The “you just proved that bench advertising works” axiom doesn’t when it comes to cigarette package warning labels

Nothing like pictures of rotting teeth or blackened lungs to put a damper on a sunny day.  Let alone the fact that such images, even though scientifically and medically proven to be true, is a violation of free speech!  At least this is what five of the six major tobacco companies are claiming as they determinedly fight the U.S. Government’s decision to follow Canada’s lead by making it a requirement for nicotine peddlers to include graphic images relating to the hazards of smoking on all packages of cigarettes.  The new regulation is scheduled to take effect October 2012.

Killing the mood?

Regarding the existing health hazard labels, a 1981 Federal Trade Commission finding indicated that “there is virtually no evidence that the current warning statement on cigarette packages has had any significant effect,” as a deterrent to those who already smoke.  I guess unlike the advertising taglines that adorn bus benches proclaiming that if you are reading the message it must mean that the advertiser is getting through, warning labels on smokes ultimately fall on blind eyes or deaf ears . . .

Perhaps the tobacco companies need to employ a counter measure along the lines of what the pharmaceutical companies do regarding the requirement to disclose the nasty side effects of some the drugs they are peddling?  You know, the commercials where a visual scene of tranquility is framed by a relaxing and melodious tune during which time a pleasant voiced narrator provides a litany of potentially life threatening side effects.  A classic slight of hand deception that entices us to keep our eyes on the shiny object and ignore the unpleasantness of truth.

While the traditional airwaves have been cut-off as a possible venue for such a ploy, perhaps the tobacco companies could create a campaign similar to the Canadian Dairy Industry a few years back where winning cartons of milk would actually make a mooing sound announcing to the lucky consumer that they had just won a pile of money!  Of course instead of money, the puff and wheeze campaign could provide free lifetime dental coverage or offer a free ventilator system.  Talk about making lemonade from lemons!

Who knows, given the health care controversy in America these past few years, the tobacco companies may even entice non-smokers to start smoking, especially if they offered health coverage giveaways for individuals and companies.  If you think about it, it’s a great system in terms of driving America’s economic engine in that it is a self-perpetuating revenue stream that keeps the money flowing into key agriculture and medical industries.

As for those nasty images of morbid decay, smokers can also follow the lead of their cousins to the north and invest in cigarette-pack sleeves to cover up the unpleasant consequences of their filthy habits.  Similar to my 3 year old son who, during a game of hide and seek, stands in one place and closes his eyes believing that if he can’t see us then we can’t see him, the out of sight out of mind approach should quell any residual reservations for those determined to light up regardless of the consequences.

Would you buy and use a product with this label?

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