Wednesday, June 22, 2011

In Light of Federally Mandated Graphic Cigarette Pack Images, Here Are a Bunch of Cool Ideas

Starting in the fall of 2012, the FDA is going to require that cigarette manufacturers cover the top half of their cigarette packages with one of nine graphic, anti-smoking images. Those images range from a depiction of the post-autopsy corpse of a former smoker, smoke-blackened lungs, smoke emerging from a tracheotomy hole in a man’s neck and a grisly mouth with a gross sore on the lower lip and mottled or outright missing teeth.

Image credit: FDA/USA Today

The stated goal of the graphicness is shock people and hopefully reduce the number of smokers, maybe prevent some kids from picking up the habit. “These labels are frank, honest and powerful depictions of the health risks of smoking,” Kathleen Sebelius, the Health and Human Services secretary told USA Today.

This got me to thinking about other things we citizens do, eat and see in everyday life that a variety of experts and governmental types of folks are constantly saying are either bad for us or are things about which we need to be very, very careful because we’re none too bright as a whole and need more guidance from the Health and Human Services secretary. If we applied the same rationale that’s being used here with these cigarette images – taxing the heck out of cigarettes and making us all look at disgusting images of what could happen to a person if he or she smokes every time we enter gas stations and convenience stores – to other products, think of how much good similarly graphic warnings could do to help our fellow Americans make “wiser” lifestyle and health choices?

Motor Vehicles

How often do we hear that one of the most dangerous places to be is behind the wheel of a car? There are 1.4 million traffic accidents every year, the Washington Post reported. Since it’s in our interest as an overall society to cut down on injuries and deaths sustained in motor vehicle accidents, perhaps the government should require that the front half of motor vehicles themselves feature one of a handful of graphic images of car crash victims, mangled vehicles and dying polar bears (because of the pollution emitted by cars)? As with the corpse on the cigarette packs, the explicit car images – maybe someone who’s lost a limb from a car crash, a cell phone on the ground amid broken glass and spattered with blood -- could encourage people to drive more carefully and think about what they’re doing when they take to the roads. Maybe it'd get them to stop texting and driving.

Cheeses, Cheesecakes & Ice Cream
We’ve been hearing repeatedly from health officials and the First Lady about how fat we are as a society. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 34 percent of Americans over 20 are overweight and 34 percent are obese. Among children, 18 percent of 12-19-year-olds are obese and 20 percent of 6-11-year-olds are obese. The well meaning folks working with the federal government and many state governments want you to eat more broccoli, damn it, and less of the fatty stuff which’ll clog your arteries, cause heart problems and cost the United States a bundle in terms of health care costs.

So why not try to dissuade people from eating some of the fattiest stuff on the market like dairy products such as cheese, cheesecakes and ice cream? Imagine graphic images of fat – both in the human form (say, people with rolls of fat) and fat that's been sucked out from under the skin by liposuction machines and dumped into a bucket – being plastered on half of the packages of ice cream, blocks of cheese, boxes of cream cheese and cheesecakes? Maybe, as with the smoke-blackened lungs, images of overstressed and enlarged hearts could appear on packages as well. Hmm, what else? Overweight people lying on a gurney – a la the corpse in the cigarette image – killed by too much Ben & Jerry’s?

Red meats, junk food and fast food could be next on the food hit list. Think of the graphic, grotesque visual possibilities that could be employed to socially engineer a society where we’re made sick to our stomach simply by looking at packages of food that are deemed “unhealthy” for us to consume!

Beer, Wine & Liquor Bottles

How could I forget the other big “sin” product category which goes hand-in-hand with cigarettes? The National Institutes for Health says that 17.6 million Americans are either full blown alcoholics or have “alcohol problems.” Not only could the government borrow some vomit-inducing images from the safe driving campaign featuring motor vehicle accidents (mentioned above), they could focus on vivid images of car crashes caused by drunk drivers, as well as hideous pictures of livers destroyed by drinking. The government could also feature unattractive, severe close-ups of red, bulbous noses next to a giant snifter of scotch. And, in keeping with the corpse theme, there could be a corpse on a gurney with a beer bottle tucked under one arm after a "not so-Happy Hour."


Didn’t we all learn some important lessons from former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner on the dangers of texting sexually oriented (and naked) images of oneself to others on the internet and how quickly one loses control over those images?

Well some young and impressionable teens might not yet have gotten that message and may very well destroy their reputations by making unwise choices by sending images of themselves partially clothed or nude to others. The latest statistics I could find on teens sexting came from CNN which, citing a national survey of American teens, found that 15 percent of those teens with cell phones received nude or semi-nude pictures via text message and 4 percent admitted sending them.

A possible way to address this problem? Have the federal government step in and protect the teens from themselves (and from their negligent parents) by mandating that all cell phones, BlackBerries, iPhones and even iPads bear images of some of Rep. Weiner’s salacious Twitter photos next to the photo of him giving his resignation speech to remind the young and impressionable that sexting isn’t good and can have unanticipated consequences. The caption could saying something like, “Sexting isn’t sexy and it costs a lot more than you think.”


Our former president, George W. Bush almost met his maker in 2002 when he “fell off a sofa after passing out briefly from having choked on a pretzel while watching a National Football League playoff game on TV,” according to news reports.
Clearly, pretzels are dangerous and the government needs to do something to let us know just how dangerous they can be. If a president, protected by the Secret Service, could choke on one and be at risk, surely lowly civilians could too. Therefore I suggest the government folks consider putting photos of George W. Bush and, perhaps a photo of a gnawed pretzel on all pretzel bags while urging American consumers that we need to thoroughly chew the snacks before swallowing and that we should strictly avoid eating if we’re drowsy.

Got any more suggestions? We could be a world filled with graphic photos warning us about every danger around every corner with only the helpful, gross-out images, courtesy of the government, to guide us down the correct path.

Image credit: FDA via USA Today.

1 comment:

Dan Cronenberg said...

Actually, tobacco companies attacked the FDA's decision so I don't know if this is going to happen, at least not this Fall.

The new rule was unconstitutional anyway, it's not fair to force companies to display that kind of imagery on their products. You think they're that harmful? BAN THEM!