Graphic labels could curb smoking

by Keelia Moeller

Smoking — It’s a habit that affects people all over the globe and an addiction that we as a nation continually struggle with.
The two main things I hear people say to smokers are that the habit kills and causes lung cancer — lectures that are accompanied by looks of disapproval and disgust. 
While I can honestly say I wholeheartedly agree with these statements, lecturing smokers isn’t the only thing that will help them with the quitting process. 
Professional programs designed to help smokers quit are one appropriate and effective way to go. In fact, the Affordable Care Act requires insurers to provide free programs or medications that will help smokers quit.
More specifically, the ACA requires that insurers provide a minimum of four counseling sessions and FDA-approved smoking-cessation medications for up to two quitting attempts per year. Unfortunately, it seems that not all of these insurance plans live up to these requirements — in Ohio, for example, only one of 16 marketplace plans meet them. 
Smoking is undoubtedly an enormous health hazard. Worldwide, tobacco use causes nearly 6 million deaths each year. Even worse, this number is expected to go up to 8 million by 2030. 
All our warning labels, lectures and quitting programs, although useful, still have not stopped the destructive trend of smoking. 
However, there is another solution that has proven itself incredible effective — 77 countries have large, graphic warning labels featuring cancerous lesions or other effects of smoking on all of their tobacco products. 
These graphic labels have one vivid color image and one warning statement. These labels cover a large portion of each product.
A Canadian study of the labels found that these warnings motivated 40 percent of smokers to successfully quit smoking, and 34 percent reported the warnings helped them try to quit. 
The United States considered these graphic labels back in 2009. But in 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that the labels violated free speech. Unsurprisingly, tobacco companies had been the main forces opposing the labels.
But it is crucial that we make these very real health warnings undeniably obvious and available to smokers. 
We must, quite literally, paste them all over the products smokers use. 
Furthermore, we must ensure that all states — not just Minnesota — have full medical coverage when it comes to smoking cessation programs and medications. 
These two techniques, taken together, may keep nonsmokers motivated never to smoke, while also providing those who have already succumbed to tobacco temptation with the motivation and means to quit.