FDA’s Graphic Warnings for Cigarettes: Noble Ad Campaign or Nanny State at Work?

In a bold attempt to curb cigarette smoking, the FDA unveiled a proposal that would require graphic images on packs of cigarettes. While it's widely acknowledged that smoking is a serious health hazard, some are comparing the warning labels, which include images of diseased lungs and dying people, to a "nanny state" regime. Sam Kazman, General Counsel at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market advocacy organization, told Fox News on Saturday he thinks the FDA's proposal inappropriately intervenes in the lives of Americans. Kazman described the FDA initiative, part of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, now in a 60 day public comment period, as the government's attempt to "shout louder at people and gross them out" in the hopes of getting them to act a certain way, in this case, to abstain from smoking.

Kazman is concerned this anti-smoking campaign is just another example of "big government" at work. "In terms of what the government does with the regulation of tobacco is the same thing they'll try to do with food and the big war on obesity five years down the line," he said.

With the balance of power in Congress about to change hands, Kazman hopes lawmakers will "reverse themselves" and advocate for less government intervention.

Earlier this week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius called the act an "important milestone in protecting our children and the health of the American public." But critics argue driving any message too hard will send young people running in the opposite direction. Kazman noted "there's no evidence whatsoever that this [ad campaign] is going to have any impact" adding that, "young people love to rebel" and if "they can rebel by pulling cigarettes out of outrageous packs, they might be attracted to it more."

The FDA will make final decisions about which images will be used on cigarette packs by June of next year, requiring tobacco companies to comply with the packaging in September.