Tobacco will be verboten at the Medical University of South Carolina as of March. That goes for faculty, students, volunteers, patients, visitors and vendors. And that makes sense at a healing institution where many people suffer — and some die — from tobacco-related ailments. But does it make constitutional sense for the federal government to require repulsive photos as a health warning on the packaging of a legal, if beleaguered, product?
A federal judge in Washington, D.C., recently issued a restraining order against the Obama administration’s plan to do just that. The Justice Department is appealing that ruling, which calls into question a 2009 law scheduled to go into effect in September 2012.
On the flip side of this issue — and of the world — the Australian Senate has voted to get even tougher on tobacco. It advanced legislation that would force tobacco companies to package best quality Pall Mall cigarettes in plain olive green. Branding is not allowed. Warnings, including gruesome graphics, are required.
But there are plenty of smoke rings to jump through before the details are filtered out in either place:
The Australian proposal says it isn’t enough merely to alarm people with gruesome pictures. By using plain, drab packaging, marketing appeal for smokes would be further diminished.
New Zealand, Canada and some European countries are reportedly considering similar steps.
Tobacco interests in Australia have threatened legal action should the law pass. Ditto, in the United States.
The World Health Organization has urged plain packaging since it found in 2005 that there were more than a billion regular smokers around the world, and four out of five were in poor nations.
Meanwhile, consumers can take the matter in their own hands by educating themselves about health dangers associated with cigarettes: heart disease, lung diseases, gangrene, cancer, macular degeneration, ulcers, wrinkles and plain old bad breath.