Graphic cigarette labels needlessly harm businesses

Adelle Whitefoot

After taking multiple graphic design courses, I have always been very intrigued by the way the labels and logos are designed. Having multiple friends who smoke I’ve began to notice the different designs that tobacco companies use on their packages. Personally, I think the designs give cigarettes their own identity, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) seems to want to destroy that along with the companies too.

This past summer, the FDA announced they were going to mandate that every cigarette carton have one of nine smoking health warning labels occupy the top half of the front and back of the packs. Of course the tobacco companies were not happy with this, and four out of the five major companies sued the FDA claiming that the labels violate their free speech rights, and I agree with them.

The labels contain pictures of such things as “dead” bodies, diseased lungs, a man with a hole in his neck and even sick babies. The “dead” body label’s text reads, “WARNING: Smoking can kill you,” and the picture is not a real dead body but an actor with make up, according to an Associated Press article.

The U.S. tobacco companies filed lawsuit in Washington, D.C. federal court claiming that the labels are an unconstitutional way of forcing tobacco companies to spread the government’s anti-smoking message.

The attorney for the tobacco company Lorillard was quoted in The Wall Street Journal saying that the notion that the government can demand those who are manufacturing a lawful product to decorate half of its package with pictures and words meant to persuade consumers to not purchase their product cannot be constitutional.

I agree with what the attorney said. A company should not be forced to internally destroy itself. The clichéd “American dream” is to own your own successful business, and I feel like the FDA is contradicting that by mandating these labels be put on all cigarette packs. Everyone gets the point; smoking is bad for you. But does the labeling really have to be this drastic?

As of right now the FDA’s website says that at the beginning of September 2012 they will require these labels to be on cigarette packaging and advertisements in the United States. But that can still change with the decision of the lawsuit and the hearing that is set for Sept. 21.

While I am not a smoker, I respect the rights of cigarette companies to advertise their product in a fair way. After all, why should we deny these companies the right to pursue a successful business and the American dream?