Signs should really be telling you something you don’t already know

Imagine this.

There is a place I like to drive to. The road leads to a spot where the view is so beautiful and so calming that just to sit there for a while makes everything right. I don’t have to go there but I like to. The road itself is not that safe but I think the risk is worth it. After years of driving to my spot, a warning sign goes up.

Do I stop going to my spot? I don’t think so.

I already know the road is bad and this does not make it worse. Maybe the sign is good for people who don’t know the area but for me it doesn’t change much.

There is a sign that might cause me to change my ways and that is a detour sign. Offer me a safer way to get to my spot and I will probably take it.

Currently comments are being taken at the FDA regarding the new proposed warning labels for cigarettes and in Canada there is an uproar in certain circles that the existing warnings are not being traded in for stronger ones. (I’m sad to say that my country seems less concerned about health than about losing their place as a leader in this area. It seems only in tobacco control do people openly brag about these sorts of things; even repressive Singapore realizes that it is rather Neanderthal to brag about being a leader in curbing behaviors).

The thing is that everyone knows smoking is bad for you and even those people who think it will not personally hurt them still think that in general it is dangerous. The fact that it is a cigarette pack broadcasts the message of harm. You don’t need any more signs.

(Around 1915, some of my ancestors in Russia were well aware that smoking was bad for your health. That was before television and the net, and before warning labels. They were not health professionals; they were educated but not much more than most. Of course, the science had not yet been done on smoking so this was anecdotal. But it is hard to think of anything which is not harmful that will after some time cause your breath to falter, your heart to skip, your voice to thicken, and your throat to hurt and hack. As they say, you didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to have figured this one out.)

What you need is the tobacco version of the detour sign. Get the message out that many people still are not aware of -that there are safer ways of using nicotine.

-Paul L. Bergen

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