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Visual cigarette warnings value American public’s health

Visual cigarette warnings value American public’s health (credit: Juan Fernandez/) Visual cigarette warnings value American public’s health (credit: Juan Fernandez/)
Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

Due to the ill effects of smoking, the federal government is pushing for graphic images of emaciated lungs, decayed teeth, and stomachs after surgery, to be required on cigarette packages.

This order, which comes from the Family Smoking Protection and Tobacco Control Act of 2009, allows the government to regulate the tobacco industry.

Even though major cigarette producers are complaining that the new law violates the First Amendment’s freedom of speech clause, the use of these labels is necessary for the protection of people’s health.

When it comes to the question of an individual’s health versus a company’s freedom of speech, the health of the individual should be the priority.

This is particularly noteworthy when the number of people who die each year from tobacco-related conditions averages around 443,000 per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the article Tobacco Use: Targeting the Nation’s Leading Killer At A Glance 2011.

Cigarette companies are clearly arguing that their freedom of speech is being infringed upon for their own self-interest.
If they truly cared about the health of their consumers and, in turn, the overall health of the nation, cigarette manufacturers would have already searched for a healthier alternative or been more willing to warn potential buyers of their product’s negative effects.

Because the companies themselves made such little effort for change, they now have to fight government regulations such as these graphic warnings.

As noted by the Food and Drug Administration on its cigarette health warnings website, “tobacco use is the leading cause of premature and preventable death in the United States.”

Complete freedom of speech, as advocated by cigarette companies, is detrimental to the welfare of Americans.

This freedom contributes to a practice that has been deemed dangerous by various institutions, including a group of 22 states that recently announced their endorsement of the graphic labels.

The fact that cigarette companies are opposed to these new labels, when other countries have had these measures in place for years, is extremely disturbing.

According to journalist Lara Salahi of ABC News, the United States is “now playing catch-up to more than 30 countries” that have similar graphic cigarette label laws already in place.

There is no doubt that these labels would encourage consumers to quit or avoid these habits in the first place, as they do in other countries.

Even though not all of these countries promote freedom of speech to the same degree that the United States does, the warnings required by these nations must be considered a model for the United States if the government hopes to significantly curb the amount of smokers in the country. After all, these new labels more clearly convey the factual implications of smoking.

Many critics claim that if the gripes of the cigarette companies are heard before the Supreme Court, they will win the battle that they have been fighting for almost a year now.

If this were to occur, the Supreme Court would clearly be showing the nation that the rights of large corporations are valued over the health and rights of individuals.