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Do Ghoulish New Cigarette Packages Go Too Far?

The Bureau of Tormenting Smokers apparently knows no bounds.

John MacLachlan Gray 9 Jul 2012TheTyee.ca

John MacLachlan Gray is a writer/composer who lives in Vancouver. Among his wide ranging works are the renowned play Billy Bishop Goes to War co-written with Eric Peterson, and mystery novels including Not Quite Dead. His blog, where this was first published, is here.

Dropped in on the neighbours yesterday. They happen to be cigarette smokers when not on the patch, so I had a look at the new packaging.

I think Doug's was Players Filter, but I couldn't tell for certain because there was no room for the label. Instead I saw a man's mouth, held open to display a tongue covered in what looked to be white, flaky mold. Just so we didn't take the image as a reminder to brush our teeth, the text informed us that this was what mouth cancer looked like, and that the gentleman would probably lose his tongue.

A second package on the table contained Claudette's slims. In this case, the smoker got to look at an image of a girl with no lips and blackened teeth.

The Department of National Health, not satisfied with the provision of information, have become purveyors of Grand-Guignol.

Don't get me wrong. I regard cigarette smoking as a deadly habit and cigarette companies as the personification of corporate evil. I know about second-hand smoke and the risk to the fetus and what a drag smokers are to the medical system. Anyone who can be trusted with hot coffee knows that.

Even so, this new level of propaganda leads me to wonder if, given a moral justification, there is any limit to the capacity of well-meaning bureaucrats to torture people for their own good.

What next? Will they conceal sharp objects in packages so that people cut themselves when they reach for a smoke? Perhaps the filters will be coated with dog feces, or the paper infected with a virus that gives people Plantar warts between their fingers.

Unintended consequences?

Surely there is a difference between warning about the dangers of smoking and conditioning human beings with aversion therapy like lab rats.

In A Clockwork Orange, the Burgess book and Kubrick film, Alex DeLarge, a nasty, violent lad with a taste for Beethoven, has his eyes forcefully tweezed open and is subjected to the "Ludovico Technique," an experimental aversion therapy to cure anti-social tendencies.

The technique is a success. Alex is wracked by nausea at the slightest hint of violence; he becomes a peaceful human being, but with an unintended consequence -- he also gets sick when he hears classical music.

I wonder if the new batch of state-sponsored aversion therapy will have some unintended consequences of its own. At minimum, I predict a heightened demand for retro cigarette cases and other accessories.

Who knows -- the new packaging could actually make smoking glamorous again.  [Tyee]

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