Cigarettes can kill you… what? No! Really?

It is the most monumental and historic and important announcement in the history of the world.  The federal government is going to require cigarette-makers, eventually, to post one of nine graphic images on its packages to warn Americans against the dangers of smoking.

Oh yeah, that’ll stop it.

The news was presented as landmark because it’s the first change in tobacco warnings in a quarter century. But what does that actually mean: That the federal government has pretty much done nothing to end the unhealthy scourge of smoking in a quarter century.

This despite medical reports showing the damage done to nonsmokers by secondhand smoke.

This despite statistics showing that 443,000 American die smoking-related deaths every year.

This despite the fact that smoking contributes to many chronic diseases that raise national health care costs. Smoking-related diseases led to $96 billion in health care costs last year, much of it paid by taxpayers

The color images, which made the morning shows, most newspapers and the nightly news, feature images from the real deal: a man with a large scar down his chest, breathing with an oxygen mask, a man blowing smoke through a tracheotomy hole in his throat.

Cigarette package messages haven’t changed much since 1966, two years after U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry first warned that cigarettes could be hazardous to your health.  It took two years for his warning to get on the packages. Current cig makers will get about the same amount of time to create new packages.

Twenty percent of the U.S. population is killing itself with cigarettes, and the biggest growth is in young people – 4,000 teens a day light up. The children don’t believe that cigarettes kill any more than they believe that sex produces babies.

Lawrence R. Deyton of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products told the Washingtoni Post that the campaign features images that people can’t forget, not images that people want to forget. That’s why they include a man in an oxygen mask but not one in a coffin.

“We’re trying to use a set of images here that speak to the widest population in the country,” he told the Post.

But the images that matter most are those kids see in videos, movies and on TV.

Until it becomes cool not to kill yourself with smoke, one can only hope that these new graphic pictures will be a warning and not just something to pass around on Facebook.

One can only hope.


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