Buying Cigarettes
I came - I saw - I bought

Getting graphic on cigarette packs not the answer

From the time we are young we are taught that smoking is bad. It's made pretty clear in a number of places, from teachers and parents to billboards and quit-line commercials on TV and the radio.

To slap a photo of diseased lungs next to a healthy set of lungs, or a picture of a sewn-up corpse on a package of cigarettes, is not the answer to helping people quit and it's downright distasteful.

Smoking is distasteful, you may say. However, it is legal and people have that right. So where do we draw the line with government intervention?

What is next - a picture of an enlarged liver overtaken by cirrhosis on a bottle of booze; graphic images of someone suffering a heart attack on a box of French fries; a lipless man on chewing tobacco lids; photos of a person being ejected from a vehicle on seatbelts; fingerless men attempting to point back at the user lighting the fuse on bottle rockets; a destitute person on casino slot machines?

Four tobacco companies want a judge to put a stop to these nine new graphic cigarette labels approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the labels in June. Tobacco companies must have them in place by the fall of 2012.

The cigarette makers say the warnings violate their free speech rights.

"Never before in the United States have producers of a lawful product been required to use their own packaging and advertising to convey an emotionally-charged government message urging adult consumers to shun their products," the companies wrote in the lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington on Tuesday.

The images were manipulated to be especially emotional, according to the lawsuit. The companies say the corpse photo is an actor with a fake scar, while the healthy lungs were sanitized to make the diseased organ look worse.

There are places for government intervention but not with every vice known to man.

We commend Dickinson State University for making itself a nonsmoking campus. If privately owned businesses want to be smoke-free, we respect that. It is their choice, as is smoking.

If you want to smoke on your time and in your space, go for it. If you are smoking in my space, you are violating my rights.

Tobacco is legal. There are a lot of things that are legal that aren't good for you.

"Smoking can kill you," according to these new labels. Without the reminder, who would have known?

Dickinson Press Publisher Harvey Brock and Managing Editor Jennifer McBride are on the Editorial Board.

Published: Sunday, August 21, 2011

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