Cigarette warnings met with skepticism

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 22, 2011

By Nathan Hardin
SALISBURY — After the Food and Drug Administration released new graphic photos it will require for cigarette package labels Tuesday morning, several Rowan smokers remain undeterred.
The FDA released nine new warning labels — the most significant change to cigarette packs in 25 years — which depict the negative health effects of tobacco use.
The photos include the body of a corpse, a man smoking with a tracheotomy, an infant being subjected to secondhand smoke and rotting teeth and gums. Accompanying the photos are warning phrases like “Cigarettes cause cancer” and “Smoking can kill you.”
According to the FDA, tobacco is responsible for about 443,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.
Patty Overcash, a smoker and convenience store manager at a Shell service station, 2203 S. Main St., said she doesn’t think it will significantly affect her smoking or the station’s cigarette business.
“Maybe it will change some of them,” Overcash said. “It would probably change me if I had to sit there and look at it. Especially if it had the baby on there.”
Overcash wasn’t the only smoker who objected to the use of infants on cigarette packs, Carole Rusmisell, a smoker and convenience store manager at the Hot Spot service station, 5710 S. Main St., said the photo of a mother holding her child, surrounded by smoke, was inappropriate.
“It wouldn’t deter me from smoking. I’ve smoked,” Rusmisell. The only thing that would deter me is the baby (photo). I think that should be cut out, period.”
Rusmisell said the other photos didn’t bother her, because she doesn’t have to see those.
“If they had teeth or the lungs (on packs), who cares. I don’t see those things,” Rusmisell said.
Fellow Hot Spot manager Connie Miller said the price of cigarettes is more of a deterrent for smokers than the photos that will soon come on packs.
“If the price doesn’t stop them, nothing’s going to stop them,” Miller said. “They come in here and complain about the price, but they still buy them.”
Spencer resident Tony Johnson said cigarettes are too addictive for smokers to care about the photos.
“I doubt it’ll affect me or anybody else,” he said. “You can quit everything else, but these are tough.”
Chris Pier offered a similar explanation, saying the government made changes to cigarette packs before without any effects.
“It probably won’t affect me,” Pier said. “I need the nicotine. It’s just a picture.”
“It didn’t affect people when they changed the camel on the side (of Camel cigarettes) to ‘camel blue.’ ”
Pier refers to the 2010 FDA ban of “light” cigarettes, forcing cigarette companies to replace the names with other titles. The FDA said many smokers thought “light” cigarettes were safer.
The U.S. first mandated the use of warning labels on cigarette packs in 1965, requiring makers to use labels stating “Cigarettes may be hazardous to your health.” The current warnings, black boxes with white text, were introduced in the mid-1980s.
The FDA says the new labels will “clearly and effectively convey the health risks of smoking.” Cigarette makers have until the fall of 2012 to comply with the new regulations.
The pictures did give pause to one Rowan smoker.
Tracy Rendleman the labels would make her think first before lighting up.
“It’ll bother me. It’ll disturb me. It’ll make me think,” Rendleman said.
“That’s what the outcome can do.”