The FDA's 'gruesome' new cigarette warning labels

Nine new images will appear on cigarette packaging in an effort to convince smokers to quit. Are the pictures too gory — or not gory enough?

The FDA has unveiled nine stomach-turning images that will appear on cigarette packs in September 2012.
(Image credit: FDA)

The image: On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration unveiled nine "gory" new cigarette warning labels that tobacco companies will have to start using on their products beginning in September 2012. (See two of the images below.) The new images — which include a body with stitches down the chest, and a man blowing smoke through a tracheotomy hole in his throat — are designed to cover the top half of cigarette packs. The FDA hopes the new pictures, which represent the most significant change to cigarette warning labels in 25 years, will convince more smokers to quit, and will discourage non-smokers from starting. Each label will also carry the phone number for a national "quit line," 1-800-QUIT-NOW. Based on the success of similar labels in Canada, the agency expects that more than 200,000 smokers will quit within the new labels' first year. The legality of the labels is still being challenged by Big Tobacco in a pending federal lawsuit.

The reaction: These images aren't even that bad, compared to the rest of the world, say Betsy McKay and David Kesmodel in The Wall Street Journal. "The U.S. is following more than 40 countries that have already put graphic warnings on cigarettes," but many of those foreign warnings "are far more explicit" than ours. Well, people can tune out more disturbing and graphic images, says Dr. Lawrence Deyton of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products, as quoted by The Washington Post. "The images that work best are the ones that people can look at and have an emotional impact but not dismiss." And, says Lewis Wallace at Wired, these "gruesome" images, which "look like they’ve been cribbed from horror flicks and TV melodramas," are sure to turn smokers' stomachs. See for yourself:

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