Graphic packaging labels will not deter smokers

Hey, can I bum a cigarette? Oh, and I’ll take a neck tumor and some yellowed teeth too, if you don’t mind.

Though this exchange may seem a bit strange, it could soon become commonplace in the United Kingdom with the introduction of a new initiative put into place by the Department of Health. The initiative, which began last week, requires manufacturers to print warnings with graphic photos and images on all cigarette packs, such as that of a neck tumor, diseased lungs, or rotting teeth.

The new campaign is an attempt by British legislators to cut down on smoking, which is the biggest cause of death in the UK, killing more than 87,000 people a year in England, according to The Department of Health believes that the graphic pictures will cause people to realize the harsh health realities of smoking.

However, will the admittedly disgusting pictures really have an impact on the number of smokers? While the scary pictures may discourage scared and underage middle school-ers from grabbing a pack of their parent’s cigarettes, the parents themselves are more likely than not to already know the adverse health effects of their pack a day.

From elementary school on, students are inundated with facts concerning the risks of smoking, and shown the pieces of healthy lung compared to a smoker’s black lung. It’s not a secret that nicotine is addictive, and that smoking is bad for your health. People that smoke know that they’re hurting their bodies, and we doubt that these images are anything new to them. Moreover, trying to shock unknowing smokers with graphic images — and then not be able to shock them after they see the same images on the cigarette packages time and again — is likely not the most efficient way to get people to stop their bad habit.

Although it may not get current smokers to quit, the use of graphic images could dissuade kids from starting to smoke, and perhaps smokers will be phased out entirely within just a few generations.

While it’s a commendable effort on the part of the British government to try to cut down on the number of smokers in the country, chances are the images on the cigarette packs are not going to dramatically decrease the number of people smoking. People who want to smoke are going to continue to do so to get their fix, yellow teeth, and throat tumors looming in their futures or not.