Smoke and Mirrors

After my original post about the court case between tobacco companies and the US Government, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the court’s decision. The news hit last month [BBC] with the appeals court in Washington ruling that “The US government cannot force tobacco firms to put large graphic health warnings on cigarette packages“. I was very pleased with the result because it’s the position I took in my post 12 months ago – a government has no right forcing a company to market it’s products towards it’s financial ruin. Whether you’re a pro, anti, or couldn’t care less about smoking – this case is important because it is really about freedom of speech, capitalism, and especially with the US election coming up – size of government.

My initial post was mainly about how the evidence behind these graphic labels is really not very compelling. My off-the-cuff theory for these labels being poorly effective is that people already know smoking is so unhealthy, so the people who are still smoking or are taking it up, really aren’t going to be dissuaded by yet another grotesque plea to the heartstrings. There’s just an element of society that doesn’t give a damn. Some also see smoking as exercising their own free will. In debates past I’ve heard the argument, “Well some people sky dive, or punch each other in the head for a living, this is my thing – just leave me be”. A favourite quote of mine on this subject is Kurt Vonnegut’s,

Cigarettes are a classy way to commit suicide.



In any case, peoples’ reasoning aside – there is just something completely wrong about a government forcing it’s propaganda on privatized companies. The government already has the biggest pulpit in the market place – they can bang their drum the loudest and put as many public service announcements as their budget allows. In Canada, there really isn’t even an argument about this whole thing – never mind a federal court case. My opinion on the topic is that if a government wanted to spend more money on anti-smoking advertisements, banners, even posters in the convenience stores where cigarettes are sold – that’s great. And I’d rather make tobacco products illegal before forcing companies to put pictures of dead bodies on their packaging. The court said, the law was “making every single pack of cigarettes in the country a mini billboard for the government’s anti-smoking message“, and I couldn’t agree more.

The only part of the article that I didn’t find particularly convincing is that the “FDA has not provided a shred of evidence” that the images would directly advance its policy aimed at reducing the number of smokers in America“. I’m surprised the FDA didn’t even attempt to present compelling evidence that this policy is effective. I know in my searching I found several articles that said people were slightly more likely to quit, and less likely to start smoking with these labels.

The science is besides the point – the labels are simply an ill-conceived idea. Public hangings of smokers and tobacco farmers would also be a big deterrent, it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

This news comes on the heels of the Australian government ruling that cigarette packs will have no corporate branding or logos. The boxes will look something like this

Different directions, but I just don’t believe that governments are doing the right thing. There is no talk of banning cigarettes. Governments are terrified,  hiding behind these awful images because they don’t have the backbone. Do politicians see it as a divisive issue? Or are they afraid cigarettes will go black market and they’ll loose all the tax revenue they gleam from the sale of these filthy little sticks.


  • harleyrider1989

    7 October, the COT meeting on 26 October and the COC meeting on 18
    November 2004.

    “5. The Committees commented that tobacco smoke was a highly complex chemical mixture and that the causative agents for smoke induced diseases (such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, effects on reproduction and on offspring) was unknown. The mechanisms by which tobacco induced adverse effects were not established. The best information related to tobacco smoke – induced lung cancer, but even in this instance a detailed mechanism was not available. The Committees therefore agreed that on the basis of current knowledge it would be very difficult to identify a toxicological testing strategy or a biomonitoring approach for use in volunteer studies with smokers where the end-points determined or biomarkers measured were predictive of the overall burden of tobacco-induced adverse disease.”

    In other words … our first hand smoke theory is so lame we can’t even design a bogus lab experiment to prove it. In fact … we don’t even know how tobacco does all of the magical things we claim it does.

    The greatest threat to the second hand theory is the weakness of the first hand theory.

    Not 1 Death or Sickness Etiologically Assigned to Tobacco. All the diseases attributed to smoking are also present in non smokers. It means, in other words, that they are multifactorial, that is, the result of the interaction of tens, hundreds, sometimes thousands of factors, either known or suspected contributors – of which smoking can be one

  • mikemurko

    It appears you linked to the wrong document. That one is about dioxin in food. The right one is here

    You appear to be searching for shreds of evidence to back your opinion on the health effects of smoking … whereas the body of science is heavily against you. Simply because they have not identified the chemical mechanism, doesn’t mean they can’t draw obvious conclusions from the data. Are you by any chance someone who demands the “missing link fossil evidence” to prove evolution exists?

    However – this article isn’t about whether smoking has negative health effects … but rather about government intervention into the free market and freedom of speech. So if you wish to continue your argument, I suggest writing an article or post and give us the link.

    Anyways thanks for posting!

  • Mandy

    I agree to what is being said in this article. The truth is that the government is being controlled by these greedy tobacco companies. When will the government take a stand and protect the lives of people from all these “sin” industries?

  • mikemurko

    Hm, maybe I need to rephrase some of my wording – because the article is strongly opposed to government control of labelling and packaging. I propose two alternatives for governments – leave companies and their products alone and do their own propaganda – or ban the products completely.

  • harleyrider1989

    Sorry for the link mishap.

    What the so called actual factual evidence shows is that nothing claimed about direct smoking has ever been proven. Whats out there is statistical magic thru epidemiology. If you have direct proof of actual toxicological evidence to disease causation Id love to see it as to this date there is NO EVIDENCE or study that proves it. Believe me Ive looked at nearly every study on the subject. The Doll and Hill doctors study never proved anything except to bring up even more questions as to how they came up with results at all……….misclassification abounded thru out the study and that was the begining of the spin.

    I even thought after 6 decades and longer of claims made against smoking that it was all proven as thru a microscope. End points achieved to prove disease causation,yet its not. Now, I wouldnt have even bothered looking until I heard the second hand smoke myths being used to justify smoking bans. Thats what set many people to question all the claims even with direct smoking and we find thats even been made up with no factual basis behind any of those claims.

    Now again please provide a study proving direct disease causation if your going to state ”whereas the body of science is heavily against you.”!

  • harleyrider1989

    BTW, roughly 94% of life long smokers never get LC.

    Its not the supposed carcinogens that actually cause cancer,its a genetic change that has to happen for the cancer process to happen. So in the end it must be said each of us is wired for genetic dispositions that actually cause cancer whether a smoker or a non-smoker.

  • Adam Ridley

    LOL this is there mentality..

  • Against_ESL

    I suppose you are against speed limits because that infringes on industry’s ability to speed perishable products to buyers.

  • mikemurko

    Yes, I do think speed limits are too low in Canada. I wouldn’t say “infringes”, but your reason is among many that they should be increased. Any comments on the subject?

  • Against_ESL

    If they increase then someone has to be the victim of the increased velocity of the accidents. I hope the martyr is the one who voted it in.