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Smoking Cessation Health Center

FDA Unveils Grim Cigarette Warning Labels

Cigarette Packages Will Soon Include Graphic Images of the Effects of Smoking
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Vertical display of five cigarette warning labelsJune 21, 2011 -- Graphic images such as lifeless bodies, surgical scars, and diseased lungs are among nine new warning labels unveiled by the FDA that the agency says must appear on all cigarette packaging and advertisements by September 2012.

The FDA says in a statement on its web site that the warnings, a new effort to get people to quit smoking, represent the most significant changes to cigarette labels in more than 25 years and will affect everything from packaging to advertisements.

The agency says all Americans understand the dangers of smoking and the new labels are intended to prevent children from starting and induce smokers to quit.

One image shows a dead man with a surgical wound on his chest. Another picture shows a close-up of a person's mouth full of brown, rotting teeth and a lip with an open sore. Still another picture depicts a man with a breathing apparatus over his mouth and nose. And another image shows a sick baby, crying in an incubator.

Written Warnings

Each grim image is accompanied by written warnings such as "cigarettes cause cancer," "smoking during pregnancy can harm your baby," "cigarettes are addictive," and "tobacco smoke can harm your children."

The warnings, first proposed in November 2010, were required under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act that was passed in Congress and signed into law by President Obama on June 22, 2009.

The FDA chose the nine images to be used from 36 that were originally proposed.

Come September 2012, all cigarettes manufactured for sale or distribution in the U.S. must include the new graphic images and warnings on packaging.

The FDA says the warnings are expected to have a significant impact on public health by decreasing the number of smokers, which it says will result in lives saved, increased life expectancy, and better health.

Encouraging Smokers to Quit

"President Obama is committed to protecting our nation's children and the American people from the dangers of tobacco use," U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says in the FDA news release. "These labels are frank, honest and powerful depictions of the health risks of smoking and they will help encourage smokers to quit and prevent children from smoking."

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