Volume 94, Issue 62

Friday, January 12, 2000


Editorial Board 2000-2001

Fight fire with fire

Editorial Cartoon

Fight fire with fire

The issue of whether or not to light up has always been clearly divided in this country.

And depending on which side of the fence you sit, it's usually the case that your opinion is strong either way. A smoker's right to smoke vs. a non-smoker's right not to have noxious fumes blown into their immediate vicinity is a debate that has raged on, with non-smokers winning the war so far.

The days of smoking in the office are long gone. Cities like Toronto have even gone so far as to try and ban smoking altogether in bars and restaurants – traditional smokers' havens. Warning labels on cigarette packs themselves have gone from near-invisibility to absolute prominence. And recently, new legislation has taken an even tougher approach to warning labels with the use of graphic images on packs. The rationale to this being that a picture speaks a thousand words and an appeal to emotions must be made as well as an appeal to intellect.

With all this, you'd think anti-smokers would be partying well into the night in celebration of the strides their collective campaign has made.

But wait.

Controversy ignited when a relatively small group of former and now anti-smokers known as the Canadian Council for Non-smokers recently came out denouncing the new in-your-face approach. They are saying it is wrong insofar as using negative reinforcement will only drive people to smoke more. Instead, they are pushing for kinder, gentler warnings that stress the advantages of not smoking, all done with words and no pictures.

You'd have to figure a 40-member group of ex-smokers know a thing or two about the most effective means to quit smoking. But if they really think using slogans such as "Be a hero! Learn more about quitting" is going to do any sort of convincing, perhaps they should light up again to get back in touch with reality.

The CCN says the new labels are utterly disgusting. They're right. And this is the whole point.

You've got to believe a picture of a blackened lung may be just a little more effective at convincing people to quit than a meek, happy-go-lucky message.

Placing negative images on negative activities, such as smoking, seems to be a logical way of getting people to stop, especially when almost every other legal form of discouragement has already been taken.

Moreover, to bolster the anti-smoking campaign, Health Canada should look into getting positive role models to do things like TV commercials and advertisements. People like Vince Carter putting their name behind the cause is sure to do wonders.

The bottom line is that desperate times call for desperate measures and taking a hard-line stance with smokers is the only way for Health Canada to achieve its goal. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

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