, Muskogee, OK

June 26, 2011

Warning labels can’t hurt, but likely won’t work

— Will graphic images of corpses, cancer-ridden lungs and a guy exhaling smoke through a tracheotomy hole in his neck stub out cigarette consumption?

The Food and Drug Administration certainly hopes so.

The FDA has picked nine such images to be featured on cigarette packs sold starting late next year. These new warning labels must cover the top half of cigarette boxes and 20 percent of tobacco advertisements.

Cigarette consumption has dropped from about 42 percent of the population since the mid-1960s, but has remained at about 21 percent since 2003 — about one in five adults — despite federal and state excise tax increases that have boosted prices to more than $5 a pack.

About 40 countries — including Mexico and Canada — already require similar graphic warnings, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Canada has not seen a reduction in smoking rates since it implemented them.

And it’s doubtful this will work here. Those who want to smoke will smoke — it’s their right, after all — and the images won’t deter it, no matter how grisly they may be.

Despite that, it can’t hurt to do this.

But we wonder what’s next? A picture of bare, grossly obese bellies on bags of chips?