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Scared into submission

November 15, 2010

We all know smoking is bad for us. Schools, communties and the government make it very clear to everyone that injesting cigarettes into your body isn’t a healthy life choice. Cigarette packs are already required to bear a label warning buyers of the health risks they are taking by choosing to light up. However, the F.D.A is taking things a step further. Instead of simply reading about what could happen to you by smoking, you’ll be forced to look at it. Cigarette packs would be required to cover half the box with a graphic image and an equally graphic warning. Humans react much more passionately to visual stimuli and by placing a picture of a corpse on the cigarette pack, F.D.A hopes that smokers will be scared into quitting.

Hobbes believed that it was sovereigns job to protect it’s citizens. The F.D.A defends the radical labels by saying they are doing the American public a service. These labels certainly are graphic but smokers know the risks associated with smoking.Will placing a graphic picture on the labels really make an impact?


The liberty of a subject, lieth therefore only in those things, which regulating their actions, the sovereign hath praetermitted. -Hobbes Leviathan Pt. 2, Ch. 21

Hobbes stated that men “have made an artificial man, which we call a commonwealth; so also have they made artificial chains.” According to Hobbes, man might have the liberty to make his own decisions but when he joins a commonwealth certain freedoms are sacrificed. Hence men are free but also bound in chains.

While it’s a drastic move on the F.D.As part to place these labels on cigarette packs, in a Hobbesian commonwealth they would have the right to do so. The labels would increase the well being of the commonwealth and a disapproving member must bite the bullet, because they sacrificed their freedom to the commonwealth. Besides, with campus going smoke free in July, maybe it’s time to take quitting seriously.

To read more about the F.D.A labels follow this link /

  1. Jorge Rodriguez-Larrain permalink
    November 15, 2010 10:57 PM

    Although I do generally agree with the opinion expressed in this post, specially the main focus which states that in a Hobbesian commonwealth they would have the right to place the labels on cigarettes packs. My view is that people are already aware of the dangers of smoking, but still they choose to smoke. Additionally, there are several other products that harm us when “abused”, such as fast food. Should fast food be required to have graphic warnings as well?

    • dbwein permalink
      November 16, 2010 4:47 PM

      I also agree that according to Hobbes the FDA, being our sovereign over food and drugs, has the right to enforce these graphic images and slogans on cigarette boxes. Furthermore, in response to the above post, I think that by making tobacco producers put these things on the cigarette boxes, the FDA is not hindering anyone’s ability to choose whether they smoke or not. People can still decide to buy cigarettes and smoke them if they wish. Also, the difference between labeling fast food verse tobacco is that fast food is okay in moderation but tobacco is bad for you no matter whether you smoke one cigarette or twenty.

  2. vdeepa permalink
    November 16, 2010 12:05 AM

    I think it is interesting that you point out that “[a]ccording to Hobbes, man might have the liberty to make his own decisions but when he joins a commonwealth certain freedoms are sacrificed.” This made me wonder about the motivations behind doing something for the “common good”. It is because we have a duty to the law? A duty to others? Although these are applicable to different scenarios, I think that in this case, it has to do with neither of them The decision to quit smoking is most powerful when we think of it as a duty to ourselves.

  3. Taylor Fields permalink
    November 16, 2010 3:43 PM

    I agree with your claim that the FDA is acting in a Hobbesian manner, yet I would argue they are not doing so to their full abilities. The recent ban on smoking in restaurants and public is sweeping the nation, and as you mentioned will soon come to Ann Arbor. The new graphic warnings are poignant reminders why we shouldn’t smoke, what we are risking, and do attempt to protect the safety of our citizens, but as a prior comment mentioned, in modern society almost everyone knows the risks of smoking, and those who choose to begin smoking, or continue to smoke, are fully aware of the risks. An additional image, an additional warning is not going to be influential the smoker if they health risks, probable warnings from family/friends/doctors, and the media have not already. The only way to effective way to ‘protect the citizen’s’ would be to ban tobacco, ban cigarettes, and though measures are being taken to reduce smoking, the ban is highly, if not completely, unrealistic.

  4. Lorig Stepanian permalink
    November 16, 2010 4:58 PM

    It’s very interesting that you compare this new regulation to Hobbesian theory. I agree with your analysis that the FDA is acting as a just sovereign, because they are looking out for the public well-being. I would also compare this new regulation to Locke’s idea of a the human body as property. In Locke’s society we are given the right to our own bodies. When we abuse this right by hurting ourselves, the government steps in and has the right to take control. Because a smoker is “spoiling” their bodies, in Locke’s society, the government would have the right to step in and impose a regulation that would attempt to prevent them from doing so.

  5. Andrew Berman permalink
    November 17, 2010 12:25 AM

    I agree in that the FDA is acting Hobbesian, but the FDA is not a true sovereign. They do not have the power to tell the commonwealth to stop smoking. They cannot take away tobacco from the commonwealth. The commonwealth (tobacco corporations and smokers) have all the power in this scenario. The FDA is just trying to get more people to quit.

  6. valeriejuan permalink
    November 17, 2010 11:49 AM

    When I saw this article in its original form on the USA Today website (my homepage), it definitely caught my eye as well. However, I think it may be important to note that the FDA’s change in labels will not just be seen by smokers who are already 2-pack-a-day addicts, but also by young adults who are on the verge of nicotine addiction. Perhaps they can appeal to the vanity of teenagers and other people who are conscious of their physical appearance, and manipulate that to improve the overall health of Americans and maybe even save a few lives.

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