July 6, 2011

"Want to see a corpse on a can of Pringles?"

(Via Overlawyered.) A. Barton Hinkle rankles at "those graphic new cigarette warnings Washington regulators unveiled last week."
"We'll begin ... studies to make sure that we are keeping people sensitized," says Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius. "What may seem quite shocking at the beginning, people get used to quite quickly." So if people build up a tolerance for the repulsive, the FDA will amp the dial up to grotesque....
The old warnings — informing buyers that cigarettes cause cancer, and so forth — conveyed information. The new labels are designed to provoke a reaction in that lizard part of your brain that thoughts never reach. A warning on a ladder that reads, "Caution: Improper use could lead to serious injury from falling" conveys information. A graphic photo of a compound tibia fracture conveys only sentiment.
Only sentiment... I disagree. Vividly pictured information is still information, even if it offends your taste. Years ago, if I remember correctly, the radical feminist Catharine MacKinnon argued that free speech rights shouldn't cover pornography, because it didn't convey any ideas. It was a sensation... designed to provoke a reaction in that lizard part of your brain that thoughts never reach. Those are Hinkle's words, not MacKinnon's. I don't think she said "lizard part of your brain"... though she might well have said "lizard part."

[INSERTION: "40 years ago: The Lizard King breaks on through to the other side." Did you forget to remember Jim Morrison 3 days ago?]

But, of course, the government doesn't need free speech protection to say what it wants to say to us. It's the government. The question is only whether it can require a private business to carry its message (or its delivery of sensation straight to that lizard part of your brain that thoughts never reach). The messages that already appear on cigarette packs give you the short answer: It can. The better question is: Do we want our government reaching past our intellect, into our deepest instincts, injecting its vision of how we ought to behave?

Well, of course, government actors are always trying to manipulate us on an emotional level in the hope that we'll vote for them or tolerate a war or a tax and so forth. I think the key is to become conscious and critical of those manipulations (and every day, I work at that, in public writing, to model and encourage awareness and resistance). Perhaps an even better question than whether we want the government to manipulate us emotionally is: Do we want the government to manipulate us emotionally with respect to the decisions we make about what to do with our bodies?

Phrased at that level of generality, the photos of cancerous lungs on cigarette packs (trying to get us not to smoke) are like the photos of aborted fetuses (trying to get us not to have abortions). Except we haven't seen the government go graphic with an anti-abortion message, and it's not as easy to think of a commercial product to stick the message on. Something for women. Tampons?

Hinkle's mind drifts to food:
[I]t's reasonable to ask when the federal government will start showing us disgusting pictures on packages of food, in which Washington also takes a keen interest. Indeed, someone asked Sibelius that very question during a press conference about the cigarette labels. Her response was evasive. Food labels are voluntary, she said. And tobacco is unique because smoking is "the No. 1 cause of preventable death."

It won't be No. 1 forever. Obesity is gaining ground fast. Sibelius says smoking imposes "$200 billion a year in health costs." According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity costs the U.S. about $150 billion....

Two days after Washington unveiled its new warning labels for cigarette packages, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study reporting that our food choices influence our weight more than exercise does. And potato chips pack on the pounds faster than any other food, including candy and desserts.
Hence the question about a corpse on a can of Pringles.

ADDED: Want to see a corpse in a can of Pringles?


edutcher said...

Nanny Bloomberg goes to Washington.

He is a Democrat, after all.

This is what has made New York A Summer Festival the last few years.

And, yes, the Pringle's cans are undoubtedly coming.

Curious George said...

Just don't put Kathleen Sibelius on the label. Ugh.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

We're gonna need a lot of graphic labels.

'Obesity' , for example, is just a short-hand name that describes the effects of something else. A better name, one that reflects the true cause, would be 'Carbohydrate Poisoning'.

Don't laugh. It's the truth, though only now being recognized.

In the same sense that 'cirrhosis of the liver' is actually 'alcohol poisoning'.

Just because something takes a long time to manifest, doesn't mean it isn't the sufficient cause.

aronamos said...

Who cares what's on the cigarette pack. The day this went into effect, I was shopping and found a lovely cigarette case, the flat silver-toned kind. Just happened to see it, in the clearance bin at a dress shop. Quite lovely, and now, quite functional.

traditionalguy said...

First they took away cigarette smoking for fun. Now they are going after the Potato chips eating for fun.

Why can't they just hire more Death Panelists who play folk music and let the condemned enjoy the life they have left?

They remind me of Medical Personnel that must keep torture victims alive long enough to make it hurt worse.

Curious George said...

Folly of cigarette Labels

AllenS said...

Oh, and don't wear leather.

MayBee said...

If I were a tobacco company, I would fight back by making an O brand cigarette, with a Shepard Fairey-esque graphic of this photograph.

ndspinelli said...

How about a picture of a corpse on the New York Times

Shouting Thomas said...

Not tampons!

Place the corpse picture on packages of condoms! And birth control pills!

Strike at the source.

Instead, the evil merchants of death glamorize their morbid products.

Carol_Herman said...

Does Pringles show a real potato chip on it's can? It's made, instead, from sludge. Potatoes ground down like cereal. And, full of water.

What pisses off eviro-whackos ... besides how government has hired these fools ... While the entire "stimulus" took our economy further down the toilet ... Is the fact that Pringles, which taste good ... get their taste from SALT.

And, salt is good for you.

All those crappy studies ... however, are on par with snake oil salesmen's promotional stuff.

I think we should get our government as far away from businesses that hire people ... As far away from our marketplace as possible!

I particularly like the way Pringles is packed. So the company gets extra credit.

Fred4Pres said...

My kids might actually prefer zombie pringles.

Martin L. Shoemaker said...

When I read this in 1978, I thought it was extremely improbable satire. Today, I think it's inevitable.

I'm Full of Soup said...

$200 billion a year is about $1 out of every $10 spent on health care and I generally am skeptical about numbers that libruls pull out of their butts. I have done a lot of financial analysis myself so I know a little about pulling numbers out of my butt.

William said...

When I was young and easy underneath the apple tree, I could eat endless amounts of everything, and the only worry about my weight was being too skinny. In like way, I could celebrate a twenty year old liver by going on a three day drunk and sleeping it off in one night. Cigarettes? What better way to celebrate youth and the remoteness of death than by lighting up a Lucky......Young people like to flirt with mortality. Every so often it develops into a serious affair, but mostly it's just a fun game. Byron used to drink out of a mug fashioned from a human skull. These warnings just heighten the Byronic appeal of mortal risk. Mortality is a romantic concept when you're young. Not so much when you're older.

I'm Full of Soup said...

Next they will require gay males get tattoos above their butts? the tattoo will show an AIDS victim and read "Do Not Enter Without a Condom".

Ann Althouse said...

The man who invented Pringles is currently being stored in a Pringles can.

Anonymous said...

"Remember the progressive opposition to laws that require women to view images of their fetuses before having an abortion? It was always said that this was not meant to provide information but to frighten and intimidate. So let me get this straight. It's okay for our government to frighten and intimidate people into not doing something that is detrimental to their health, but not okay for government to frighten and intimidate women into not killing their babies."


carrie said...

I don't think it is fair for the government to just target some of the products that are health threats. However, if the government won't target all products that are health/social threats, it seems to me that it sould at least prioritize health risks and target the riskiest behaviors, and the behaviors that cause the most collateral damage, first. It seems to me that alcohol is the product with the greatest health and social cost to society, as well as the product that causes the most collateral damage, so why not target that too. I would rate promiscuity as a bigger health and social threat than smoking, so why not pick on that--just imagine the imagery you could use to get that message out!

KCFleming said...

Everything not forbidden will be compulsory.

Economic inactivity is activity.

Slavery is freedom.

This kind of shit is funny at first, then darkly humorous, then serious as a heart attack.

The government means to control your every waking hour, and likely will intervene in your sleep if they can figure out how. Bet on it.

This is why leftism is a parasitic disease that must be stopped before it kills the host, for it always does.

Ann Althouse said...

News from 2008: "Pringles, Procter & Gamble Co.'s salty snack stacked in a tube, are not potato chips, a London judge ruled Friday in a tax dispute."

Sam vfm #111 said...

And tobacco is unique because smoking is "the No. 1 cause of preventable death."

No it isn't. Driving a car is.

Bartender Cabbie said...

Porn does not convey ideas? Not in my experience.

themightypuck said...

What about covering up half the label on that nice single malt scotch you drink with some stomach turning booze related pic?

Winston Smith Rides Again said...


The Crack Emcee said...

More "encouragement" for the "good people," right, Ann? And anyone who flips the bird at 'em is, obviously, a baaaaaaaaaaaad man.

And, of course, there's no discussion of the cult/groupthink aspect of, first, changing what we eat as part of changing what we think?

Or the Democrats as the party of cults and groupthink.

How little interest do they have in the rest of us being individuals now? Is that just an accident?

"Charlie sayss he loves your Good and Plenty,..."

Elise B. said...

And what about graphic aborted fetuses in front of PP clinics? Would that speak to the lizard part of the brain?
Elise B.

Sofa King said...

Lenina Huxley: Ah, smoking is not good for you, and it's been deemed that anything not good for you is bad; hence, illegal. Alcohol, caffeine, contact sports, meat...

John Spartan: Are you shitting me?

Moral Statute Machine: John Spartan, you are fined one credit for a violation of the Verbal Morality Statute.

John Spartan: What the hell is that?

Moral Statute Machine: John Spartan, you are fined one credit for a violation of the Verbal Morality Statute.

Lenina Huxley: Bad language, chocolate, gasoline, uneducational toys and anything spicy. Abortion is also illegal, but then again so is pregnancy if you don't have a licence.

The Crack Emcee said...

Sam Hall,

And tobacco is unique because smoking is "the No. 1 cause of preventable death."

No it isn't. Driving a car is.

No it isn't, being born is.

And being stupid increases your chances of it happening early.

The Dude said...

Does this mean that Obama's campaign literature must include a picture of Bin Laden with holes in his head? Obama killed Osama, you know. Just ask him.

sorepaw said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
virgil xenophon said...

@Martin L. Shoemaker/

"The inevitable end result of 'progressivism' is totalitarianism."

----Eric Voegelin, philosopher

DADvocate said...

Do we want our government reaching past our intellect, into our deepest instincts, injecting its vision of how we ought to behave?

YES!!! The more the government controls us, the more we'll live in peace and harmony. Less crime, healthier people, smiling faces...

Of course, if walking through Walmart doesn't give you a strong enough reaction in your lizard brain to want to avoid overeating, I don't know what will. Maybe we need some inspiration from Clockwork Orange.

ndspinelli said...

Crack, You see the dangers of groupthink and conventional wisdom from both ends of the spectrum.

traditionalguy said...

Carol Herman needs an unfiltered cigarette hanging from her lip to complete her image as our French existentialist.

Just kidding, Carol.

traditionalguy said...

Oops those minimalist comments were from another Nom de guerre...Herman Carol.

coketown said...

The implicit message here is: "You are stupid and incapable of processing textual information. Therefore, we'll give you a graphic image to appeal to your emotions instead of your intellect." I'd like Sebelius to say it explicitly, in that kindergarten-teaching condescending tone she deploys when correcting people on their sneezing technique.

But, then, these labels are doomed to fail anyway. (The government better hope they fail, at least. Children's health depends on the revenue!) After 50 years of cancer and pregnancy warnings, after extraordinary increases in the cost of the damn things, after yanking advertising off TV and spending the better part of 40 years stigmatizing cigarettes and those who smoke them, a huge portion of society is still smoking.

These health advocates need to stop and ask themselves, "Gee, maybe people who smoke get a LOT of pleasure out of smoking? and maybe the pleasure they get outweighs the risk of developing terminal illness? And maybe it's none of my effing business to tell them what priorities they should have."

Martin L. Shoemaker said...

Coketown said...

The implicit message here is: "You are stupid and incapable of processing textual information. Therefore, we'll give you a graphic image to appeal to your emotions instead of your intellect."

Not that I want to defend this idiocy, but I disagree that this was the implicit message. It's not about stupidty, it's about laziness and avoidance (or so the nanny state would see it). Words you have to see, focus on, and consciously read; pictures you merely have to see. Most smokers I know are college-educated adults, perfectly capable of reading the warning labels. They just choose not to.

The Crack Emcee said...


Crack, You see the dangers of groupthink and conventional wisdom from both ends of the spectrum.

Quite true. I've got a brain.

Bob Ellison said...

Neither cigarette-smoking nor car-driving is the #1 cause of death. Human life is a complex system, much like climate. The ultimate cause of death is therefore birth, naturally. End birth, and you end death, eventually. And you make the environmentalists happy, too, because anthropogenic global warming and all kinds of other problems will disappear.

Chuck66 said...

A) My grandpa smoked for 20 years, quit when he was about 40. Lived to be 80. Smoking isn't neccesarly lethal.

B) If my grandmother would have had an abortion, my dad, and therefore me, would not exist.

C) You tell me which one needs graphic images to warn people of the consequences of using the product.

SunnyJ said...

Brought to you by the same people that believe it's vile to show pictures of aborted babies or complications incurred, damaged fallopian tubes, infections...anything that might be seen as negative about the procedure.

So on one hand we must see the negative cascade of smoking events but not abortion events. The governing elites pick the winners and losers in society.

I am pro choice for policy and pro life for myself and believe that anyone that denies the racism of Margaret Sanger and the elitist agenda of the progressives needs a psych exam...and that includes Hillary Clinton, a devout Margaret Sanger is a hero goof. Intellectually dishonest at best, and you know what it is at it's worst.

Ron said...

The corpse on a condom would be a big seller... "Rigor MORE-tis!"

Chuck66 said...

And tobacco is unique because smoking is "the No. 1 cause of preventable death."

Actually abortion is the number one cause of death in the African-American community.

Lucien said...

OT a little bit, but ---

Only a little bit of thought about the First Amendment leads to the rule that if content based restrictions are to be barred, then that means you can't restrict expression of that content in an articulate or persuasive way, or through the most effective medium.

Applying this rule to MacKinnon type feminist attacks on pornography makes things pretty simple. As long as you accept the premise that one could make the political argument that women should be subjugated to men, dominated by them, and viewed as sexual objects directly, then you can't bar pornography on the grounds that it sends the same message indirectly, in an insidiously persuasive way.

That is, you can't say that ideas you (or the government) disapprove of may only be advocated in a ham-handed, obvious, and unpersuasive manner.

Chuck66 said...

I think they should have up posters of STDs in meat market bars.

Hagar said...

It's coming, it's coming.

coketown said...

@Martin Shoemaker: I'm not sure that's correct. There is a very strong inverse relation between smoking and education, and smoking and income. But it may be the government is covering both bases, and using the graphics to affect both stupid people and lazy people.

fivewheels said...

Another connection between feminism and the anti-smoking nannies is the spurious numbers they cook up. Super Bowl beatings and the idea that every woman is raped but never reports it are from the same imaginations that claim the outrageous taxpayer costs of cigarettes, a lie dreamed up so that attorneys general could sue and fund even bigger government.

Not only are the revenues from tobacco taxes not factored in, neither are the savings from not paying Social Security and Medicare benefits because of early deaths. Not to mention that the assumption made when saying a tobacco death "causes" expenditure assumes that that person would never have died any other way and also incur medical expenses. What do you think costs more, an early cancer death, a quick heart attack or a lingering Alzheimer's patient? It's b.s. propaganda.

(I am not a cigarette smoker, I'm a pipe smoker, a group that lives longer than the national average.)

Smilin' Jack said...

If smokers aren't deterred by what any smoker over 30 looks like, they're not going to be deterred by pictures on cigarette packs. And I thought the country made a net profit on smokers, since they die before they can collect much Social Security. So as long as they do it downwind, it's fine with me. Drag it in deep, and remember, only sissies use filters!

mccullough said...

Did anyone ask Obama if he was too dumb to assess the risks of smoking and needed a graphic image on the pack? Did Sebelius ask Obama if he quit smoking yet?

Maybe Obama just isn't that smart.

Alex said...

There is a big difference between eating a few Pringles and smoking a cigarette. You can consistently eat Pringles as part of a healthy lifestyle but you can't consistently smoke w/o horrible consequences.

rhhardin said...

Meat actually is a corpse.

Maybe they could put a picture of meat on meat.

rhhardin said...

Packets of mustard have a picture of a bottle of mustard on them.

Ann Althouse said...

"Meat actually is a corpse."

And it's not even a fresh corpse. It's carrion.

Carry on!

KCFleming said...

...my wayward son.

KCFleming said...

It's like a brainstem response.

coketown said...

Do you think if technology keeps up with the sensitizing issue, we'll have paper displays on the packages showing a time-lapse video of a healthy, vivacious woman degrading into a pile of dust while chain-smoking? Maybe packaging that makes your hands smell like a cancerous lung all day?

Oh, I know! I know! Fill the packages with those spring-snakes that pop out and scare you when you open the lid. It will craft a Pavlovian aversion to smoking!

Why aren't I working at the FDA? Shiiiiiit.

mariner said...

Martin L. Shoemaker,

Thank you for that link. I was surprised at the publication date.

mariner said...


Guess when this was written:

Governmental power will introduce itself into every corner of the country. It will wait upon the ladies at their toilette. It will enter the house of every gentleman; watch over his cellar; wait upon his cook in the kitchen; penetrate into the most humble cottage; and it will touch the head of every person in the United States. And to all of these different people the message from the government will be the same: give, Give, GIVE!

Phil 314 said...

Can I suggest Mr. Creosote as the first image for the Pringles can.

(Although probably more appropriate on a box of thin mints.)

Martin L. Shoemaker said...

mariner said...

Thank you for that link. I was surprised at the publication date.

I just reread it for the first time in decades. It's even more prescient than I remembered. It's like the nanny state used it as a blueprint.

MarkD said...

As long as we're into bad taste, how about the First Family being the models?

Your ass will look like this if you eat these. Ever seen a skinny, early stage lung cancer victim?

If I have to endure this propaganda, I might as well enjoy it.

WV: abion. You can't spell abortion without it, and there are no warning labels.

John henry said...

John Austin said:

A better name, one that reflects the true cause, would be 'Carbohydrate Poisoning'.


I liked it and went straight to GoDaddy to register the domain. www.carbohydratepoisoning.com

Sorry, it has already been taken. It is owned by a woman in Mexico and she flogs diets on the site.

Kind of a bizarre site.

John Henry

John henry said...

I seem to remember that perhaps 10-20 years ago Canada(?) tried something like this. Maybe they still do it.

Anyway, one company tried to introduce a brand of cigarettes called "Death's head" or some such and was forbidden to do so.

Seems to me there would be marketing opportunity for a tobacco company to take the bull by the horns with some aggessive advertising.

"Diehard Cigarettes: Because nobody should live forever"


"We're all going to die, some of us will enjoy the road there"


You didn't really expect to live forever, did you?"


"Sudden Death cancer sticks: Now with twice the nicotine"

I'll bet that this would attract a lot of people who are just sick and tired of govt interference and would welcome an opportunity to tell the govt "Fuck You!"

John Henry

John henry said...

Re the meme that smoking causes lung cancer:


If smoking caused lung cancer, you would need about 80% or more of smokers to get lung cancer.

Actual rate? Less than 10%. IIRC, non-smokers get lung cancer at about a 4.5% rate and smokers at about 9.5%.

If more than 90% of smokers do not get lung cancer, saying smoking "causes" cancer is


Per the Centers for Disease Control.

(I used to teach a case study on the social impact of tobacco and have more info than a normal person should be allowed to have)

John Henry

Strelnikov said...

It's well to remember that tabacco companies voluntarily agreed to the initial warnings in an effort to avoid this type of coercive crap from the government. No good deed shall go unpunished.

David Aitken said...

Seems to me that the First Amendment would also prohibit the government from compelling speech. The private party has a right to say nothing. Does anyone know if the Supreme Court has ruled on this?

Anga2010 said...

Whenever I used to see a big "Marlboro" decal on the back wing of Michael Schumaker's Ferrari, I was compelled to go out and purchase a huge 100pack case of cigarettes, but then realized that I didn't smoke anymore and so it was all quite a waste of my hard-earned coin.
Now, when I watch the races, I see big decals for "Vodaphone" and "Mercedes" and "Johnny Walker Red" and I'm compelled to go out and drive very fast in a test-drive Mercedes and (in between large draughts of the "J-Walk") talking on my cell phone. But I don't do any of that stuff either.
I ought to tell you that this sort of advertising doesn't really compel me to do much of anything other than what I would rather be doing in any case.
But mebbe I'm just uninfluenceable (which is seemingly not really a word but instead something that can only be found here --> http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/unresponsive <-- as a synonymous adjective to unresponsive).
Which is all really a way to say that advertising does not do so much as the people paid to do the advertising say it does.