Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Warning: Dangerous Camels

Walking around Hillsdale I’ve discovered evidence of camels.

No, not those camels.

These are the ones people smoke. The evidence is discarded cigarette packets.

I’m struck by how neatly designed they are. Almost artifacts. Precisely bordered, often understated and self-important in a tongue-in-cheek way.

One for “Kamels” (the spelling itself looks like an insider joke) prominently says the brand was established in 1913 and “re-established in 1996,” as if this is somehow significant. The plug line is “Back After 80 years For No Good Reason Except They Taste Good.”

There’s straight talk for you. It neglects to mention your lungs, cancer and corporate irresponsibility.

Putting aside the gimmickry and clever package design, I’m struck by how half-hearted and understated the Surgeon General’s warning label is on these packs. Clearly the tobacco lobbyists have had a hand in muting the warning in its phrasing, placement and size. And the Bush administration has been right there to help.

On both of the packets in front of me the “warning” is printed in a bland font with illogical line breaks:

WARNING: Cigarette
Smoke Contains
Carbon Monoxide”

Any of the 10th graders I’ve seen sucking these things would likely respond, “So?”

“Hey, man, isn’t that carbon monoxide the same stuff that comes out of cars? If all these people are driving, why should I stop smoking?”

No, we need (paging Rep. David Wu) cigarette package warning labels like those mandated in Canada. They are big, bad, bold and even scary.

And they work.

Below are a couple. You can see others from Canada here and you can go here to see others from other countries:

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