FDA requires cigarette packs to bear graphic warning labels

Warning: cover your children’s eyes.health warning

Cigarette packages will carry graphic images next year after the United States Food and Drug Administration announced new regulations regarding warning labels.

The labels, which will cover the top half of cigarette packages, include images of healthy and diseased lungs, a dead man and cancerous teeth. Nine images were chosen from 36 submitted to be placed on cigarette packages as warning labels.

The hope is these images will deter new smokers and be the final push for current smokers to quit.

The new warning labels will be required on all cigarette packs, cartons and advertisements by September 2012.

On the label

The new labels are not pretty and, in some cases, are very intense.

The intent is that they will have a significant public health impact by decreasing the number of smokers, resulting in lives saved, increased life expectancy and improved health, according to information from the FDA.

The warning labels are exciting for those working to educate people about the dangers of smoking.

“I think the images are a strong reminder of the dangers of tobacco,” said Stacy McCole, grant coordinator for Franklin County’s Healthy Community Partnership. “Studies have found them to be effective, so I do hope that they will deter people from starting.”

McCole added that although the images are intense, she does not know if they will make current smokers quit.

“I am hopeful that it will prevent new, especially young, potential smokers from starting,” McCole said. “For current users, they know the risks, but the addiction to nicotine is the real issue.”

Local smoking stats

Franklin County is right in line with the national average when it comes to tobacco use, McCole said.

A 2008 survey found that 21 percent of Pennsylvania adults smoke and that 61 percent of them are looking for ways to quit.

“All trends indicate that this number holds true for the Franklin County area as well,” McCole said.

Additionally, 26.4 percent of Franklin County young people in sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th grades reported using cigarettes as least once, according to a 2009 PA Youth Survey.

McCole added that the survey also showed that 29.5 percent of 12th-grade students had used tobacco in the last 30 days, which is 9.4 percent higher than the national average.

Healthy Communities Partnership offers free classes to educate youth and adults about the dangers of smoking and how to quit. The classes are in Waynesboro and Chambersburg, are eight weeks long and offer “support and guidance throughout the quitting process,” McCole said.

The next set of classes will begin today in Chambersburg and Aug. 8 in Waynesboro.

For more information on the classes, call Healthy Communities Partnership at 264-1470.

The warning labels bring to light one of the main dangers of smoking — cancer.

“Tobacco users are at increased risk for a number of cancers, including lung and oral cancers,” McCole said.

Tobacco and nicotine can also interact with various medications, making them less effective, McCole said.

“This is especially true for people with diabetes, high blood pressure and those taking medications related to mental health issues like depression,” McCole said. “Women who smoke may face additional risks during pregnancy including low birth weight babies, preterm delivery, miscarriage and other dangers. Studies also show that nicotine is passed through breast milk to an infant.”

The Centers for Disease control adds that individuals who smoke are 10 times more likely to die from bronchitis and emphysema.

By Rachel Bryson
The Record Herald

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