Will creepy photos or eco facts get Americans to quit smoking?

Will creepy photos or eco facts get Americans to quit smoking? In the age of shock and awe it takes a lot of effort to get a person’s attention, especially smokers. They’ve been told by medical professionals dangerous impact of their habit, but addiction keeps them puffing away. The FDA hopes that adding shocking photos on cigarette packs may make people quit, but they may need more firepower than stock photos.

The idea behind the FDA’s decision to add creepy photos to cigarette packs was born out of 2009’s Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act which gave the FDA greater power to regulate the content and marketing of tobacco products. Currently the FDA uses hot little nuggets of information such as “Smoking can lead to age-related macular degeneration.” Under the new plan, one-half of each side of the pack will carry a message such as “Smoking can kill you” alongside the image of a body post-autopsy.

Something that’s equally creepy is the fact that many smokers aren’t aware of the environmental impact of their habit. Sure, they’re polluting their lungs, but what about our water supply? According to the Cigarette Butt Advisory Group butts from filtered cigarettes are the number one littered item in the world. Many of them are tossed on sidewalks and streets, giving them a high chance of reaching a sewage line or water supply.

The butt’s risk factor comes from the non-biodegradable cellulose acetate and the chemicals that the butt filtered before transferring the smoke to the user. One study found that half the fish swimming in a liter of water will be killed by a single filter. Those butts that do find their way to water can also secrete heavy metals for at least a month.

While butts may impact the water supply, wood is used in almost every step of tobacco production from the paper to packaging. About 600 million trees alone are cut down every year just dry the tobacco that’s in your cigarettes. So for 30 packs of cigarettes you buy, one tree is cut down. Worldwide, 11.4 million tons of wood are used to dry tobacco.

The FDA might not want to go outside the health related impacts of cigarette smoking but it doesn’t mean others can’t take up the fight. If Greenpeace can go after big coal can’t they go after big tobacco?