Friday, June 25, 2021
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The hypocrisy of “statutory warning”

Cigarette smoking is injurious to health. Smoking is addictive. Smoking may cause impotence. These above sentences are used as a ‘Statutory warnings’ on cigarettes packets. While there is no dearth for “statutory warnings”, days were that, for many, college days remained incomplete without the smoking adventure. Boys and girls smoke to impress their peers with their own desire to look grown up and flirt with the forbidden, a sort of adventurism. They may ask, why would people quit something which they enjoyed? One person tells, “I smoke. Why shouldn’t non-smokers respect it? It is not easy to quit smoking”. They are smoking because they have not faced the effect of it and they are very much aware of the consequences.

If the product is giving adverse effect to human body then why government is not declaring it as illegal? About 100 million deaths were caused by tobacco in the 20th century. If the current trend continues, there is likely to be one billion deaths in the 21st century. It seems that there is no one who wants to quit by seeing the “warning” label. While addicts share that “nicotine helps to focus and concentrate”. Curiosity, family history, stress and tension are also attributed to the habit. If any smoker agrees that smoking is bad then his brain process this information. They are well informed about it but the addiction makes them to ‘never give up’. However, as Mark Twain said, “Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.”

You will not see photos of obese people on potato chip packets, nor liquor bottles showed images of diseased livers/drunk driving accidents. It is not the same craving for chocolates that can be applied to craving for cigarettes. Drink responsibly is different from smoke responsibly. Why the government fails to criminalise tobacco, and in fact makes money from the sale of the anti-health product. Does that make the state an aide or abettor to the crime? Why something so demonstrably damaging is legal? It tantamount to “we think this product is so awful but we will let you buy it”, hypocrisy running amok amid so many perspectives and emotions.

What does corporate social responsibility signify?

The tobacco industries are clever, they have resources and they come up with new ways to get around bans. It is illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under 18. Not a single prosecution has ever been reported for selling tobacco products to minors. How could any shareholder in the tobacco companies not feel sorry for what they promote?

By the way, does the law forbid cigarette brands from sponsoring sporting and cultural events? I wonder why no tobacco industry representative has seen it as a curb on its right to free speech? How does the psychology – selling the cancer sticks and also “warning” about the ill-effects of smoking tobacco – works? Warning labels on cigarette packs may stir the emotions, but never drive them to quit.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), “tobacco use is one of the biggest public health threats the world ever faced. There are more than a billion smokers in the world and the epidemic is shifting to the developing world.” Graphic and grisly images are steadily losing their “shock” value as people are desensitised to grotesque images. Not once have I heard the medical and health professionals say “Ban it completely”.

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