New warnings will not stop smokers

Tuesday morning the Food and Drug Administration released nine new warning labels for cigarettes that must be put on packaging by September of 2012.

The warnings, which must cover 50 percent of the package and 20 percent of any ads, feature photos accompanied by messages. The idea behind the new warnings is to shock people into stopping their smoking habits.

One warning shows a diseased lung and the telephone number to a smoking cessation program. Another shows a man smoking through a hole in his neck with the phrase “Cigarettes are addictive.”

With the law, the United States joins a long list of countries that has similar requirements for cigarette packaging. The new warnings came about because the old warnings have not changed in years and officials believe the warnings are so familiar to smokers they do not notice them.

While the new warnings will help reduce the number of smokers — since the last time warning labels were changed the percentage of the population that smokes has dropped to 20 percent — they will not but an end to smoking.

There have been many steps taken in previous decades to inform consumers about the dangers of smoking, but people continue to pick up the habit.

Warning labels helped, legislation regulating advertising helped and the reduction of smoking in television shows and movies has helped. Even so, new smokers emerge every year, much to the disgust of the anti-smoking community.

People in the United States are fiercely independent and will do what they want no matter what others tell them. If people want to smoke, they will grab a pack of cigarettes.

Comedian Dennis Leary once said, “You can make the entire pack the warning label. You can call [the cigarettes] Tumors and smokers would be lined up around the block to buy a pack.”

There is no way to stop smoking completely. Banning it in public only drives smokers inside their homes.

Raising taxes has not worked and creates an additional problem — once the final smoker quits smoking, how is the missing tax revenue replaced?

Banning it completely only produces a black market — people still smoke marijuana, for example, even though it has been illegal for decades.

The new warnings will help reduce the number of smokers in the United States, but it will not bring and end to smoking no matter how many diseased lungs you put on the package. The only thing that will do that is to have an entire population that chooses not to smoke.