Helen Whalen Cohen

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By now you've heard about the new FDA warning labels for cigarettes. The agency will require one of nine graphic images on all cigarette packages and advertisements, starting in September 2012. According to FDA.gov (where you can view all the images), the labels are meant to "increase awareness of the specific health risks associated with smoking, such as death, addiction, lung disease, cancer, stroke and heart disease; encourage smokers to quit; and empower youth to say no to tobacco".

Quick show of hands-who has ever changed their behavior because of a federal campaign? We've seen this before, with healthy eating initiatives. As the warnings about unhealthy behavior get louder, they sound more like cries to remain relevant, by finding more ways to regulate people's lives. In the meantime, people are changing their behavior without some bureaucrat from the FDA telling them to. When the CDC unleashed it's Healthy Weight Success Stories, every person cited family or personal health for losing weight. Oddly, no one was inspired to improve their health because of the CDC.

Now public health and federal workers are telling us, ever more loudly, what we already know in the hopes of getting us to live our lives as they see fit. We didn't get it before, so they need to explain it to us more basically and using more pictures. These nannies really seem to believe that if they only demonstrate the urgency of our own health to us more clearly, we will suddenly wake up and realize their wisdom.


Helen Whalen Cohen

Helen Whalen Cohen is Associate Editor and Community Manager at Townhall.com.