If it makes them seem cooler by reducing the number of people who consume them, mission accomplished.

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“Cool” just doesn’t seem the sort of thing government can actually regulate.

Of course they can and have. The D.A.R.E. program convinced many in my generation that drugs were cool. I'm sure images of grotesque death will instill a similar intrigue.

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The solution is to put images and messages on the cigarettes themselves.

A cost scale that shows the cost of what has been burned. Messages like; "I am an idiot". "Smoking gives me limp dick". "I don't have the will power to quit". "I believed Big Tobacco and now I am addicted". "I don't care if you breathe my smoke". "I am a gullible idiot". “Helping save Medicare by dying young”. “My breath stinks like an incinerator”. “I am putting toxic crap into my mouth”. “You won't want to kiss the lips sucking this.”

Smokers will read them so as to try to orient them so people around them can't see what they say. If the message is printed on the cigarette, then either the smoker doesn't smoke that cigarette, or smokes it only in private.

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Iceland's government forced a distiller to put minimalist black labels on their schnapps...so it picked up the nickname "Black Death" and made a cameo in a Tarantino movie.

Vans sells "prison sneakers" with velcro instead of laces.

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That's my assumption, though in this more hurried era, I think there will mostly be cases that fit over the cigarette pack rather than cases that one has to load the cigarettes into.

There will be simple, elegant cases, silly cases, and cases with skulls on them.

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If they really want to show that cigarettes are "uncool" to the relevant people they're trying to convince, they could take a cue from The Onion and promote the message that homosexuals are over-represented as smokers.

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Very well put! I hadn't thought of nationalism in the context off coolness, but of course you're correct. Ginning up the masses for some old-fashioned blind allegiance is one of government's proven abilities (and Madison Ave. isn't too far behind).

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BTW the only harm that I see done here is to those who really enjoy smoking and are OK with the risks and to those how have to see the repulsive pictures incidentally.

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I think that it is better than high taxes, which we already have, because I think that it will not suck ambitious young men into the black market.

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Can the gov't regulate cool? First of all, yes, and second of all, it doesn't matter in this case.

We baby boomers grew up in a time which was the exception from the rule: military did not seem cool to many of us who wore long hair, listened to the beatles, smoked marijuana, and looked forward to LSD and available sex. But now, and before Vietnam, the military was cool in the sense of being looked up to by broad swaths of society.

Did the government do that? What is cooler than a marine in dress blues with his ceremonial sword and white cap? Perhaps a marine driving a helicopter or a jet. On libertarian or overly reductionist grounds, the dress uniforms serve no purpose, nor do the ceremonial swords. Nor do goose stepping, or slow walking guards at the (also useless) tomb of the unknown soldier, nor do imperturbable buckingham palace Beefeaters, nor do Western royalty for that matter.

But these are all cool and very effectively. And they are government efforts.

Part of the reductionist error of much modern theory is that Government is somehow completely different from every other human social institution. Of course it isn't, and the most successfull government (in terms of income, crime rates, number of people "peacefully" governed, lifespans, etc) are also quite successful and making themselves and their institutions cool. The regalia of classical rome and Nazi Germany were not coincidentally similar, but they are goregeous digging right in to most Western souls. We reject the Nazis not because of their regalia, but in effortful spite of it.

So government is at least as good at cool as any other successful institution.

As to "who cares," the point I think is utilitarian. To do more good than harm, to get the biggest bang for the buck. If a picture of a cancerous mouth on a carton of cigarettes deters more smokers than a rise in price of cartons equal to what it cost to add that mouth cancer picture, then yay, lets do it. The rate-limiting step at making tobacco unattractive I think would be when a significant black market develops, and by significant I mean that the costs to society in violence and other decay of that black market exceed the netted benefits of lowering smoking rates.

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Here's the conclusion of one study, from 2007:

Large, comprehensive warnings on cigarette packages are more likely to be noticed and rated as effective by smokers. Changes in health warnings are also associated with increased effectiveness. Health warnings on U.S. packages, which were last updated in 1984, were associated with the least effectiveness.

Lots more here: http://www4.hrsdc.gc.ca/.3n...

That says nothing about whether it's less cool to smoke, but smoking rates have gone down in recent years, and there are studies showing that graphic images are particularly effective in deterring new young smokers from starting (the demographic most likely to start because it's cool). Those two facts together make an argument, at least, for the effectivveness of such labels in "uncooling" tobacco smoking.

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"You can bet on it."

Or maybe we'll get a more British-style solution: incentivize the doctors to improve their patients' health. (Currently, British doctors get bonuses when their patients quit smoking, lose weight, show improvement in blood pressure, and other indicators of better health.)

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I don't think you should be so quick to dismiss the effect of graphic mouth cancer pictures on young people (still the best long-term target audience for the tobacco companies), who tend to spend a significant chunk of their time and energy on trying to get laid. I personally found the "Faces of Meth" campaign effective, and the commercial with the guy singing through his throat also gave me pause.

As others have noted, similar labels have been in use for years in other countries. I know smoking rates have gone down in Europe, so what portion of that is due to the labels? I have no idea, but I doubt the answer is "zero."

I wonder what effect Hollywood's general ban on casual cigarette smoking has had on smoking rates. Seeing Cary Grant, Bing Crosby and Katherine Hepburn smoke like chimneys on the big screen likely made smoking seem de rigeur back in the day, and it kind of was.

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Corporations have clearly been extremely effective in manipulating cool. I believe your premise that cool is entirely decentralised is completely false. Ever seen MTV? What about Bernays and public relations? Marketing... astro-turfing. If marketing had no such power to influence what is cool - it would be very unlikely corporations would think that the massive amounts invested in marketing would be worth it.

But if corporations can do it - I don't see why Governments can't. And if we have some intuitions toward preventing corporations from manipulating cool - then who else could do that but the government?

I try to be as anti-government as I can. But one role for them that I do accept is as a counter-weight against corporations that would infect the heart of human intimacy with their marketing drivel.

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Wasn't a similar campaign of advertisements tried in New York City? I remember seeing them on the subway.

As I recall, they were more successful than previous campaigns which may imply people didn't realize how repulsive the consequences of smoking can be.

In 2007: http://cityroom.blogs.nytim...

Though it doesn't say whether these ads were effective, only that there was high demand for them from the public.

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For some goods, like cigarettes, heavy regulation, shunning or outright banning has just the opposite effect. By increasing the transaction costs of consumption, it makes continued use more cool, by reducing the number of consumers. Thus consumption becomes at a minimum a signalling device and possibly even a status symbol depending on cultural preferences.

This article by Kevin Munger expands upon that idea, arguing that sacrifice is a key component of cool. (Warning: explicit language, but for a paper about cool it has just the right amount.)

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