More and more countries in the world are now getting into the act and putting warning labels on tobacco products. The idea stems from the fact that as smokers look into the labels they are reminded of the gory scenes that could happen as long as they stick into the addiction. Smoking is known to be a health hazard and one of the greatest killers in modern times.
Smoking kills. We all know that. But, did you know that smoking kills more people that drugs, murder, accidents and even alcohol combined. The World Health Organization thinks that by the end of this century, if nothing is done to push for lower smoking rates, there would be a billion people getting killed since the start of the 20th century. So, in 200 years, there would be a billion lives wasted by smoking perhaps the most dangerous burning object known to man.
Over in Indonesia, the country has been the newest one that adopted a measure to showcase the gory and utterly grotesque images of cancer-ridden lungs and even rotting teeth to highlight the health risks that are associated to smoking. The idea is perhaps to address the looming smoking problem in the country. The Indonesian law mandates that 40 percent of the packet label should be filled with the gory images. It is the fervent hope of Indonesian authorities that the graphics would discourage nonsmokers from picking up the addiction and to enlighten the minds of smokers to find ways to quit the addiction forever.
There is a pending legislation in the Philippines where tobacco companies will be mandated to put graphics on the labels of their products. Once the bill now pending in both chambers of the Philippine Congress, seeks to put the graphics on the lower part of the packets. Anti-smoking advocates in the country, however, said that putting the graphics on a very unsavory position will defeat the purpose of scaring smokers so that they will think of quitting and also to discourage the non-smokers and young people to take up the habit and getting embroiled with the addiction.
It is said that the United States could have a million fewer smokers today if the warning labels were reinforced by graphics. Canada introduced the graphic labels 10 years before the US did. A study made by University of Illnois and University of Wateloo said that there would have been a dramatic decrease in US smoking rates currently stands at 18 percent. This means that there are about 41 million Americans that are smoking despite widespread information about health risks.
The Canadian experience tells us that after introducing the graphic labels, the country experienced 2.9 to 4.7 percentage point drop in smoking rates. This means that it could have translated to 5.3 to 8.6 million smokers in the US, if the same results are obtained.
The FDA also gauged the effectiveness of Canada’s graphic label shame campaign to be only 0.088 percent effective. This means that the graphic labels only provided a 0.088 percent drop in smoking.
The FDA, said the study, has methodological flaws. The study saw that the graphic labeling had bigger quit rates that previously thought. The study proved that the FDA grossly underestimated the power of the graphic labels in helping smokers make the choice and quit smoking forever.
While most experts think that tobacco control can only be achieved by raising the prices, graphic warnings can also accelerate the drop in the smoking rates. The FDA made an attempt to put warning labels on tobacco products. But, in a perceived victory of Big Tobacco a judge ruled against putting the labels on tobacco products since FDA data show that putting graphic labels have no real impact on smoking rates.
Currently, US-based cigarette packets do not have graphics and grotesque pictures following the court decision barring the FDA from ordering Big Tobacco to do so. The FDA chose not to contest the court’s decision all the way to the Supreme Court. Latest word is that the FDA is finding new ways to put stronger messages on the warning labels that are currently featured in the cigarette packets.