Tangibles & Intangibles

I read in this morning’s news that “Big Tobacco Sues Feds.”  [I do not know how to provide links, so “Google” this and read about the case.]  The contention focuses on the government ruling that Big Tobacco Companies must print, at their own expense, graphic images [e.g., breathing tubes, coffins] on the label of each tobacco product.   The expected outcome, I suppose, will be that the graphics will more strongly dissuade pre-smoking addicts than will the mere printed language advisories.  Or, perhaps, pre-smoking addicts cannot read.

I can understand the point of view of the government:  Everyone knows, since the Surgeon General’s warning in 1969, that smoking is harmful to one’s health.  Now, we know that addictive smoking, over the years,  will probably prove deadly.  In spite of the fact that each individual has the right to decide to smoke, the reality is that the government [you and I] and health insurance companies [and you and I, in the form of higher rates] will, in future, underwrite the bill for the exorbitant yet preventable medical expenses of the smoker-addict.

There is also the problem of second-hand smoke, which interferes with the rights and endangers the health of the non-smoker.  This carries its own form of trauma, as it concerns the family and co-workers of the smoker-addict.  I have at least one suggestion:  Big Tobacco Companies can include a “pink ribbon” for breast cancer, which is a possible side-effect of exposure to second-hand smoke.  Also, there exists the DNA-driven  “addictive personality syndrome,” an intangible, which is difficult to communicate within a graphic image.  However, the Big Tobacco Companies should also include this; I suggest the Watson-Crick helix.

However, let us look at the Big Tobacco point of view, as it compares its governmental constraints to that of the Alcohol Industry.  Each bottle, of course, comes with a Government Warning on the label.  I just examined the label on my Paul Masson California Marsala.  [Excuse me, while I return it to the kitchen, as writing at the computer, early in the morning, with a glass of Marsala on the desk, would be a little hard to explain to an observer.]

The proviso reads:

“According to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects. 

Consumption of alcohol damages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery and may cause health problems.” 

 No graphic images appear on the bottle label.

Let me be clear:  In the matter of the Alcohol Industry, I am talking about the possibility of  warning labels regarding the possible future behavior of the unlucky pre-alcohol addict, who discovers, too late, that the DNA is stacked unfairly against him/her.  This future possibility affects not only the health and welfare of the addict but also the health and welfare of his/her family.  I specify “family” and not “co-workers” because the nature of the behavior of the alcohol-addict toward his/her family is devastating to the family dynamics, in a manner far surpassing any devastation to the atmosphere of the workplace of the alcohol-addict.

Because of this future behavior possibility, the Alcohol Industry has a challenge, if a government decree forces it to print graphic images, in addition to warning labels.  The following tangible images are difficult, yet not impossible, to convey:

-Liver damage

-Vehicular crash, driving citation, DUI, license revocation

-Fetal alcohol withdrawl syndrome

-Termination of employment, unemployment line, homeless shelter


However, consider the impossible task, on the part of the Alcohol Industry, to convey the following intangibles, in a graphic image warning format:

-Psychological and emotional trauma to the family of the alcohol addict, including parents, spouse, children

-Psychological and emotional trauma to the family of the person/s injured or killed, as a result of the alcohol-addict’s impaired driving

-Changed personality of alcohol-addict

-Loss of educational and vocational opportunities

-DNA susceptibility to alcohol addiction; DNA “addictive personality disorder”

-Estrangement from family; divorce


I find that I must side with Big Tobacco:  Until the day that government forces the Alcohol Industry to conform to the same regulations, concerning the inclusion of graphic images, both tangible and intangible,  on warning labels, Big Tobacco appears to be “singled out” by government decree.

[Margot Blair Payne, August 2011]


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2 responses to “Tangibles & Intangibles

  1. Debbie Trostle

    There is another thought to consider here too, our Constitution and our freedom of speech, freedom for private enterprise, freedom for private citizens to live their lives without gov. interference, etc.. Can the government force a privately owned company to state something or show photographs in this case which will hurt its sales without the government paying damages? There have been cases where the one who caused damages had to pay the differences.

    I don’t think there is an educated person in America that doesn’t know that smoking is bad for all of us directly or indirectly. Yet, many still decide to smoke. And yes, Margo you are correct, where would it end. The tobacco companies are suing the government over this. I’m with you, as much as it is ridiculous to smoke, develop alcohol dependency, etc. those who do so must be allowed to do so freely or where will the line be drawn as to government interference into the lives of private citizens? We do have laws in place to protect the public from smoking in public places, drinking while driving, etc.

    Our constitutional freedoms are at stake here even though I understand what the government is trying to do. Maybe private groups could do add campaigns about the facts regarding the dangers of smoking in general without targeting a specific group. They could include pictures too. Also, this would not force tobacco companies to work against themselves which is probably unconstitutional.

    • margopayne


      Thanks for your cogent reply. I am going to mull over it a while and then comment on your reply.
      I appreciate your faithful attention to my blog and I do love comments!

      Coram Deo,

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