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This is Your
Last Warning

by Stephen Lautens


January 28, 2000

To combat smoking Health Minister Allan Rock is going to make cigarette companies put graphic images on the packs. These include diseased brains, sick lungs and other things that are supposed to turn kids off smoking.

I personally think kids smoke precisely because it is dangerous, and gross pictures won't turn them off cigarettes. It's a well known fact that teenagers are attracted to dangerous and scary things - pet ferrets, snowboarding, tongue rings, and Jewel's poetry to name a few.

I'm worried the whole thing may backfire and they'll become hot trading cards. I can see them in the school yard at lunch: "I'll trade you three brain tumours for your sickly pancreas. It's all I need to complete the set."

Robert Parker, President of the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturing Association (for some reason not known as the CanToManAss) has already warned that if we're going to slap vivid warnings on cigarette packs, then we better be prepared to put them on other things that are dangerous to our health.

After all, we're already used to drugs with warnings. The box of my sinus medication tells me I shouldn't operate heavy machinery. Or be nursing. Or both.

It makes me wonder how much machinery should weigh before it's considered heavy. I've tried to convince my wife that it means I shouldn't try to do any laundry. The washing machine must weigh at least 500 pounds.

But putting mandatory labels on dangerous or offensive things got me thinking about how else it might work

Some liquor already carries warning labels about it being no good for pregnant women. There is still plenty of room left on bottles for more serious warnings, like: "Caution - The person you're planning on going home with is not as attractive as you think right now."

Forget about the danger of frying your brains - cell phones could carry an important warning label: "This phone does not make you look as important as you think it does." Or how about: "Warning - Using this phone in a movie theatre could result in serious injury from the big guy in the next row."

For a while everyone was putting labels in their car windows, like: "Baby on Board", or "Nothing to Lose - Take Your Best Shot." For some reason it was always the guy with the Baby on Board sign that passed you on the shoulder doing 130 clicks.

I think mini vans should have a big sticker in the showroom: "Caution: Buying a van does not oblige you to fill it with broken crackers and fighting children."

Toupees should carry a label. It could say: "You will not fool anyone by wearing this." An alternate could be: "Face up to being bald and accept it with dignity." Or: "Remember, Patrick Stewart gets boatloads of chicks."

The United Alternative convention should carry a warning label. There should be a great big "Caution - Contents Under Extreme Pressure" sign over the podium.

The camera store should put a warning on all batches of developed baby pictures: "Please be advised that your friends are not as interested in your baby pictures as they may seem. They are just being polite, since all babies pretty much look like Winston Churchill."

Finally, maybe marriage licenses should have inch tall red letters on the back: "To be used only under adult supervision. Improper use can be hazardous to your health. Correct use will bring significant benefits."


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