What Can Cigarettes Teach Us About Comics?

About a year ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration unveiled a series of nine large cigarette package labels that add vivid images to existing text-only warnings about the dangers of smoking. These new “enhanced warning labels” include pictures of corpses, a diseased mouth, lungs, and throat, and infants threatened by second-hand smoke followed by phrases such as “Cigarettes cause cancer” or “Smoking can kill you” and an 800 number for help.
The labeling system, part of the Family Smoking Preventing and Tobacco Control Act of 2009, was to go into effect this September until a group of tobacco companies sued to block the requirement. While one federal judge ruled earlier this year that the warnings violated the free speech of the cigarette makers and granted a preliminary injunction, an appeals court in a related case disagreed, making it likely that the issue will end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
I was listening to a report about the ongoing case on NPR two weeks ago and I was particularly struck by the kind of language that the judges, federal officials, anti-smoking advocates, and constitutional experts used to describe the images and their impact on consumers. read

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