I’m a smoker. These days, the guilt carried with saying those words is embarrassing, like admitting to wetting the bed, perhaps, or acknowledging that you used to steal bikes as a child. But I’m a smoker nonetheless.
When I first heard about the Food and Drug Administration’s new proposed changes to cigarette packs, I was appalled. The changes involve covering the top half of cigarette packs with pictures of diseased lungs and corpses. That’s right: pictures of actual corpses.
The proposal comes in the wake of Michigan becoming the 37th state of the union last May to ban smoking in almost all public places, and with all the recent tax hikes on cigarettes. It seems clear that lawmakers in the state and in the country want us all to quit.
I argued with more than a few of my non-smoking friends in heated debate over the regulations. I said it was sick. I said that it was cowardly –– if the FDA really cared about getting people to quit smoking, wouldn’t they ban tobacco altogether, like the recent Four Loko ban in Michigan that is supposedly for the public health? The FDA certainly has the power.
A friend asked me if I was too bull-headed to admit that the new pictures might stop one person, at the very least, from smoking. I conceded that point. Maybe someone, somewhere, will see the picture of a corpse and stop smoking. The debate ended somewhere around there.
A week or so later, I was grocery shopping when I saw a man in the crowd with a throat stoma. A stoma is an artificial opening created by doctors after an injury to an area –– in this case, likely throat cancer.
My hand instantly went to my throat. I pictured myself with a stoma and the idea was distasteful.
I feel guilty for my reaction. That guy was just going grocery shopping; he wasn’t expecting someone like myself to be so shocked by his appearance, but I couldn’t help it. The reality of smoking was right there in front of me. A little voice in my head was saying, “If you keep smoking, this could be you someday.”
I stopped smoking for two days. Then, of course, my addicted body went right back reaching for a pack of smokes.
I think most of us smokers probably started smoking in a bar or at a party, with a drink in our hand. Now, we’re denied even that small pleasure. I was one of the fiercest critics of the ban and now it seems natural even to me.
There are 45 million smokers in the nation. While I still believe everyone certainly has the right to smoke, I have to admit that what we’re doing isn’t great for our bodies. And maybe –– just maybe –– the FDA is finally doing something right.
So, although the FDA regulations sound asinine, in a way, they’re beneficial. If I had to look at a picture of a corpse every time I smoked, I think it would, at the very least, slow down my smoking.
There was a time, back in the days of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, when smoking was elegant and classy. Now, I’m afraid, we’re a dying breed –– and perhaps with good reason. Maybe all these anti-smoking regulations should be a wake-up call to smokers. And if it stops even one person, I think it might just be worth it.