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September, 2008

Renegade-Auction

Shock and Disgust

The small island kingdom of Bahrain recently instituted a new method by which to keep its citizens from enjoying a smoke in the desert sun. In addition to a ubiquitous (by world standards) “Smoking Kills” warning, the Health Ministry’s “tobacco control unit” has set standards that all tobacco products should feature pictures of corpses, dead babies, rotting teeth, and cancerous lungs. The tropical paradise of Brazil recently decorated all that nation’s cigarette packets with images of diseased hearts, dead fetuses, and even the depiction of a naked man staring down at an impotent penis.

The tactic of using “shocking” images to prevent smoking has met with limited results, though surely has won some political points. Perhaps anti-smoking campaigners can make the point that children will grow up with the gory images associated with smoking and thereby avoid smoking in the future. No hard data exists to support that, but perhaps in another decade or so we can make that analysis of the situation. In the mean time, there hasn’t been any pull to show burnt and mangled corpses resulting from drunken driving incidents on beer bottles. Nor are there bullet-riddled children splattered across gun license applications. Not even a rotten tooth on a candy bar.

There are many bad habits out there - and no one will defend smoking cigarettes as a healthy pastime. And, excuse me while I make a bold statement: everyone realizes the inherent risk in lighting up. But there are dangerous habits the world doesn’t mark off with its worst-case consequences. In some ways, this is a certain blowback because tobacco had gone for so long trying to fight the science of its dangers. But at some point society will have to come to two possible conclusions: a) every potential vice will have to have its worst-case outcome graphically showcased, or b) it will be on the side of the consumer to remain educated about what they do with their bodies.

- Evan D. Dashevsky


Tobacco International - September, 2008

BMJ


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