Do-it-yourself anti-smoking propaganda.

Commentary about business and finance.
Nov. 12 2010 5:50 PM

Draw This Cadaver!

Do-it-yourself anti-smoking propaganda.

Warning label. Click image to expand.

Be careful what you wish for. The Food and Drug Administration's two-decade struggle to assert jurisdiction over tobacco products ended in June 2009 when Congress passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. Now the FDA is stuck with figuring out how to regulate a product that, were its widespread use not traceable to the pre-Columbian era, and were it not embedded in American culture and commerce ever since, the government would surely ban (tobacco being much more dangerous than many of the drugs the FDA won't allow to be sold).

The 2009 law requires cigarette packs to carry larger warning labels featuring nine blunt new warnings ("Smoking can kill you," "Tobacco smoke causes fatal lung disease in nonsmokers," etc.) and illustrations featuring color graphics. On Nov. 12 the FDA published a proposed regulation on how to make it happen. The agency is soliciting public comment on 72 predictably lurid graphics it's cooked up to comply with the 2009 law, and it's inviting citizens to recommend which nine would best do the job.

Advertisement

Anti-smoking propaganda has been shown to have some positive effect in getting people to quit and (especially) preventing people from taking up this self-destructive habit in the first place. One study found that every dollar spent on anti-smoking ads reduced sales, on a per capita basis, by 7.7 packs. But different campaigns have enjoyed different levels of success, and some have failed to produce any measureable effect whatsoever. Humor, I am sorry to report, has been found to be far less effective than ads that invoke "strong negative emotion" (i.e., ads that scare or disgust you).

I refuse to accept, however, that the job can't be done with a bit more flair. Blunt is good, but trenchant would be better. Granting that the kind of humor that inspires giggles probably won't do the trick, what about humor that inspires gasps? Perhaps all that's needed is less Jay Leno and more Michael O'Donoghue.

In that spirit, I invite Slate readers to submit mordantly funny or otherwise thought-provoking color graphics to accompany the nine new warning labels. The graphics should be more imaginative than what the FDA proposed, but not so imaginative that I can't publish them in this edgy-but-still-relatively-mainstream magazine. (Remember, too, that a key target audience is young people.) I will publish the best submissions in a follow-up slide show. Please submit your entry as a JPEG e-mail attachment (only one graphic per entrant, please!). Send it to thecustomer@slate.com under the subject heading "Tobacco Contest." No entries will be accepted after 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 16. Oh, and you must choose which warning to illustrate from the following list. (No illustrations accompanying different, nonstatutory warnings will be considered.):

Warning: Cigarettes are addictive.

Warning: Tobacco smoke can harm your children.

Warning: Cigarettes cause fatal lung disease.

Warning: Cigarettes cause cancer.

Warning: Cigarettes cause strokes and heart disease.

Warning: Smoking during pregnancy can harm your baby.

Warning: Smoking can kill you.

Warning: Tobacco smoke causes fatal lung disease in nonsmokers.

Warning: Quitting smoking now greatly reduces serious risk to your health.


May the best graphic artists win.

Like Slate on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Doublex

Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

How Will You Carry Around Your Huge New iPhone? Apple Pants!

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Television

The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Lifetime Didn’t Find the Steubenville Rape Case Dramatic Enough. So They Added a Little Self-Immolation.

No, New York Times, Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman” 

Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 1:39 PM Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman,” New York Times. Neither Are Her Characters.
Behold
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 19 2014 6:22 PM Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 19 2014 6:35 PM Pabst Blue Ribbon is Being Sold to the Russians, Was So Over Anyway
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.