Yesterday, federal regulators announced that, as of 2012, cigarette packs must feature grisly photos of corpses, diseased lungs, and other disturbing images calculated to discourage smoking. The tactic is old news, however, for citizens in other countries from Canada to Singapore who've seen an explosion in pull-no-punches packaging regulations over the past ten years. Here's a brief timeline:
2000: Canada becomes the first country in the world to mandate anti-smoking images with accompanying text on packs of cigarettes. One photo featured a pair of wide-eyed children, captioned "Don't poison us" to underline the risks of second-hand smoke. Startled American tourists take the packages home as souvenirs.
2002: Brazil, whose anti-smoking campaign has been called the "scariest" in the world, requires that hard-hitting anti-smoking photos occupy the entire side of a cigarette package. A detailed warning was added in 2003: "This product contains over 4700 toxic substances and nicotine, which causes physical or psychological addiction. There are no safe levels for the intake of these substances."
2004: Singapore is the first Asian country to adopt the warning-image strategy.
2006: Australia unveils new graphics on cigarettes, accompanied by blunt, direct warnings. Examples include photos of diseased lungs with the simple message "Smoking causes lung cancer."
August, 2008: Egypt is the first African country to require graphics. The country's Ministry of Health rolls out a series of disturbing images, including "a dying man in an oxygen mask," accompanied by text warnings in Arabic.
October, 2008: England becomes the first country in the European Union to go graphic. Its chosen images include a "red, bulging tumor on a man's neck" and "a flaccid cigarette to highlight smoking-related impotence."
April, 2010: The Australian government announces the most aggressive strategy yet: By 2012, the brand names on Australian cigarettes will be reduced to a tiny element in a generic font, leaving both sides of the package occupied by suitably horrific imagery.