Thursday, May 6, 2010

Big...Bold.... WARNINGS

One significant change that you will see in tobacco product ads next month will be in the size and placement of warning labels. You probably remember joking with friends about the size of the current warning labels. It's likely that you joked at the absurdity of these tiny labels, off in the corner, that you have to get a magnifying glass out just to read. The image on the left shows the old way of giving warnings. Yes, it is there, but is it effective?
Looking at the image on the right, the joke about the warning is not as funny any more. This is a serious, substantial warning that is going to let people look beyond the colorful branding and the "freedom" Camel Snus is selling in their ads. The new ads must take up 20% of the ad.
While the warning labels say almost exactly the same thing (the only difference is "may" in the before warning label and "can" in the after warning label) the delivery of their message is entirely different. The label on the left is something people will take notice of and not just brush off like the old labels, at least according to some people. While this might not seem as first glance to be a wildly significant change, if it deters even 100 youth from picking up this product, that is worth it! That is 100 less youth who face a lifetime of addiction and the painful consequences of tobacco related disease.

There will be four different warnings including:

  1. This product is not a safe alternative to cigarettes
  2. This product can cause mouth cancer
  3. This product can cause gum disease and tooth loss
  4. Smokeless tobacco is addictive (a new warning)
Some researchers do not feel that these advertisements go far enough. There is that 80% of the ad that can still influence people. Take a look below at a mail piece we received in February promoting a special price on Camel Snus. 

Camel Snus can go to the club and never miss a beat. The implication here is that you can dance the night away with Snus in your mouth and never have to go out for a cigarette and miss you favorite song. Even with 20% coverage from a new, bolder warning the question remains if that will be enough to deter people. Will they still want to "Break-Free?" Or "Take a Bold Step?"


Kristin said...

"The implication here is that you can dance the night away with Snus in your mouth and never have to go out for a cigarette...."

And WHY that is a bad thing? If they are using snus (which is scientifically shown to be up to 98% less dangerous than smoking tobacco) instead of smoking, wouldn't that be better for the smoker's health? Especially if they would already be smoking?

I understand you want everyone to avoid tobacco products completely, but that isn't going to happen. If offered the choice between deadly tobacco smoke and the far safer smokeless tobacco products, why lie to them and tell them smokeless products are just as bad? All you are doing is discouraging the use of a far deadlier product, because people will think they may as well keep smoking.

Granted, we don't want kids to start using tobacco products, but by misrepresenting the comparative safety of smokeless alternatives, you are exposing actual smokers to far greater risks.

Erich said...

The studies of which you refer are in reference to Swedish Snus, a product which is entirely unlike American made Snus. Moreover public health has a duty and responsibility to "do no harm." The ethics which guide the profession do not promote "doing less harm."
Thanks for your comment.

Colin said...

"... public health has a duty and responsibility to "do no harm.""

It's not going to happen in the real world. IRL, the best option is to welcome the least harmful substitute available. We don't live in an ideal world, so it is folly to aim for such.

Kristin said...

No offense, Erich, but baloney.

If that were the case, public health wouldn't advise people to use low-fat and sugar-free foods - they'd be telling them not to eat it at all. People would be told not to drive at all, because seatbelts would only "do less harm" and aren't 100% safe.

Reduced harm/risk has been around for years in foods and other public health and safety, why not tobacco?

To tell people to just keep smoking, because smokeless tobacco isn't 100% safe make no sense. I know you want people to quit altogether, but that isn't what is happening with over 20% of the U.S. population who still smoke. By making smokers believe that smokeless alternatives are no safer than smoking, they will just keep smoking, while they could have been breaking their habit of smoking and reducing their health risks.

I'm not talking about encouraging non-smokers to use smokeless tobacco - that'd be irresponsible.

I'm talking about COMMITTED SMOKERS, who are already pumping 4,000 toxic chemicals and 60 carcinogens into their bodies and can't or won't quit. If they won't quit smoking, can you really argue that it isn't the duty of public health officials to alert them to the fact that smokeless products lack up to 98% of those chemicals and carcinogens found in tobacco smoke? (And we know it's the SMOKE, otherwise indoor bans would include smokeless tobacco. Or is this "TobaccoFree Wisconsin" now?)

How is that any different from telling someone to use low-fat products, which aren't as good as abstaining altogether, but at least LESS detrimental to their health?

Not informing smokers that many smokeless tobacco products are up to 98% safer than smoking is like telling a morbidly obese person that they may as well eat Ben and Jerry's, because low-fat yogurt still has "some fat."

Janet said...

What you're doing is telling smokers to continue smoking cigarettes even though there are less harmful products available. I don't know about you, but I consider that doing serious harm.

Erich said...

Our priorities include proving for smoke-free environments, increasing the price of tobacco, and ensuring there is a strong, comprehensive tobacco prevention and control program.

To serve those priorities we partner to collect data, data which indicates that smokeless use is already on the rise in WI. We use data which shows that the burden of tobacco is NOT reduced by the use smokeless products.

We are not exposing smokers to any risks. We pass policies, we don't do treatment.

Smokeless is not less harmful. Period.