2. Totally. The over-the-top mischaracterizations of the effects of smoking, coupled with the total non-credibility of government in general. I’m a skeptic. I honestly doubt government claims about the negative health effects of smoking.

      Couple that with the fact that the oldest person ever recorded smoked daily, and that countries such as Austria, Japan, Switzerland, and Greece smoke like chimneys, yet have life expectancies exceeding that of the US, and I don’t know why more people aren’t questioning this “commonly accepted knowledge that smoking is harmful”.

      And no, pictures intended to shock/annoy/gross me out aren’t going to change my conclusion. Only reinforce it.

      1. I think the health risks are overstated. Yes cigarettes do have negative effects on one’s body–common sense should tell you that setting something on fire and inhaling the fumes is not good for you–but it is human nature to seek immediate gratification and not worry too much about something that may happen in 30 or 40 or 50 years. At least half of all smokers will not die due to smoking and other factors–proper nutrition, exercise, genetics, etc–can ameliorate the negative effects of smoking, esp. if it is in moderation (e.g. 10 cigarettes or less per day).

        To be effective anti smoking campaigns should focus not on long term consequences but on immediate benefits of quitting–saving money, lower insurance premiums, not being a slave to addiction, smelling better, etc.

        1. ^ This. When I quit, the motivations were primarily to save money and smell better. I switched to nicotine lozenges and save about $20/week (Newports w/Iowa taxes vs. Wal-mart brand lozenges) and smell like a champ.

          I have no plan to quit the lozenges, because I could give a shit about being a “slave to addiction”, but the immediate, practical benefits of quitting have been pretty great.

          Still though, I agree with others, when I see this kind of shit, it really makes me want to go buy a carton and smoke the shit of ’em just because I can, dammit.

  33. I can’t believe they missed …

    “WARNING: Kissing a smoker is like licking a dirty ashtray.”

    1. That goes in both directions. I’ve gotten laid many times while smoking–it tends to send a message that you like to have a good time and are not a prude.

      1. If she smokes, she pokes.

        1. “WARNING: Smoking causes sexually transmitted disease.”

  34. The government’s products kill more people than tobacco does. And most of those people did not make a conscious decision to expose themselves to harm, unlike people who smoke cigarettes.

  35. Cigarette cases will become popular again for sure. An arms race between smokers and government. Maybe even these versions will send some sort of message.

  36. The FDA, as with most other governmental organs and departments, is morally indefensible. I’m still waiting for the day those fuckbags get fired and the FDA is abolished entirely.

    On a more direct note, I know many smokers who literally don’t give a shit about the labels; most of them say they’re not morons, and do it while aware of the risks, and that they don’t need the government to babysit them. Most of the rest just aren’t affected at all.

  37. Those warnings are ridiculous, I used to smoke, I never had a hole in my throat, my teeth were never that ugly, and the only inconvenience I experienced was having to go outside (now even “outside” isn’t safe anymore).

  38. This is a great example of life imitating art. a 2005 movie, “Thank You For Smoking” was about this exact topic, and now the government has taken the idea and run with it.

  39. The government has gone far beyond requiring warnings which are necessary to make people aware they’re buying something dangerous, and is simply compelling private companies to provide it with free advertising space to their own detriment. How is this sort of forced speech not a clear First Amendment violation?

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  42. You mean the government is doing the same thing advertisers have been doing for decades? Bout time. Might seem stupid, but I bet it gets results.

  43. What about the environmental damage caused by the use of massive amounts of ink to print these labels? Maybe the EPA will step in and put a halt to it.

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