Rotten teeth, diseased lungs and dead bodies on new cigarette pack labels were among the graphic images for revamped tobacco labels that were just released last week by U.S. health officials.
Under a law that put the multibillion-dollar tobacco industry under the control of the Food and Drug Administration, the new labels must be on cigarette packages and in advertisements beginning in October 2012.
The new packaging requirements are the first major required change to cigarette packs in 25 years.
The packages show images that may disturb some, including one titled “WARNING: Cigarettes are addictive,” that includes a photograph of a man smoking a cigarette through a hole in his throat. Among the images to appear on cigarette packs are the corpse of a smoker, diseased lungs, and a mother who is holding her baby with smoke swirling around them. The images also include phrases like “Smoking can kill you” and “Cigarettes cause cancer” and feature graphic images to convey the dangers of tobacco.
Tobacco is responsible for about 443,000 deaths in the U.S. a year and tobacco use costs the U.S. economy nearly $200 billion annually in medical costs and lost productivity according to the FDA. Tobacco companies spend about $12.5 billion annually on cigarette advertising and promotion, according to the latest data from the Federal Trade Commission.
The goal of the graphic images is to stop children from starting to smoke and offer adults who want to quit reminders of the harmful effects of smoking. In the U.S. about 4,000 people under 18 try their first cigarette and about 1,000 of them become permanent smokers.
The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act requires cigarette packages to include warning statements in large type covering half of the front and back of each package and graphic images showing the adverse health effects of smoking.
The warnings are also to occupy the top 20 percent of every tobacco advertisement of companies such as Altria Group Inc’s Philip Morris unit, Reynolds American Inc’s R.J. Reynolds Tobacco unit and Lorillard Inc’s Lorillard Tobacco Co.
R.J. Reynolds has challenged the legality of mandated larger and graphic warnings in a federal lawsuit.
The World Health Organization said in a survey done in countries with graphic warning labels that a majority of smokers noticed the warnings and more than 25 percent said the warnings led them to consider quitting.
Until the new labels are released it is impossible to say how many people quit but several studies do suggest that labels impel people to quit. The new labels will give the pack-a-day smoker a chance to see graphic warnings on the harmful effects of smoking of cigarettes more than 7,000 times per year.
The FDA estimates the new labels will reduce the number of smokers by 213,000 in 2013, with smaller additional reductions through 2031.
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