Some say he’s got a vice or she’s got a vice.  Even some police departments in the larger metropolitan areas have a vice squad for handling such things.  And in a lot of places around the world vice is peddled, including the United States.  Las Vegas, for example, is the only state in the union that has legalized Prostitution.  What’s a vice anyway?  It can be defined as an immoral practice or depraved conduct.  It could also be a personal shortcoming, a fault, defect or flaw.  Or in most cases, it’s simply a bad habit.

Cigarette packs in America will have to display nine new warning labels that have macabre images on them like rotting teeth and gums, diseased lungs, a sewn-up corpse of a smoker, or smoke coming out of a tracheotomy hole in a man’s neck.  It’s all part of a new campaign by the Food and Drug Administration to use fear and disgust to discourage Americans from lighting up.  The government is hoping the in-your-face labels will go farther than the current Surgeon General’s warning towards curbing tobacco use.  The warnings will take up the entire top half, both front and back, of a pack of cigarettes.  They must also appear in advertisements and constitute 20% of each ad.  Cigarette makers will have to run all nine labels on a rotating basis.  They have until the fall of 2012 to comply.

Other countries such as Canada and Uruguay have used graphic, even grisly, images for years.  In 2000, Canada introduced warning labels on their cigarette packs that included images of a pregnant woman smoking, a child and parent puffing away, a smoker wearing an oxygen mask, and a dropping cigarette to illustrate the risk of impotence from smoking.  The legality of the new labels in the U.S. is already being challenged in a federal lawsuit brought by some of the major tobacco companies.  A pack-a-day smoker could see the graphic warnings more than 7,000 times per year.

A young lady from Cincinnati, being recently interviewed by the Associated Press for one of their articles, said: “No one is going to stop me from smoking unless they make it illegal.  Cigarettes get me through the day.  They are a part of my life.”

The United States first mandated the use of warning labels stating, “Cigarettes may be hazardous to your health” in 1965.  The current warning labels were put on cigarette packs in the mid 80s, but those warnings contain no pictures and only consist of text in a small box on the pack.

There are no cigarette commercials anymore, that buff Malboro Man and Joe Cool the Camel are a thing of the past, but liquor commercials live on.  If the government’s going to regulate the vice of tobacco use why stop there? Why not regulate other vices as well?

In the 1930s the United States government introduced prohibition to stamp out alcohol use, but the 21st Amendment repealed all that.  Before we go and start lambasting the tobacco companies we should lavish equality upon those who make liquor as well.  Oh, but those beer commercials are so funny!  Yet … what’s so humorous about getting bombed out of your gourd?  I’ve heard all those excuses before: If I wanna drink, I will, it’s my right!  I don’t drink much though, maybe one or two once in a while, just a social drinker.  Fine … but I’ve seen the adverse effects alcohol can have on human life.  I have first-hand knowledge of what it can do.  I’m of the opinion it serves little purpose but to convolute your thoughts and behavior, a temporary escape from reality.

On the side of the container should be graphic images of what alcohol consumption can do.  Why not include a short video trailer tacked on the end of a beer commercial showing somebody getting behind the wheel of a car, swerving all over the road and then hitting another car head on.  Why not show the grisly aftereffects of that?  Someone showed me the other day, displayed on a smart phone and the Internet for all to see, a picture of a young teenage girl who had passed out on the couch.  Whoever took the photo must have thought it was humorous because she’d peed her pants.

Why shouldn’t there be equality for the vices, why discriminate?

Accompanying those ads showing beautiful young people having such a great time at a bar in the magazines should be someone down on their hands and knees hugging the toilet, throwing up.  When a commercial shows that beautiful, picturesque beach with bikini clad girls living it up there should be someone trying to enter in on the conversation who’s speech is so slurred it’s incomprehensible.  How fitting the scene would be to have that person stagger away then fall.

As a voice of experience, I see no value in either vice.  But … we’re free to choose a vice if we like.  Smoking isn’t glamorous as the commercials once portrayed, and neither is drinking.  I was foolish enough to once think they were.

Greg Allen’s column, Thinkin’ Out Loud, was published bi-monthly from 2009 to 2017.  He’s an author, a former nationally syndicated columnist and the founder of Builder of the Spirit Ministries in Jamestown, Indiana.  He can be reached at

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