Last Month the Food and Drug Administration revealed 36 health warning labels, nine of which will become a part of each cigarette pack very soon. The images include corpse, diseased lungs and respiratory masks.
The new labels will cover half of each pack and carton of cigarettes, and 20% of any cigarette advert and are intended to encourage smokers to give up their habit by demonstrating the effects of smoking on health. The graphic warnings are required according to a legislation approved in 2009 that provided the FDA with the authority to regulate tobacco products.
Public health authorities believe that the new warnings will breathe a new life into the nationwide antismoking campaign, which has stalled recently. Nearly 20.6% or 46.6 million adult Americans smoke, as well as 3.4 million adolescents.
Several cigarette makers promised to contest the labels in court, stating they violate commercial free-speech rights. In January a federal court decided in a similar case that the federal regulators might demand graphic warnings, however an introduced restriction aimed to ban colors from cigarette packages violates free speech rights. The FDA has appealed this decision.
“The introduction of graphic health warnings doesn’t contribute to rising the awareness of the dangers related o smoking, but is only needed to stigmatize current smokers and denormalize their habit,” stated Anthony Hemsley, Commonwealth Brands vice president.
One of the most shocking of the introduced images is one where a person exhales cigarette smoke via a hole in the neck, as many smokers who have larynx cancer have to breathe through a tracheotomy. However the introduced graphic health warnings are not as grim as the ones required in several European countries, where gruesome images of rotten teeth and diseased lungs give a Halloween look to cigarette packages.
“These images mark a vital step in the efforts on protecting the health of Americans and prevent teenagers from smoking”, stated the secretary of health and human services Kathleen Sebelius.
The USA became the first nation in the world to demand tobacco products to carry printed health warnings in the 1980s’ which have been unchanged until now, and today these warnings are too modest and inefficient. The current warnings include such messages as “Surgeon General’s Warning: Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, and May Complicate Pregnancy.”
However 39 countries across the world have gone a way beyond these short health labels and implemented gloomy graphic images depicting the consequences of smoking. By proposing graphic warnings, the United States – which is the homeland of tobacco – made a significant step forward to join those countries’ efforts to decrease tobacco consumption and reduce the rate of preventable deaths related to smoking.
Studies show that graphic warnings are more effective at drawing the attention of teenagers than text ones, as they are more likely to encourage smokers to quit and minors not to start smoking. Yet, health officials believe that graphic labels should not be too gruesome as they are dismissed more rapidly by smokers.