East Texans are skeptical about new smoking labels

By Jena Johnson - bio | email | Twitter

TYLER, TX (KLTV)- The Food and Drug Administration says the new smoking labels will deter people from picking up the bad habit. But many, including an East Texas respiratory therapist, say they're skeptical of how effective the graphic pictures will be.

Respiratory therapist Paul Weskamp has lost thousands of patients to smoking.

"It's very frustrating," he said. "You develop a rapport with them and you know they're people and you see them hurt."

Back in the 80s and early 90s, Weskamp says he was part of an anti-smoking campaign, educating middle school kids.

"Just basically told them the truth," said Weskamp. "In three years we reduced the incidence of teenage smoking by 40 to 50 percent."

He says the new and very graphic labels will have what he calls a "death wish" effect.

"When you're young and you do something, you're punished and it's over," said Weskamp. "When you're older and you do something and you don't feel right about it, you're looking for a source of punishment. Smoking cigarettes becomes the source of punishment. So, if you have the cancer warning label or some nasty picture, what that's going to do is subconsciously it's going to stimulate you to smoke more."

We showed one of the graphic pictures to a mother and daughter.

"I don't smoke, but that wouldn't deter me either way," said the mother.

"A teenager with cigarettes... no it's the image they like, but hey if a guy walked around looking like that saying hey look like me, then the image would change," said the daughter.

Lou Chaump has his doubts.

"An addiction is a little monster and so I think that probably it might make them look twice and think about it, but how effective it's going to be I think the jury's out on that," he said.

It's unclear what effect, if any, these pictures will have on the public. Until then, Weskamp will remain skeptical.

"If they wanted to do something positive or effective they should start calling it inhaling 110 chemicals instead of smoking," said Weskamp.

According to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 21 percent of the population lights up. The FDA hopes to slash that percentage with the new labels.

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