People, not products, should come with warning labels

June 27, 2011

I’ve always liked Australia. To me, it seems kind of like America-plus. From partying to obesity, they take everything we do well and better us at it.

So it’s no surprise that the civilized world government’s ongoing war on tobacco (matched only by government’s ongoing subsidies for tobacco) has reached new heights Down Under.

The Aussies have decided to prohibit brand logos and graphics on cigarette packs. So no longer will they have the familiar red and white Marlboro boxes.

Instead, the cigarette packs will be drab olive with hideous photos of longtime smokers’ eyes and mouths, and messages like “Smoking Causes Blindness” and “Smoking Causes Throat and Lung Cancer.”

Interesting. I wonder what the Australians’ take on beer packaging is. Maybe a blown-up human liver or a car wrapped around a kangaroo.

No, that’s different. Can’t be messing with the Fosters, you know.

Too bad. I like the idea of results-oriented packaging. Soda can labels would show a mouth full of hillbilly teeth; white-bread labels would show a bloated colon; and Twinkies labels would show Rush Limbaugh.

Conversely, a package of chard would show a picture of a swimsuit model on South Beach.

But Philip Morris isn’t buying in. It’s threatening epic legal action against the Australian government for threatening its profits.

“The forced removal of trademarks and other valuable intellectual property is a clear violation of the terms of the bilateral investment treaty between Australia and Hong Kong,” Anne Edwards, a spokeswoman for Philip Morris Asia, said in the statement. “We believe we have a very strong legal case and will be seeking significant financial compensation for the damage to our business.”

Sad thing is, I tried to warn folks about that bilateral investment treaty between Australia and Hong Kong, but all you people were too busy worrying about NAFTA. So I don’t have a lot of sympathy.

Second thing: Isn’t Philip Morris the corporation that has spent the better part of its existence over the past three decades trying to get OUT of courtrooms?

I don’t see how you can ask for “significant financial compensation for the damage to our business” and at the same time want to deny people significant financial compensation for the damage to their lungs.

Which gives me a good idea about universal health care.

Everyone wants “to take the costs out” of the medical system, so instead of insurance, why not just charge your medical bills to the entity most responsible for making you sick?

So Philip Morris can advertise any way it wants, but if you get emphysema, Philip Morris gets the bill. And it won’t cost Philip Morris that much because see all the middle men we have eliminated?

The beauty is in the simplicity. If you have gout, send the bill to the guys at the brewery. If you have a heart attack, send the bill to the company that makes bacon. I’d take it all the way down the ladder. If the guy at work comes in with a cold and gives it to you, make him pay for your cough drops.

It also makes you realize that it’s people who ought to come with warning labels.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or via email at Tune in to the Rowland Rant at, on or on Antietam Cable’s WCL-TV Channel 30 at 6:30 p.m. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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