Sunday, July 15, 2012

Cigarette Boxes

Walking around the other day I saw an empty cigarette box laying on the side of the road.  The reason I noticed it was because of a very particular picture on the back.  On the Lambert & Butler box there was a disturbing picture of rotting teeth and a black tongue.  The caption read "Smoke contains benzene, nitrosamines, formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide".

In the United States all cigarette boxes have a Surgeon General's Warning, but they usually just say something to the effect that smoking is dangerous to your health.  The fact that this U.K. cigarette box had such a vivid picture and other writing that said, "Smoking seriously harms you and others around you" taking up most of the box intrigued me.  I started wondering what kind of laws there were in the U.K. on advertising for tobacco companies and the list of regulations that had to be on the box.

I started researching on the web, and what I found was that in the United Kingdom either "Smoking kills" or "Smoking seriously harms you and others around you" must be on every box and take up at least 30% of the front of the box. Also, an one of fourteen additional warning must take up 40% of the back of the box, as well as a picture warning showing the negative effects of tobacco on the back of every box.

All this information just made me wonder what kind of effect these type of warnings had on people smoking and what would happen if the U.S. passed laws like this. 


  1. This is a really interesting topic. Most (if not all) of us have been affected by smoking, whether it is directly or indirectly, through personal use or second-hand.

    As a result of cultural norms, the United States takes a very different approach to this public health problem. As it stands, most laws pertaining to the sale of tobacco attempt to alleviate teen exposure through education based tactics, as opposed to fear-inducing graphics. A basic guide to US laws on tobacco labeling and marketing can be found at the FDA’s website, which can be seen in the following link:

    There was some interest in taking a stronger stance, comparable to that of the UK, but these efforts were shot down in court. The proposed law was criticized as an infringement of First Amendment rights. The details of the court case ( R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co et al v. FDA, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, No. 11-1482) can be found in an article posted by MSNBC:

    It might be worth a look.

  2. According to the CDC Fact Sheet, 19.3% of American adults smoke cigarettes as of 2010. Cancer research for the UK showed that 21% of people in Britain smoke cigarettes as of 2010. I tried to find statistics on the rates of smoking in Britain before and after those warning picture were put into place but I could not. It would be interesting to see if there was a decline in smoking after the introduction of these graphic pictures. If so, it might be worthwhile to consider the use of such pictures in America as well.

    The use of frightening images in media does not always seem to be ethical, as we discussed in class today. Sometimes a line does need to be drawn. If this did happen in America, the cigarettes could be put in a closed container that could not be seen through in order to prevent children and people who aren't buying cigarettes from being exposed to the images. That might stop some of the negative aspects of the frightening images.

  3. I just found this and thought it might be of some interest to this discussion: