Skull and Crossbones on Cigarette Packs

Apr 14, 2009
by: Rachel

I recently watched a film called Thank You For Smoking. The main character, Nick Naylor, is the chief spokesperson for the Academy of Tobacco Studies, which is backed by the tobacco companies. (IMDb)  His job consists of using his talent with words to spin the truth about tobacco and convince the public that cigarettes are in fact not harmful and a great habit to start up. It was a really interesting film and gave insight into why half of the U.S. population currently smokes tobacco. It followed the rarely seen viewpoint of the tobacco companies and all those people thriving from the profit of the cigarette. When asked by a reporter why he (Nick Naylor) does what he does, he responds, "it's for the mortgage." The entire movie you are thinking "How can this guy live with himself,?" when according to WrongDiagnosis an estimated 400,000 deaths are caused each year directly from smoking cigarettes.

One of the most memorable scenes to me is when Nick Naylor attends a Congressional Hearing in which he speaks against the issue at hand, putting a poison label on every cigarette box with a picture of a skull and crossbones. I thought that the poison label was a brilliant idea, because I feel that even though most people today are aware of the health risks of smoking cigarettes, it would serve as a reminder that you are in fact inhaling poisons, and maybe it would register with someone after purchasing a few packs. Cigarettes are represented in magazines, televison, and ads all over the place as cool, exotic, refreshing, safe, delicious, and appealing. Who really even notices the surgeon general's warning in its nondescript black font, often at the bottom of a box or magazine ad. The poison label would jump out at you and the buyer would know what he or she was putting into his or her body.

Nick Naylor makes the argument to the Senator from Vermont, and head of the hearing, that his state clogs the arteries of hundreds of thousands of Americans with cheese, which leads to heart attacks. According to He implies that cheese is just as dangerous as cigarettes and therefere it should have a poison label. Obviously cigarettes are a tad more harmful than cheese, but he makes an excellent point. American consume many products that are very harmful in excess, yet those selling these products don't warn you on the outside packaging. Coke products, fried food, candy, processed food, and other harmful things are easy to come by and there is no age limit to get them. I have concluded that it is up to the individual to educate oneself on what he or she is putting in his or her body. Sellers are not worried about your health, they just want your money. You are just a dollar sign in their eyes and they will do anything to make sure you don't know about the harmful ingredients in their products. It is a personal choice to smoke a pack of cigarettes a day or drink a Diet Coke with every lunch you have. Everyone needs to be aware of what a product will do to you in the long run and after taking that into account it is their decision, which leaves no room for poison labels.