Idiot-Proofing and Our Paternalistic Government: Keeping Cretins Alive

New FDA Cigarette Warning Labels, Source: FDA

“President Obama is committed to protecting our nation’s children and the American people from the dangers of tobacco use. These labels are frank, honest and powerful depictions of the health risks of smoking and they will help encourage smokers to quit, and prevent children from smoking.”

–Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Today, Big Brother…I mean the federal government, “unveiled the nine graphic health warnings required to appear on every pack of cigarettes sold in the United States and in every cigarette advertisement.”

These labels are required under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which President Obama signed into law on June 22, 2009.

As justification for this colossal exercise in “duh”, the FDA’s press release claims that tobacco use is responsible for 443,000 deaths each year and costs the economy nearly $200 billion each year in medical costs and lost productivity.

While these figures are probably true, how is pasting nine ridiculous labels on cigarettes going to deter Americans from smoking? Especially when every American who knows how to tie his shoes is aware that smoking cigarettes kills.

Frankly, if you need a label to remind you of this fact, you are a cretin.

Here’s my solution:

If the government wants people to quit smoking, it should increase taxes on cigarettes. That way, if they still willfully engage in an activity they know will ultimately kill them, they can pay extra for the pleasure.

What’s next, labeling firearms with “front toward enemy,” including “naked pictures of morbidly obese people” on donut boxes, and installing a friendly voice in all automobiles that repeats, “automobiles kill,” every 3 minutes?

Now that President Obama has “scary” labels to remind him that smoking kills, I wonder if it will be enough to help him kick his own nicotine habit.

Somehow I doubt it.

Your government at work…

About Sean Patrick Hazlett

Finance executive, engineer, former military officer, and science fiction and horror writer. Editor of the Weird World War III anthology.
This entry was posted in Business, Education, Healthcare, Media, Policy, Politics, Taxes and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Idiot-Proofing and Our Paternalistic Government: Keeping Cretins Alive

  1. jlhartman says:

    I agree about the taxation part, although I would be curious to know what percentage of the 200 billion is already covered by existing tobacco taxes. It also strikes me as absurd that the tobacco lobby is required to fund the very advertising campaign that demonizes their product. I mean, I know they’re scum and all, but that’s quite an affront to capitalism. Again, raise taxes on tobacco and use the proceeds to cover public service announcements and posters. Finally, I believe it is Congress, not Obama who’s to blame for this as it did pass by an almost 3 to 1 margin in the house. I also believe he quit smoking some time ago. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

    • “Finally, I believe it is Congress, not Obama who’s to blame for this as it did pass by an almost 3 to 1 margin in the house. I also believe he quit smoking some time ago. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.”

      I half agree. I think it is appropriate to blame both the President and Congress.

      Who knows if the President has quit.

      According to his wife, he has (, but that was back in February.

      Also notice I said “nicotine habit.” While he may have quit smoking, I bet he is still using some form of nicotine supplement.

      Fine. My argument is a weak one. To be honest, I knew the President smoked, but I had no idea he quit…;-)

  2. Matt says:

    I’m astonished at how against this people seem to be. Advertisers have been doing this stuff for YEARS, and it obviously works. The government is trying to level the playing field, and save money on medical bills later on. Two thumbs up from me.

    • “The government is trying to level the playing field, and save money on medical bills later on. Two thumbs up from me.”

      What playing field? The government has no business on the playing field.

      Imagine if you owned a business and the government taxed you to provide labels on your product intended to lower sales. Most people would be livid.

      Many of the same people who smoke will likely die from another addiction like fast food. What’s next, using taxpayer dollars to run ads that tell you eating fast food will make you fat?

      If government wants to discourage behavior, it should do it directly and in a tax negative manner. If you want to smoke, pay a sin tax.

      I honestly don’t know if these ads work or not, but I do know that if you tax something, people will consume less of it.

  3. It seems like overkill to me (is that a pun?) and may backfire.

    As you say I think everyone knows the facts roughly. Harping on it so much will just give smoking a rebel appeal, especially for young people who figure nothing will kill them and danger has a certain appeal to.

  4. Maybe that’s the idea (more smoking), after all Obama’s a smoker, and if life spans fall you may help out social security!

    • I thought about that. The problem is that smokers don’t just dropped dead…they linger…for years, at the tune of $200 billion in medical costs.

      OK, I probably shouldn’t joke about that. 😉

      • Vern R. Kaine says:

        Smokers ARE the joke when they try and pass off lame excuses (“I enjoy it”, “I need it”, “I’m stressed”, etc.) as reasons for their disgusting habit. I actually admire Obama for not making excuses for it. He smokes because, well, f**k it, why not. It’s like Christie and food.

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