Plain drab wrapper

Cigarette Ad

This has been a stellar week for tobacco news and media effects. The week began with a story that a federal judge ruled in favor of tobacco companies who whined that placing disgusting images on cigarette packets would harm their business.

The FDA was incorporating the same logic as the cigarette companies’ advertisers, who try to link smoking with the lifestyles imagined by smokers: sexy, rebellious, cool.

Check out the images of RJ Reynolds’ Joe Camel from the 1980s and 1990s. The tag line is “smooth character.” Images nabbed from the internet show the dude with a cigarette between his lips, his baseball cap backwards, stroking a pool cue. In another shot he’s sunning himself on the beach, and in another, playing sax.

Or consider campaigns to corral women smokers. Cigarettes are slim, like the women who smoke them, and framed as “elegant” and “pretty.”

Companies have long relied on attractive imagery to sell their products and the FDA is using the same logic to repel consumers by brandishing corpses and diseased organs on the packs themselves.

Today’s news had a story from Australia, where the government passed a law requiring cigarette packs to have drab colors. Wrapping a packet in a plain box appears to be less appealing to buyers.

While the US judge halted the FDA attempts to embolden packages with huge warnings and diseased lungs—covering at least 50 percent of the packet—the Australian Parliament went a step father, enforcing drab colors, stark warnings and ugly pictures to cover 75 percent of the packet face and 90 percent of the backside.

The current warning labels in the US are conservative compared to other countries. Brazilian warnings are ghastly, covering the full face of the packet with such images as a dead fetus surrounding by cigarettes in an ashtray.

Singapore’s warnings are embellished with ghastly images of mouth cancer and gangrene toes.

The FDA images look tame by comparison.


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in ethics, health, risk and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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