The wars on tobacco and smokers have gone global, as evidenced by international bureaucrats from the World Health Organization meeting in Uruguay this week to debate anti-smoking initiatives. A New York Times news story on government efforts to regulate cigarette packaging and advertising reveals the vast geographic scope of such campaigns:
Companies like Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco are contesting limits on ads in Britain, bigger health warnings in South America and higher cigarette taxes in the Philippines and Mexico. They are also spending billions on lobbying and marketing campaigns in Africa and Asia, and in one case provided undisclosed financing for TV commercials in Australia.
The industry has ramped up its efforts in advance of a gathering in Uruguay this week of public health officials from 171 nations, who plan to shape guidelines to enforce a global anti-smoking treaty.
Now, smoking may be a simple pleasure, but it is clearly full of health risks. But it’s interesting that international bureaucrats resemble a simple tool — a hammer — with a tendency to regard all problems as nails. That is, there is a presumption that the peoples of the world are incapable of deciding for themselves whether or not to smoke. How else to explain the proposed ban on flavored cigarettes, which the U.S. FDA has already done, and plans to envelope some 80 percent of cigarette packaging in warning labels,which the U.S. FDA has scheduled for next year? One doesn’t need to be pro-smoking to wonder where it ends: at what point does government stop trying to save us from ourselves?
Photo credit: dsevilla’s flickr photostream.