McCULLOUGH: Smoking labels are just more intrusion by the government

About a year ago I wrote a column about a bunch of new laws that were about to take effect that were written essentially to save us from ourselves. The laws covered a gamut of things from texting while driving to not letting your teenager get his genitals pierced.

While I normally like for the government to stay out of our lives, I understand that there are a lot of people who need their hands held so they won’t kill the rest of us. It is a useful function for government to warn us about certain things. It’s OK for it to perform certain safeguards.

But sometimes it goes too far, as is the case this week with the new cigarette warning labels.

If you haven’t seen these things, do yourself a favor and try not to see them. They are gruesome. Pictures of rotting lungs, diseased teeth and cancerous jaws are not something you want to be looking at, especially over dinner, which is how I saw them, on the television at the restaurant.

Not only are they gruesome, but they take up the entire top half of the package. There will be no missing these labels once all the tobacco companies are in compliance. They are literally over the top, and I think that’s wrong.

Now before all the anti-smoking advocates and busybodies start emailing, I assure you, I get it. The verdict has been in on smoking for a long time. It makes you sick. It kills you. Second-hand smoke kills other people. It costs gazillions in health care expenses. We don’t need to argue about how bad it is.

And as I said, I understand the need for the government to warn us. The tobacco companies will certainly not do that voluntarily. They have been shown, in fact, to lie about how bad it is. (Shocking, I know.)

Frankly, how you could live on Earth and not know how bad it is mystifies me, but some people are always going to be ignorant of certain facts, so yes, the government should put warnings on the packs.

But how much is enough? I’m unaware of any other legal product sold in the United States that is the target of such a campaign. Cars do not come with photos of bloody accident victims permanently emblazoned on the dashboard. Guns do not have pictures on the stock of people with bullet holes in their heads. Your french-fry holder doesn’t have images of clogged arteries. There are no blown-up meth labs on cold medicine boxes and no diseased livers on liquor bottles.

All of those products can hurt you. In fact, here’s a little secret: in the wrong hands, anything is dangerous. A pink, fluffy, stuffed bunny becomes a murder weapon when held over someones’ mouth and nose with sufficient gusto.

Yet on all those things we settle for little-bitty warnings in tiny print, the government’s equivalent of a whisper. (Hey, you. Don’t drink if you’re pregnant, and don’t put your kid in front of the airbag.)

But tobacco gets graphic, disgusting images that will be on display in every gas station in America for you to look at every time you fill up. And the government says a pack-a-day smoker, by pulling out his pack 20 times a day, will see the images more than 7,000 times a year.

The government has obviously never heard of a cigarette case. I’m predicting those will be making a big comeback. That’ll take care of the horror show on the pack, and people who want to smoke can do so without being browbeaten by the government 20 times a day.

If I wanted to smoke, I’d do it with the full knowledge that I was slowly killing myself, and I would be trading life for the enjoyment smoking brought me. I would obviously be making a terrible choice. But it would be my choice. We still have those in this country.

Don’t we?

Email Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/natemccullough.