Warning labels unveiled by the FDA would be the first change to
cigarette pack warnings in 25 years. Nine graphic images were chosen
using consumer surveys that involved 18,000 people.
Announcing the first change to cigarette pack health warnings in
25 years, the US Food and Drug Administration unveiled nine graphic
warning labels Tuesday that cigarette companies will be required to
print by the fall of 2012 on the top half of every cigarette pack
and 20 percent of every poster or ad.
Some of the images are grisly - showing the top half of a cadaver
after an autopsy - and designed to perhaps shock smokers into
quitting. Others are somewhat educational, showing smoke drifting
toward a young child's face with a warning that tobacco smoke can
harm your children. And, every pack will contain the 800 number to
call for help quitting smoking.
"This represents the most dramatic change in the history of the
United States efforts to curtail smoking, because it's the first
time health warnings on smoking were selected because of
effectiveness instead of political acceptability," says Matthew
Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in
But, will it make any difference once the warnings are in place?
They are supposed to be slapped on by October 2012, although tobacco
companies are contesting the new regulations in court.
According to Margaret Hamburg, the commissioner of Food and
Drugs, economists at the agency calculate 213,000 smokers will quit
in the first year. "That does not start to calculate the number who
choose not to start smoking," says Ms. Hamburg in an interview.
Although this number represents only half of 1 percent of the 40
million smokers in the US, antismoking advocates say it could save
60,000 to 70,000 lives if the tobacco-users quit for good. "Very few
actions save 70,000 lives," says Mr. Myers.
Images chosen after consumer surveys
The nine images are the result of what Ms. Hamburg terms one of
the largest consumer surveys, in which 18,000 people were asked for
their impressions of the warning labels. "We collected a lot of
information and I think we will see an increased awareness," she
says, "Importantly, they will discourage individuals who are not yet
smokers from becoming smokers."
Already some 43 countries have graphic warnings. However, even
advocates for the images say there are no conclusive studies that
show a direct correlation between the ads and individuals quitting
"In every instance, there was an increased awareness, an
increased sense of the real dangers of smoking and a significantly
increased motivation for quitting," says Myers. "But, it's very hard
to measure precisely how many quit because of the addition of
According to an FDA public comment filing by antismoking
advocates, pictorial warning labels introduced in Australia in 2006
made 57 percent of smokers think about quitting, helped 36 percent
of smokers reduce their consumption, and helped 34 percent of
smokers try to quit. …