Social Question

bongo's avatar

Do you think fast food should come with warning photos and labels such as the ones now on cigarette packets?

Asked by bongo (4302points) November 16th, 2011

Since they introduced the pictures on the cigarette packets I have to admit I have drastically cut down on my smoking. A few years ago I was saying that they could put any pictures on that they like, I wouldn’t cut down but seeing it day to day I have gone from around 20/day to 1 if that. Largely due to these pictures making me think twice!
Would you like to see these same warning signs (well similar ones but case-specific) on fast food? I for one think that it would make many people think twice before they eat that burger or drink that milkshake and consider what they are actually doing to themselves. It may be disgusting to sit and see that just when you are eating but isn’t that the point?
If you think they should’t, why do you think that? What harm do you think it would it do to the individual if they did put pictures up? Surely if people didn’t care then they would simply ignore the picture and no harm done but if they do care and they see these signs on a daily basis it would make people stop and think about what they are actually putting into their bodies?

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52 Answers

bongo's avatar

@marinelife care to elaborate? why not? what harm would it do if they did put them on there?

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@bongo The cigarette pics really work? I was thinking re the fast food, If you’re too stupid to know how bad the stuff is you’re too stupid to check out the pics.
Edit That’s a generic you, not one pointed at anyone.

wundayatta's avatar

Yes. They already add counts of calories for all restaurant food in my town. I don’t think it’s effective, because I don’t know the meaning of the numbers and I don’t count calories. Pictures would probably be a more effective way of bringing my attention to the potential health effects of consuming food like this.

As I always say: education is the way to go. There is no point in reducing choice. But we should educate people, and it is legitimate to charge additional insurance premiums to those who engage in unhealthy behaviors.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I am undecided. I hate that we have to baby people in such a way but I agree that it could save lives. However, I also worry about what it would do for people that have an unhealthy obsession with how much they eat (ie: anorexics/bulimics). Could such a thing cause the people who already have a distorted body image of themselves to become even more paranoid about eating? I don’t know, it just came to mind when trying to think how to best answer this question.

bongo's avatar

For me, yeah. I was seeing it everyday, I knew the risks in smoking but did it anyway, out of sight, out of mind and all that, but when you are faced with these pictures on a daily basis it really makes you consider that it could be you on that photo.
Surely if it works for a few people maybe not others, its worth putting a little picture on?

marinelife's avatar

Because it impinges on personal freedom without good reason to. Fast food is OK if eaten in moderation.

cazzie's avatar

The obese people waiting in line is enough of a ‘picture’ for me.

bongo's avatar

@marinelife but if you are only occasionally eating fast food, then it shouldn’t be a bother to you. People do eat it daily and these are the people it would be addressing. I don’t see how it is impinging on personal freedom. It is just informing you about what could happen if you overindulge.

YoBob's avatar

Warning: Consumption of our product might make you look like this

Actually, I think that the pictures on cigarette packages is a step to far, and if you are incapable of understanding the relationship between the number of burgers you cram in your pie hole and the size of your behind and that you are personally responsible for the balance of that relationship, then perhaps Darwin was right.

tom_g's avatar

@marinelife – Wait. What impinges on personal freedom?

bongo's avatar

@YoBob trouble is, its costing the NHS massively for them to take that risk.

marinelife's avatar

@tom_g Having the government impose gross photos and written warnings on food.

tom_g's avatar

@marinelife – I thought you said personal freedom. You’re referring to package regulations on industry, right?

bongo's avatar

@marinelife They aren’t stopping you from doing what you want though are they, they are just informing you of the options. Surely educating people of what over-consumption of fast food can do on the packaging of fast food is not impinging on personal freedom? You are still free to smoke and you are still free to eat fast food. No one will stop you.

JilltheTooth's avatar

I agree with @marinelife , for a number of reasons. 1: Having a fast food meal will not make you obese. Having many everyday to the exclusion of all else, will; whereas a huge percentage of people who smoke do so because they are addicted to nicotine. 2: It would be counterproductive from a business standpoint to implement any policy designed to harm the business. It’s not the same with cigarettes, because tobacco is already a regulated and controlled item. These are obviously very generalized statements, I don’t feel like going into great argumentative detail here, but the third point is maybe the most telling. After all is said and done, whether you approve of it or not, fast food is still food, which is necessary to us. Tobacco is not. Humans can survive indefinitely without tobacco, not so much without food.

bongo's avatar

@JilltheTooth good answer, however my point is that if you are only eating it on occasion you wouldn’t see these warnings day to day and therefore they shouldn’t bother you. If you are seeing them daily then it should ring alarm bells that your diet is bad and should be changed.
Also I would say that humans can survive indefinitely without fast food. I’m only saying it should be on the types of food which is causing people to become obese through over-eating.
The fast food industry is making enough money in my eyes to be able to take a little blow for the sake of human health. Being counter-productive in a business sense does not wash with me as as reason to ignore the problem that is so blatantly there. We wouldn’t need these signs if obesity wasn’t one of the biggest killers around today. People obviously can’t just say no and know the risks.
I am more than happy to never go to a fast food place again. I haven’t been to one in years. I don’t see the point, you can buy a perfectly good sandwich from a supermarket at lower cost and have it as a healthy option. An apple is cheaper than a chocolate bar and water is cheaper than coke. All way better for you. You can easily live without fast food.
Also people do get addicted to fast food, as they can with nicotine, surely that’s why so many people just cant say no to that burger and fries. I see it as an addiction, like smoking is an addiction.

KidCurtis's avatar

No, I believe that the information should be made available to those who’re willing to weigh the cost/benefit of consuming cigarettes or fast food but considering that it’s fairly common knowledge that both said products are unhealthy and that for the most part it’s adults who’re making the decision to consume said products it should be left to them to decide whether they want to know the dangers inherent.

wonderingwhy's avatar

So two points.

First, I don’t care what you put on the pack, if that’s what I want that’s what I’m getting. However, it’s also an informed decision, for many people it’s not and packaging can help with that. Though at this point, in my opinion, if you believe a triple bacon cheese burger, large fry, and a coke is “healthy” you’re either delusional, unreasonably anti-science, or living under a rock. Informed or otherwise however I still disagree with “shock value” advertising, I understand the purposes behind it and it can be effective, but this isn’t much better than heavily marketing [x-unhealthy product] for kids with cartoon characters.

Second, I just don’t see the need to subjugate people to what amounts to philosophical advertising each time they make a choice. Make your point once and get lost, I don’t need preaching every time I turn around, it’s just tiresome.

muppetish's avatar

I don’t think that the fast food industry should be required to put warning labels on the packaging their product comes in because: (1) the reason the food is detrimental to our health is the quantity in which we consume them—eating one burger (while I find them personally disgusting) should be fine; (2) posting the calorie (and ingredients) on the packaging or food menu should be sufficient enough of a warning; (3) this is not equatable to cigarettes because the food served by the fast food industry does not contain trace elements of poisonous substances. Cigarettes contain toxic ingredients. Therefore, a label should be required on the box. (Though whether said warning will deter even one smoker, I have no idea. I don’t think that’s the point so much as it is required for all other products containing chemicals, such as cleaning agents.)

cazzie's avatar

I said this on another thread, but I’ll say it here too. Smoking even ‘a little’ is detrimental to your health. Eating a little fast food now and then is not bad for you. I agree with @muppetish and @JilltheTooth. We do not need, nor should we consume willingly the very poisonous, toxic content of tobacco products. They are designed to hook you and keep you hooked. They exploit the ignorant and the foolish. I do not detest smokers. I detest smoking. I pity smokers.

CWOTUS's avatar

Yes, I agree completely.

We should put photos of morbidly obese people on every package of every kind of food that is produced or sold anywhere in this country. We should require consumers to read a pamphlet each time they order food in any restaurant, and then take a written test administered by armed policemen. The penalty for attempting to avoid the pamphlet or test should be instant death. The photos should be selected by a Food Czar, who would also have access to any place in the country where food may be grown, produced, cooked, stored or served (including your own home).


Doesn’t anyone believe in personal responsibility any more? Anyone? Anywhere? Do we really need nannies hovering over every decision that we make?

Sarcasm aside, NO, I do not approve of this new “government benefit to make our lives better for our own good”.

cazzie's avatar

reves up the snow plow to try to push aside all of the @CWOTUS sarcasm. “Sarcasm: the last refuge of modest and chaste-souled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely and intrusively invaded.” , or “the lowest form of wit”

JilltheTooth's avatar

@bongo : In a perfect world we would all be educated as to the effects of whatever we choose to consume, nothing would be bad for us. Real world, however, not so easy. Case in point: my sister, nurse, works incredibly hard, on her feet all day, raised her two sons by herself. By the time these boys were teenagers, it was actually cheaper to feed them out of the fast food places most of the time. These skinny teenaged boys needed loads of calories, and my sister, with her work schedule and fatigue levels simply didn’t have the time or the means to cook separate nutritious high calorie meals for her sons and different healthy food for herself. I’m not going to have the discussion here about why and what she should have done (that’s been covered on other threads, please let’s not do that here). When the boys were grown and gone, she was able to cut back on her hours, shop healthily for herself, prepare her meals herself, and restore her body to its optimal weight. She knew what the effects of too much fast food were, saw much worse in her job than anyone would be allowed to put on packaging, and did it anyway as it was in some ways the best choice for her at the time.
We should be allowed to own our own actions.

El_Cadejo's avatar

I dont think pictures are needed. Ya just walk into a McDonalds and your bound to see at least one disgustingly obese person ordering 12 big macs. Thats enough of a reminder for me. I love when I go in and see people eating like an otter.Aka eating off their stomach cause its so god damn big it rolls onto the table.

nikipedia's avatar

Ok, I’ll take the bait, @CWOTUS. I don’t really believe in “personal responsibility.” I think our decisions are mostly a product of the environment we exist in. And I would be fine with creating an environment that is less encouraging of fast food.

I don’t see how nudging people away from making a bad decision impinges on their freedom. In no way does this restrict access to fast food. It just reminds you of the very real truth that it is harmful to your health.

Considering how much advertising is done for fast food, I completely support efforts to market against it.

Fast food is bad for individuals, it is bad for the environment, and it is bad for society.

wonderingwhy's avatar

Just for kicks, here’s a third point. There’s no need for it (at least not to that extent), not only that, there is a much better fundamental way to approach it – educate the public. If you want this kind of knowledge out there make it mandatory in three different grades during K-12 and teach kids how to make informed nutritional choices. While your at it, teach them how to read articles concerning scientific research so as soon as the AP announces the results of the next study that says “wait, turns out [x-bad thing] is actually good for you” they can interpret it and consider it’s results rather than being spoon-fed, hyper-reactionaries.

Yes, people will still do things that are bad for them, and society will have to pay a price for it, but that’s the nature of the beast.

And if cost is a concern, and I’m sure someone in congress thinks there are much better ways to spend federal funds than actually educating kids require the fast-food industry to chip in a significant portion of the funding.

CWOTUS's avatar

In that case, @nikipedia, you’ve given the go-ahead to a whole new bureaucracy to determine, first of all, what is “fast food” and which kinds are “good for you” and “bad for you”. Food producers and distributors will argue at the margins of that for years, work out loopholes to avoid labeling restrictions and less-healthy alternative foods and additives will be added to our food (to avoid the labeling requirement) and a new legion of lobbyists will take up residence on K Street, which should do well for the Washington DC real estate market… and not a damn thing to improve actual health.

Hooray for more government!

cazzie's avatar

@CWOTUS You may be one in a million, but it’s been proven that we are a much more stupid creature than we think. Ever hear of a guy named Dan Ariely?

CWOTUS's avatar

That was an interesting talk, @cazzie, and not so surprising in many respects. Advertisers have know of this sort of thing for a long time, such as the well known example of placing two identical pairs of shoes side by side and advertising one pair for $10 and the other pair for $125. The more expensive shoes always seem to outsell the less expensive pair, presumably because the less expensive pair seems “too cheap”.

But so what? Do we need government commissions (who can be misled just as badly as any one of us) to make all of our purchasing decisions for us? Are we that incapable and stupid?

nikipedia's avatar

@CWOTUS, I’m fine with all that, and I think it could significantly improve actual health.

CWOTUS's avatar


I would have thought that 50 years of “War on Poverty” and who knows how many years of “War on (some) Drugs” and twenty or so years of “War on Terror” might have disabused people of such quaint conceptions, but apparently not. More’s the pity.

Blueroses's avatar

Ok. So where do you begin enforcing this, and where do you stop?

Most chains don’t refer to themselves as “fast food” because they’re aware of the public negative image, so you’d have to start by defining the term. Is it any restaurant with a drive-thru window? Is it a franchise that employs over a certain number of people? Or is the little mom & pop diner that’s been fighting for business for 45 years also required to purchase all new packaging for their product?

If it only applies to large corporations, McD’s and others will argue (correctly) that it’s targeted legislation designed to injure their right to conduct business.

Is it only food that is served ready-to-eat?
There are unhealthier choices in the freezer section that can be considered “fast” if you can nuke them in the same time you’d wait at a take-out window. Would you put warnings on the Swanson Hungry Man dinners too? How about on the Kraft Mac & Cheese box?

The whole idea is unfeasible. There are too many variations in the food industry. You’d end up with a plethora of labels which instead of providing repetitive shock value, would only become part of the background visual noise. So what? Everything in excess is bad for you. Who doesn’t know that already?

nikipedia's avatar

I don’t think it’s that hard to define or enforce. What we are trying to prevent is adverse health problems, thus the policies should address foods that have qualities that we know to be bad for your health. The quickness of preparation or existence of a drive through are neither here nor there.

CWOTUS's avatar

There is no truth that is quite so nebulous as the one that “everybody knows”.

Blueroses's avatar

@nikipedia What do we know is bad for your health? Is it a certain percentage of calories from fat? Is it red meat? Is it any meat? White bread? Any bread? Is it sugar soda? Diet soda? Coffee? Eggs? Trans fats? HFCS? The guidelines change frequently and it depends on who is making the statements calling these things “bad”.

Corporate lawyers can and will prove that their products are no more unhealthy than what you might get at Olive Garden or for that matter, what you might prepare for yourself.

By all means, as @CWOTUS suggested, let’s slap a label on everything. Pictures of fat people on cheeseburgers (better label the ground beef in the grocery store too, because you know people might think they’re safe if they cook burgers at home), let’s put big warning stickers on spinach and red kidney beans cautioning about e coli and toxic phytohaemagglutnin.

TexasDude's avatar


I feel like both schemes are stupid.
In regards to cigarettes, I don’t even understand the point in the first place. People who smoke cigarettes know they are bad for them. That isn’t fucking new news to smokers and plastering pictures of decayed lungs and shit all over cigarette packs isn’t going to make them stop. I don’t doubt that putting pictures of fatasses on burgers would have the same effect on people that eat Mickey D’s 20 times a week.

wundayatta's avatar

Never underestimate the stupidity of man. It is amazing how many people don’t know cigarettes are bad for them despite all the information around about that. People also discount information. They think it won’t apply to them because, for example, they are young.

tom_g's avatar

To be honest, I’m not sure what I think about labels. Part of me wants all that shit to have the glossy fat photos. Maybe the McDonald’s “Happy Meal” can come with a toy syringe so kids can practice giving themselves insulin shots. I don’t know, honestly. I don’t have a problem the labels, but I’m not entirely sure of their efficacy. (And I have yet to see a lucid explanation of why labels “impinge on personal freedom”.)

We have a problem – and I don’t want to outlaw anything. In fact, like I have said before – I support complete legalization of all drugs.

What I think I’d like to see (not entirely sure) is a tax on unhealthy food and/or a tax break on healthy, whole foods. Something that would make it less expensive to eat healthier. This is a wildly unpopular idea, and I suppose I would be the only person to support it.

If you wanted to destroy your body (and the environment), nobody would stop you – but there would be things in place to make sure that you are paying the true cost of that McDonald’s meal.

nikipedia's avatar

@Blueroses, I mean, I don’t think health as so mysterious as all that. I am pretty sure a panel of scientists with no competing interests could come up with some reasonable guidelines.

XOIIO's avatar

In America they could just have a mirror on the packaging.

Blueroses's avatar

For the record, I’m not defending the health benefits of fast food. I feel lousy when I eat it, so I don’t eat it. I’m pointing out the impossibility of defining terms for regulation in our government system. It’s naive to believe that the USDA guidelines aren’t for sale to the highest bidder.

Government isn’t common sense.

nikipedia's avatar

I’m not advocating for common sense. I’m advocating for a group of unbiased experts making recommendations for your elected officials to use to make policy.

bongo's avatar

Yeahh great debate guys, “I’m lovin’ it.” Great arguments all round.

Blueroses's avatar

Good luck finding a panel of unbiased experts or unbiased policy makers.

nikipedia's avatar

I know about 1 fucktillion unbiased experts if you ever need to borrow one.

Blueroses's avatar

Will they have an ear in the house of the policy makers?

nikipedia's avatar

I don’t know, are you going to elect candidates that you trust to listen to reason?

Blueroses's avatar

I vote against incumbents, as a general rule for that very reason.

nikipedia's avatar

Suit yourself. I love my incumbents.

martianspringtime's avatar

I don’t think it should be required by law. I just don’t think government needs to be involved in every single aspect of our lives – monitoring this, warning against that. They’re not our baby-sitters. Sure, it could help some people to stay away from bad things (and I’m glad your habits have been positively impacted by the warnings on cigarettes), but it can also be a trigger for people with eating disorders.

And are we going to put a label on everything that’s bad for us? Stickers on every computer: “may cause loss of social life,” Tags on dogs: Pictures of chewed up shoes and pee on the floor, Children: Pictures of empty wallets, etc.

Blueroses's avatar

Fabulous @nikipedia. Gather your fucktillion researchers, write a proposition, submit it to your incumbents and if you get anything viable through Congress, I owe you dinner at the vegan, organic restaurant of your choice.

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