FDA Proposes Graphic Warning Labels on Cigarette Packs

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Federal drug regulators unveiled 36 proposed warning labels for cigarette packages on Wednesday, many of them depicting graphic images of the negative effects of smoking. One showed a toe tag on a corpse. Another showed a man exhaling smoke through a hole in his neck. Another depicted a mother blowing smoke on her baby.

The images are designed to cover half the surface area of the pack and are intended to remind buyers of the dangers of smoking.

The labels are required under a law passed last year that gave the FDA the power to regulate, but not ban, tobacco products for the first time. Public Health officials hope these new labels will reinvigorate the nation's anti-smoking efforts.

“We want to not only support the new F.D.A. regulatory authority but reinvigorate the national commitment to ending the tobacco epidemic,”said Dr. Howard K. Koh, the assistant secretary for health. He also said that the labels were part of the Obama administration's comprehensive tobacco control plan, which includes $250 million to support anti-smoking efforts.

About 20.6% (46.6 million) of the nation’s adults and about 19.5% (3.4 million) of high school students are smokers.

Obviously, cigarette companies are not happy about these new labels. “The use of graphic warnings makes no contribution to the awareness of these risks and serves only to stigmatize smokers and denormalize smoking,” said Anthony Hemsley, a vice president at Commonwealth Brands, the maker of USA Gold cigarettes. 

Studies suggest that warnings in images are better at getting the attention of adolescents than text-only warnings; make smokers more likely to skip the cigarette they had planned to smoke; and make adolescents less likely to start smoking.

“The evidence is that graphic labels do make a difference in enticing smokers to stop smoking,” said Dr. Richard D. Hurt of the National Dependence Center at the Mayo Clinic. Still, he predicts that cigarette companies will come up with clever ways to curb the effects of these new labels, such as by inventing slip covers to put over a package of cigarettes.

Do you believe these graphic labels can help put an end to cigarette smoking?

Have a loved one that smokes and don't want to put all your faith in these new labels? Here are ways to help them quit.

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