Last updated at 10:20 PM on 10th November 2010
Diseased lungs, dead bodies, a man on a ventilator and mothers blowing smoke in their children’s faces are among the images that may end up on cigarette packs in the U.S.
Health officials are considering the striking pictures and accompanying messages in their effort to revamp tobacco warning labels.
The 36 ‘graphic health warnings,’ unveiled on Wednesday, aim to depict the negative effects of smoking, and they will be required on all cigarette packages in 2012.
More prominent warnings on cigarette packages, including larger text labels, were included in a June 2009 law putting the multibillion-dollar tobacco industry under the control of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The law calls for cigarette packages and advertisements to include new warning statements in large type covering half of the front and back of each package and graphic images showing adverse health effects from smoking.
‘When the rule takes effect, the health consequences of smoking will be obvious every time someone picks up a pack of cigarettes,’ FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg said in a statement. ‘This is a concrete example of how FDA’s new responsibilities for tobacco product regulation can benefit the public’s health.’
Tobacco use is responsible for about 443,000 deaths per year in the U.S..
The share of Americans who smoke has fallen dramatically since 1970 from nearly 40 percent to about 20 percent, but those declines have stalled recently. At the same time, the average cost per pack has gone from 38 cents to $5.33.
About 46 million adults in the U.S. smoke cigarettes, and so do 19.5 percent of high school students.
The FDA will accept comments on its proposal until January 9.
They include phrases like ‘smoking can kill you’ and ‘cigarettes cause cancer,’ but also feature graphic images to convey the dangers of tobacco use.
The agency will select the final labels in June after reviews of scientific literature, public comments, and results from an 18,000-person study. Cigarette makers will then have 15 months to start using the new labels.
In June, the agency will choose nine graphic images from the 36 it has proposed. Cigarette companies will have to include the new warning labels by October 2012.
Anti-tobacco advocates are applauding the federal campaign and the new warning labels.
‘This is going to stop kids from starting to smoke … and it’s going to give smokers a strong incentive to quit smoking,’ said Patrick Reynolds, the grandson of R.J. Reynolds and executive director of the Foundation for a Smokefree America. Reynolds’ father, brother and other relatives died from smoking-related illnesses.
It remains to be seen how well the scare tactics will work.
‘I don’t think they’re going to be a deterrent at all for people who already smoke. Most people start smoking when they’re young, and I don’t think they’re going to think about the effects,’ said 27-year-old Zak Hoffman, who has been smoking since age 14.