Thursday, March 1, 2012

Making Cigarettes More Blah

A federal court ruled against the graphic health warnings the FDA has ordered for cigarette packs. It seems likely that this ruling will be partly overturned on appeal, but it offers an excuse for revisiting the question of the design of the cigarette packs, and a chance to implement something more effective than the current designs.

It is worth noting that while the tobacco companies won this ruling, they did not get what they really wanted. The tobacco companies want to go back to the big-logo designs of the past, but the new ruling doesn’t set forth any legal grounds for that to happen.

When you look at the objective of discouraging people from taking up smoking, the FDA’s bold, full-color designs have a problem. The boldness and color glamorize both the cigarettes themselves and the diseases that result from smoking.

To stop attracting so many customers for cigarettes, the FDA should be looking for a way to make cigarettes look full and unimportant. Not full color pictures, but small print in black and white, or better yet, gray on gray. Not a distinctive bold typeface that could imprint itself on the brains of addicts, but a generic and archaic one, perhaps something taken from a 1950s typewriter. All this could be done without testing the limits of the law. The new court ruling gives the FDA another chance to get it right.