I was walking along through town one day and happened to look down at a discarded empty pack of cigarettes on the ground. Something about it struck me as odd, unfamiliar. Ah, yes…
Now here’s a picture of a typical US pack of cigarettes. Notice that the tobacco warning label, which I’ve helpfully outlined so you can find it, is tucked away on the edge of the pack, where your fingers will likely cover it when opening the pack. This has not changed in the last 20 years.
The text is one of four different messages such as “SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, And May Complicate Pregnancy.” I guess it complies with US law but it’s clearly designed to not get in the way of the important stuff, from the tobacco industry’s perspective: making loads of money while addicting and killing millions.
But now here’s what the empty pack I saw on the ground looked like. Huge difference. The tobacco warning is simple and hard to miss.
Recent studies seem to indicate that relatively complex and wordy messages in the US warning label don’t have much effect, but the larger British, Canadian, German, Autrailian, etc. warnings do. Many countries, but not the US, have revised and improved their warning messages several times over the last decade.
A 2005 study found that half of all smokers in the US read at the 6th Grade level or below. Now that’s scary all on its own!
After August of this year, the UK warnings will be made much more graphic, with actual large, nasty images on the pack, like this one (I decided the image of the rotted teeth was just too horrible to show).
The UK and other countries are obviously really serious about getting kids and new smokers to reconsider the habit; too bad the US isn’t.