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FDA Reveals Graphic New Cigarette Warning Labels

“Nearly a half-century after U.S. cigarette packs were emblazoned with their first, modest warning, ‘Caution: Cigarette Smoking May be Hazardous to Your Health,’ the Food and Drug Administration – at Congress’ behest – is … requiring tobacco companies to print painful images, such as that of a man smoking through a hole in his throat or of a lip eroded by cancer and a mouthful of rotting teeth, right on their cigarette packs,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reports (Gelles, 6/22).

The new warnings, which are “required under a federal law passed in 2009 that gave the FDA regulatory authority over cigarettes,” also “will appear on print ads and must take up at least 20 percent of the ad space,” the Boston Globe notes (Kotz/Satija, 6/22).

“The FDA predicts that the images, which are deliberately designed to disgust and unnerve all ages, will reduce the number of smokers by 213,000 by 2013 and save between $221 million and $630 million every year over the next 20 years,” the Washington Post writes (Stein, 6/21).

According to the Los Angeles Times, “government officials and outside experts predict there will be an initial wave of smokers who seek help in quitting. But they caution that regulators will have to refresh – and possibly dial up – their message so that consumers don’t grow complacent about the omnipresent warnings” (Healy, 6/21).

“We absolutely believe that these warning labels will make a difference,” FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in an interview with NPR’s “All Things Considered,” according to the NPR health blog “Shots” (Thrasbuyle, 6/21). HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said “the labels are ‘frank, honest and powerful depictions’ aimed at making tobacco-related death and disease part of the nation’s past,” the Associated Press/Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports (Felberbaum/Pisani/Cornwell, 6/22).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.