Mind and Body

Dr. Manny: Graphic Images on Cigarette Boxes – Not Sure It's Enough

This composite image shows three of the FDA's new warning labels for cigarette packages.

This composite image shows three of the FDA's new warning labels for cigarette packages.  (AP)

I don’t think a single picture splashed across a cigarette pack is going to carry that much of a punch if it’s not followed up with stricter control of cigarette smoking.

What I mean by that is if we really want to reduce the rates of smoking not only in adults, but more importantly in young people, we have to make the connection between all the negative effects of smoking.

Just because we showcase a picture of a set of lungs riddled with cancer on a pack of Marlboro Lights – is that really going to be enough for a teenager to walk away?

I remember seeing graphic images of premature infants and diseased lungs on packs of cigarettes while I was touring South America – especially in Brazil – many years ago. And it wasn’t until more recently, when the Brazilian government created more strict bans on smoking in public places and monitored sales of cigarettes to minors, that the trends of smoking finally started to slowdown in Brazil.

In the United States, one of the most powerful tools that we have to convince people that smoking is dangerous and detrimental to your health are the bans on smoking in public places, coupled with television anti-smoking ad campaigns like the one led by the New York City Department of Health.

And believe me, these are not for the faint of heart. One ad created quite a controversy. It featured a little boy standing alone in a train station crying, and then a voice comes over and says, “This is how your child feels after losing you for a minute. Just imagine if they lost you for life.”
However, here’s where we run into problems. Smoking regulations are not homogeneous throughout the U.S. There are smoking bans in some regions, but on the other hand, there are many places where cigarettes are less expensive and there’s no active policy in place to reduce the rates of smoking.

And I’m wondering – if you’re a smoker – would a picture on the cigarette box deter you from lighting up?

It’s one thing to have these graphic images on cigarettes boxes to try and deter people from picking up this habit – but that alone is not going to stop this epidemic. We need to do a lot more

A recent study found that after a ban on smoking in all enclosed public places was introduced in Scotland in March 2006, there was a 17 percent reduction in hospital admissions for acute coronary syndrome, providing further proof that smoke-free laws do have health benefits.

New York City is setting a great example for smoking cessation. If other states would follow suit, banning smoking in outdoor public areas like parks and beaches and offering free or affordable programs designed to help smokers quit for good, we may finally see a dramatic decrease in smoking and related illnesses.

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit AskDrManny.com.