Editorial Board 1999-2000
If a picture really is worth a thousand words, then the new anti-smoking campaign proposed by Health Minister Allan Rock should catapult us into a smoke-free country.
By the end of this year, the outer casing of cigarette packages could include one of 16 graphic photos depicting some of the side effects and diseases associated with tobacco use.
Pictures of diseased lungs and cancerous mouths could accompany the present textual warnings on Canadian brands of cigarettes, in the hopes of turning smokers off from the habit and deterring adolescents from acquiring the addiction in the first place.
This government action follows a long line of anti-smoking campaigns, which have yet to substantially curb the amount of people lighting up. However, this new strategy, based firmly on shock value, has cigarette companies complaining the government is infringing on their right to determine how their product is packaged. The question is, does the government really have the right to insist on this new graphic ad campaign?
Simply, yes. Every year, more and more smokers are admitted to hospitals with illnesses caused by tobacco use. Every year, the cost of treating these individuals goes up and causes an increased strain on an already crippled health care system.
Smoking has been identified as a habit which is extremely detrimental, not only to its consumers, but to those around them. In the better interest of Canada's overall health, the government has every right to begin a campaign which advertises the true repercussions of smoking.
Smokers who choose to continue smoking, despite the new packages, are not having any of their rights infringed upon at best, they are slightly inconvenienced, as they are forced to look at a disgusting picture every time they light up. And while the campaign's potential affect on current smokers is arguable, it may do the job on impressionable teenagers.
In a world where we are constantly bombarded with images, it seems as though the only messages which get across are those which are abnormal, or shocking enough to leave an impression.
The black and white warnings seen on today's packaging have had little to no affect and have become the butt of many jokes. In time, this pictorial warning may suffer the same fate. But, if this new idea can stop one more person from taking up the habit, is it not worth pursuing?
Lately, smokers have found themselves run out of restaurants, office buildings and even bars by the hand of government regulations. Forcing cigarette giants to comply to this new form of advertising may cause some concern over how far officials will go to stop the smoking boom.
The fact is, however, the current strategy isn't working. There is a need for new angles in the fight against tobacco addiction and society can't fault the government for trying.