FDA proposes graphic cigarette warning labels in bid to curb smoking in US
RICHMOND — Corpses, cancer patients, and diseased lungs. These are some of the images the federal government plans for larger, graphic warning labels that will take up half of each cigarette package.
The images are part of a new campaign announced yesterday by the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services to reduce tobacco use, which is responsible for about 443,000 deaths per year.
“It acts as a very public billboard because you, all of the sudden, are reading something about lung cancer from that pack behind the cash register, whereas before you were just reading ‘Marlboro,’ ’’ said David Hammond, a health behavior researcher at the University of Waterloo in Canada, who is working with the firm that is designing the labels.
The share of Americans who smoke has fallen dramatically since 1970, from nearly 40 percent to about 20 percent, but declines have stalled recently.
About 46 million adults in the United states smoke cigarettes, and so do 19.5 percent of high school students.
The plan is part of a law passed in June 2009 giving the FDA authority to regulate tobacco, including marketing and labeling guidelines, banning certain products, and limiting nicotine.
The FDA is proposing 36 labels for public comment, which include phrases such as “smoking can kill you’’ and “cigarettes cause cancer.’’
The agency will select the final labels in June after it reviews scientific literature, public comments, and the results of an 18,000-person study. Cigarette makers will then have 15 months to start using them.
The labels are to take up half of a pack — both front and back. Cigarette makers are challenging the legality of the labels in court.