The corpse that refreshes

The Health Nazis have tried for years to discourage cigarette smoking -- at the same time they greedily raise and seize cigarette tax revenues to plug their budget holes, of course -- by placing more and more onerous warning labels on packages and forcing smokers to huddle outside in the snow. Their campaign to discourage the unhealthy habit has no limits.

For now the government is turning to gruesome pictures.

Federal health officials Wednesday unveiled plans to replace the old cigarette-pack warnings with new versions using images that could include emaciated cancer patients, diseased organs and corpses.

Public health authorities and anti-smoking advocates hailed the move as a milestone in the 50-year battle against tobacco in the United States. They're frustrated because a stubborn one in five adults and teens continue to exercise their free choice to smoke.

Armed with new powers approved by Congress last year, the Food and Drug Administration is proposing warnings that include an image of a man smoking through a tracheotomy hole in his throat; another depicting a body with a large scar running down the chest; and another showing a man who appears to be suffering a heart attack. Others could bear images of a corpse in a coffin and a toe tag in a morgue, diseased lungs and mouths and a mother blowing smoke into a baby's face.

The new warnings will cover half the front and back of each pack and 20 percent of each large ad -- as though any "ads" will remain.

We suggest cigarette manufacturers place serrations around these images so they can be cut out, saved and traded like sports cards. Just as artificial rarity can be imposed on any market by manufacturing only a limited number of a given variety, kids in all likelihood would soon be bidding on eBay for "the limited edition green Newport corpse" or the rare "inverted toe-tag Winston morgue misprint."

In fact, federal drug regulators agree with us. Back in 1992, they blocked importation of a Belgian vodka called Black Death and sold in a box shaped like a black coffin, arguing this ghoulish packaging would be "too attractive to kids." (The importer later won on appeal.)

But why stop with cigarettes? Surely, sugary soda pop labels are next. They could be required to show the bloated corpses of diabetics with amputated feet.

"When the rule takes effect, the health consequences of smoking will be obvious every time someone picks up a pack," gloats FDA Commissioner Margaret Humbug.

No, no, it's Hamburg. Sorry, the lady's name is Hamburg. Honest.

Now, hamburg labels. That's a thought. Give us a minute, here ...