The Food and Drug Administration released new warning labels for cigarette packages on Tuesday, with photographs showing a dead body after an autopsy, a man exhaling smoke through a tracheostomy, and other images of health problems meant to deter smokers.
Tobacco companies have until next year to put them on all packs of cigarettes.
(PICTURES: The FDA's Nine New Cigarette Warning Labels)
“These warnings mark the first change in cigarette warnings in more than 25 years and are a significant advancement in communicating the dangers of smoking,” the FDA said in a statement.
“We want kids to understand smoking is gross, not cool, and there’s really nothing pretty about having mouth cancer or making your baby sick if you smoke, ” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a White House briefing.
Smoking rates plummeted from 42 percent of the population in 1965 to 21 percent in 2004, but they have been stuck at 21 percent since then.
“So over the last two years, we’ve gone to work making it harder for tobacco companies to market to kids,” Sebelius said. “We’ve restricted companies from using terms like ‘light’ and ‘mild’ on products and in marketing. We’re supporting local programs to help people quit smoking and to stop children and adults from starting. And as part of last year’s health care law, we gave Americans better access to counseling to help them quit smoking before they get sick,” she added.
“So today we’re announcing a measure that will forever change the look and message of cigarette packs and ads. The new graphic warning labels will be the toughest and most effective tobacco health warnings in this country’s history, and they tell the truth. They’ll replace the old warning phrase with pictures showing negative health consequences of smoking that are proven to be effective.”
The FDA proposed the new labels in February and settled on nine pictures to illustrate nine separate warnings such as this one: “Tobacco use can rapidly lead to the development of nicotine addiction, which in turn increases the frequency of tobacco use and prevents people from quitting. Research suggests that nicotine is as addictive as heroin, cocaine, or alcohol.”
One illustration is a cartoon; another shows the damaged teeth and gums of a smoker.
“We found in the past in research that we conducted ... that, in particular, the picture with the mouth with the teeth communicates the message more effectively,” Roswell Park Cancer Institute behavioral scientist Maansi Bansal-Travers http://www.roswellpark.edu/maansi-bansal-travers, who tested the warnings and others in several countries, said in a telephone interview.
“It's apparent to me they have chosen some that might be more effective than others in communicating the message.”
Bansal-Travers said testing has shown that pictures draw attention to the written warnings and people are more likely to remember them. “Pictures really do communicate better than words,” she said.
Sebelius said that FDA can change the pictures to keep them freshly horrifying.
“So, immediately after the launch of the first set of nine, we’ll begin the studies to make sure that we are keeping people sensitized, and we have the authority then to move to a new set of labels,” she said.