Cigarette LabelingFeb 4th, 2012 | By Special Contributor | Category: Essays
Hannah Geiger and Benjamin Frey, Elizabethtown College
It is well known that smoking cigarettes can cause multiple health problems.Governments around the worldare aware of this, and many are concerned about the well-being of their citizens, as well as the coinciding healthcare costs caused by smoking-related medical problems. For this reason, many governments are working to dissuade people from picking up the harmful habit.
Recently, governments have passed laws determining what kind of medical warnings should be on the packaging of cigarettes.For example, cigarette manufacturers in Australia are already required to include graphic warning labels that cover half of the back of cigarette boxes.The Australian Senate has recently passed a law banning all brand-labeling of cigarette packaging, and requiring all companies to package their cigarettes in identical brown boxes containing no company logos. The Australian government is also planning to increase cigarette taxes by twenty-five percent.Unsurprisingly, this new legislation caused uproar among cigarette manufacturers.
The Australian government is seeking to inhibit the advertising and marketing abilities of Australian cigarette manufacturers in order to decrease consumer demand for cigarettes. Tobacco manufacturers are opposed to this action because labeling is an important aspect of marketing that allows these companies to maintain customers, as well as to attract new ones. To most long-time consumers of cigarettes, demand for this product is inelastic, meaning that the quantity of cigarettes demanded by these consumers will not change if the price changes. With the increasing awareness of the negative implications of consuming cigarettes, it is becoming more and more important for these companies to implement stronger marketing tactics in order to gain new customers.In comparison to long-time consumers, the demand of cigarettes for the new consumers who are not yet addicted to this product would be classified as elastic. This means that as the price of cigarettes increases, the quantity demanded would decrease, and vice versa. Thus, if this legislation is enacted, the product will seem much less appealing, especially to new consumers, and they will be less compelled to buy cigarettes.
Following in the footsteps of Australia, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA)is working to pass legislation that would require American cigarette manufacturers to include graphic warning labels on their packaging. These labels would consist of upsetting images of effects of smoking, including diseased lungs and teeth.The U.S. Government currently requires tobacco companies to provide purely “factual and uncontroversial” information on their labels (Frankel 2011). However, according to U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, the images that would be required on packaging are not purely factual, especially since many of them resemble cartoons or appear to be digitally enhanced.Also, in requiring tobacco companies to provide this somewhat questionable information on their packaging, the government is calling for these firms to advocate against their own legal product.Judge Leon said that “the images’ ability to provoke emotion strongly suggests that the government’s actual purpose is not to inform, but rather to advocate a change in consumer behavior” (Schoenberg 2011).
According to Sabbane (2009), 90 percent of adult smokers in the U.S. started smoking before the age of 21. This has led researchers to conduct many experiments to determine what effect warning labels have on nonsmoking adolescents. In Canada, warning labels contain a graphic picture, whereas the United States currently only requires a written warning from the Surgeon General.When these two tactics were compared, evidences showed tha tthe effect of these labels completely depends on the qualities and attitudes of the person evaluating them. In Canada, teens developed a negative attitude towards smoking when they saw the graphic image on the cigarette packaging. In contrast, teens in the United States responded with a more positive attitude (Sabbane 2009). These contradictory results could have been caused by differences in health education in the two countries, as well as by differing cultural connotations of smoking.
The addition or removal of what is included on cigarette labels is a controversial subject. It may have significant effects on the market for cigarettes. Governments must find a way to allow cigarette companies to have their legal rights while requiring them toinform the public about the dangers of smoking cigarettes. Cigarette manufacturers will seek to differentiate their brands in order to win and retain customers, a goal thwarted by requirements to adopt uniform packaging. The need to support the rights of the tobacco industry has to be balanced with the need to promote healthy habits and to reduce government healthcare costs. The type of information required on cigarette packages will continue to be an important socioeconomic issue in the future.
Frankel, Alison. “Big Tobacco,Graphic Packaging, and the First Amendment.” Thomson Reuters News & Insight. Thomson Reuters, 7 Nov. 2011.Web. 29 Nov. 2011.<http://newsandinsight.thomsonreuters.com/Legal/News/2011/11_-_November/Big_Tobacco,_graphic_packaging,_and_the_First_Amendment/>.
Schneider, Joe. “BAT Vows Court Battle With Australia Over ‘Unconstitutional’ Cigarette Law.” Bloomberg 10 Nov. 2011: n.pag.Bloomberg.Web. 29 Nov. 2011.<http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-11-10/british-american-tobacco-threatens-to-sue-australia-over-plain-pack-law.html>.
Schoenberg, Tom. “Cigarette Labeling Regulations With New Warnings Blocked by Federal Judge.” Bloomberg 7 Nov. 2011: n.pag.Bloomberg.Web. 29 Nov. 2011.<http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-11-07/tobacco-health-warning-labels-blocked-by-u-s-judge-on-free-speech-grounds.html>.
Sabbane, Lalla.”The Effectiveness of Cigarette Warning Label Threats on Nonsmoking Adolescents.”The Journal of Consumer Affairs.43.2 (2009): 332-43. Print.
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