Cigarette Labels Get Graphic

No more gentle warnings from cigarette packs. New labels are set to include gruesome color photographs showing a  cancer-ridden mouth, blackened lungs, and a  foot rotten with gangrene to drive home the dangers of smoking, the Washington Post reported.

Under the new the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, tobacco companies must cover 50% of the front and rear panels of cigarette packages with color graphics showing what happens when you smoke, and must include bold  labels with direct information, such as  “WARNING: Cigarettes cause fatal lung disease;” “WARNING: Tobacco smoke can harm your children;”  “WARNING: Smoking can kill you.”

Why the change? Critics have long dismissed U.S. labeling as ineffective, while other countries have been sporting bold warnings and images on their cigarettes that have been hailed as effective. Canada started the gruesome label trend in 2000 with a label that showed a picture of mouth cancer. “It’s the one that smokers remember more than anything else. Even after nine years,” David Hammond, a researcher from the Department of Health Studies at the University of Waterloo in Ontario told the Washington Post. Since that time, more than two dozen countries have started offering similar warning labels.

Malaysia’s cigarette packs feature a photo of a diseased lung; packs in Brazil depict a dead fetus lying near cigarette butts; and Thailand’s have an image of a man with a hole in his throat, to warn about throat cancer.

“Every piece of research that I’ve seen with smokers tells us that smokers think that [image warnings] are more effective,” Hammond said. “U.S. smokers and consumers are getting worse health information than almost any other smoker in the world.”

Hammond does not think cigarette makers will fight the new rule, because lawsuits in other countries have failed.

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