When the UK government implemented graphic health warnings for tobacco in 2008, they were promoted - as anti-tobacco measures always are - as a huge advance for public health. Once they were installed on packets, smokers would instantly see the light (because they had never understood that smoking is dangerous before) and quit tobacco in droves.
It never happened, of course, and it is now quite obvious that smokers simply haven't given up as a result of seeing Latvians with throat growths, or stylised syringes made to look like you're injecting a cigarette into your veins, as was promised.
By every possible measure, graphic warnings have had no impact whatsoever on smoking prevalence, nor will they ever. Sadly for US tobacco control tax-spongers, this incontrovertible fact has been noticed.
Tobacco companies won't have to put nine new graphic warning labels from the Food and Drug Administration on cigarette packs this year after all, an appeals court ruled Friday.Jaded anti-smoker Michael Siegel explains the judgement extremely well.
The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington announced it upheld a decision barring the federal government from requiring tobacco companies to put large graphic health warnings on cigarette packages to show that smoking can disfigure and even kill people.
The Court writes: "FDA has not provided a shred of evidence - much less the 'substantial evidence' required by the APA - showing that the graphic warnings will 'directly advance' its interest in reducing the number of Americans who smoke. FDA makes much of the 'international consensus' surrounding the effectiveness of large graphic warnings, but offers no evidence showing that such warnings have directly caused a material decrease in smoking rates in any of the countries that now require them. ... FDA's Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) essentially concedes the agency lacks any evidence showing that the graphic warnings are likely to reduce smoking rates. ... The Rule thus cannot pass muster under Central Hudson."It's importsnt to note that the US court specifically stated that there is "not a shred" of evidence that graphic warnings work to encourage smokers to quit. This is, also, the second time the US judiciary has held such a position.
What it means is that the anti-smoking movement's use of shoddy science has finally caught up to it. While the lack of rigor in its recent use of science to support its policy positions may be good enough to convince policy makers, it is not good enough to convince the courts.
The Court did not fall for the argument that studies have demonstrated an effect of graphic warning labels on smokers' attitudes about quitting. The Court wanted to see studies showing that these labels actually led to smokers quitting, but such evidence was not forthcoming. The Court essentially laid bare the lack of scientific evidence behind the "international consensus" that graphic warning labels are effective.
I'll say that again. Not. A. Shred.
You see, they have seen the evidence from daft countries like ours, who leapt before we looked, and noticed that it was all fake studies and anti-smoker bullshit.
The US court decision - delivered two weeks ago - has since been validated by yet another study coming to the same conclusion. A fellow jewel robber reports that a study by Maastricht University created plenty column inches in the Belgian press recently.
In conclusion, warning labels on packs of cigarettes seem ill-advised. They may in fact increase smoking among smokers who derive self-esteem from their identity as a smoker. More health benefits would be achieved if the areas currently reserved for warning labels would be used for a message to enhance efficacy or influence other determinants that have been found to play a role in ceasing smoking (such as subjective norm; note that attitude, the construct encompassing perceived threat, has been found to have only a weak influence; Topa & Moriano, 2010). Given the minimal, or even negative, effects we can expect from threatening communication, the potential of evidence- and theory-based communications on cigarette pack labels is promising.The evidence - as tobacco controllers like to say - is overwhelming. The debate is over. Graphic warnings don't work except in the minds of those who derive income from promoting them.
Sadly, we are not protected from such policy ricks. However, importantly for the US, they have a bit of a problem with free speech - which product marketing is classified as under their Constitution - being destroyed unless there is a fucking good reason for it. Graphic warnings didn't only come up wanting, but the pleading from US bansturbators seemed to exclusively consist of saying "they did it, so we want to as well" ... swiftly followed by "Waaaah! Not fair!" when they didn't get their own way.
Considering our countries are all so keen to follow each other, we should logically see the UK government holding their hands up, removing the images and admitting that they were conned by a runaway health lobby with little grasp of reality. However, logic and common sense are routinely left at the security scanners in Westminster so don't hold your breath. The ratchet only goes one way with the easily-gulled pawns we are doomed to be governed by.
UK democracy strikes again, and everyone is worse off as a result. Next up is plain packaging - one of the apparent plusses being that it will make ineffectual warnings larger, as if that helps - which will not only have an inconsequential effect like graphic warnings, but also carries the threat of being seriously dangerous to our way of life.
Will politicians listen? Probably not. In a democracy, they only have to look after the loudest minority and their pathetic existence is assured for another term.