FDA Releases New Graphic Cigarette Warning Labels

By Michael Felberbaum, AP Tobacco Writer

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — In the most significant change to U.S. cigarette packs in 25 years, the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday released nine new warning labels that depict in graphic detail the negative health effects of tobacco use.

Among the images to appear on cigarette packs are rotting and diseased teeth and gums and a man with a tracheotomy smoking.

Also included among the labels are: the corpse of a smoker, diseased lungs, and a mother holding her baby with smoke swirling around them.

They include phrases like “Smoking can kill you” and “Cigarettes cause cancer” and feature graphic images to convey the dangers of tobacco, which is responsible for about 443,000 deaths in the U.S. a year.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Jim Smith reports

Each label includes a national quit smoking hotline number.

View: New Cigarette Warning Labels

The labels will take up the top half — both front and back — of a pack of cigarette packs.

Warning labels also must appear in advertisements and constitute 20 percent of an ad. Cigarette makers have until the fall of 2012 to comply.


Mandates to introduce new graphic warning labels were part of a law passed in 2009 that, for the first time, gave the federal government authority to regulate tobacco, including setting guidelines for marketing and labeling, banning certain products and limiting nicotine.

The announcement follows reviews of scientific literature, public comments and results from an FDA-contracted study of 36 labels proposed last November.

In recent years, more than 30 countries or jurisdictions have introduced labels similar to those being introduced by the FDA.

The U.S. first mandated the use of warning labels stating “Cigarettes may be hazardous to your health” in 1965.

Current warning labels — a small box with black and white text — were put on cigarette packs in the mid-1980s.


The FDA says the new labels will “clearly and effectively convey the health risks of smoking” aimed at encouraging current smokers to quit and discourage nonsmokers and youth from starting to use cigarettes.

“These labels are frank, honest and powerful depictions of the health risks of smoking,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.

American Cancer Society CEO John R. Seffrin applauded the new labels in a statement, saying they have the potential to “encourage adults to give up their deadly addiction to cigarettes and deter children from starting in the first place.”

The new labels come as the share of Americans who smoke has fallen dramatically since 1970, from nearly 40 percent to about 20 percent.

The rate has stalled since about 2004. About 46 million adults in the U.S. smoke cigarettes.

It’s unclear why declines in smoking have stalled.

Some experts have cited tobacco company discount coupons on cigarettes or lack of funding for programs to discourage smoking or to help smokers quit.


While it is impossible to say how many people quit because of the labels, various studies suggest the labels do spur people to quit. The new labels offer the opportunity for a pack-a-day smoker to see graphic warnings on the dangers of cigarettes more than 7,000 times per year.

The FDA estimates the new labels will reduce the number of smokers by 213,000 in 2013, with smaller additional reductions through 2031.

Tobacco use costs the U.S. economy nearly $200 billion annually in medical costs and lost productivity, the FDA said. Tobacco companies spend about $12.5 billion annually on cigarette advertising and promotion, according to the latest data from the Federal Trade Commission.

The World Health Organization said in a survey done in countries with graphic warning labels that a majority of smokers noticed the warnings and more than 25 percent said the warnings led them to consider quitting.

While some have voiced concerns over the hard-hitting nature of some of the labels, those concerns should be trumped by the government’s responsibility to warn people about the dangers of smoking, said David Hammond, a health behavior researcher at the University of Waterloo in Canada, who worked with the firm designing the labels for the FDA.

“This isn’t about doing what’s pleasant for people. It’s about fulfilling the government’s mandate if they’re going to allow these things to be sold,” Hammond said.

“What’s bothering people is the risk associated with their behavior, not the warnings themselves.”


In places like Canada, Hammond said, smokers offended by some of the images on cigarettes packs there started asking for different packs when they received ones with certain gory images, or used a case to cover them up. But smokers said those warnings still had an effect on them.

Canada introduced similar warning labels in 2000. Since then, its smoking rates have declined from about 26 percent to about 20 percent. How much the warnings contributed to the decline is unclear because the country also implemented other tobacco control efforts.


The legality of the new labels also is part of a pending federal lawsuit filed by Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Reynolds American Inc., parent company of America’s second-largest cigarette maker, R.J. Reynolds; No. 3 cigarette maker, Greensboro, N.C.-based Lorillard Inc.; and others.

Tobacco makers in the lawsuit have argued the warnings would relegate the companies’ brands to the bottom half of the cigarette packaging, making them “difficult, if not impossible, to see.”

A spokesman for Richmond, Va.-based Altria Group Inc., parent company of the nation’s largest cigarette maker, Philip Morris USA, said the company was looking at the final labels but would not comment further.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

  • timma

    wow he can now smoke 2 at once!

  • emom

    Ironic, did anyone not think they were addicting, it’s a drug DUH, As for the photo I have seen that many times, I have seen people on oxygen , leave the tank behind and then go PUFF A STICK, why are they on O2 because of the cigarettes, GO FIGURE, The government is now after all these years just realizing that its dangerous to smoke. However, back in the day they promoted it and pushed it onto us…. So now they are concerned,…I use to smoke and thankfully I was able to quit.. But the urges are always there. The government are fools…. I bet half of them smoke

  • Tin

    OMG!!! cigarettes are bad for you?!?!?……I had no idea!!!

  • Williamn O'Grady

    It is time NOW to put similar labels on cell phones and nip the problem in the bud. Now.

    • Gloria

      I understand why all the hoopla with tobacco but what about the alcohol that is consumed by teens and adults that no one is saying anything about? I am sick and tired of hearing about this one bad habit and not the booze that is consumed and killing adults through alcoholism and DUIs that kills innocent people more that its share. Time to get the money from the alcohol companies to cough up some bad advertisement as well.

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    […] the original here: FDA Releases New Graphic Cigarette Warning Labels This entry was posted in News and tagged boston, breaking, breaking-news, graphic-warning, […]

  • tsal

    It’s a waste of money. Young people think they are invincible; and by the time you should be smart enough to quit, if you haven’t, an ad is not going to make a difference.

  • concernedamerican

    Kids being kids, believing they are invincible. Truly we are not raising them to be fearless. There are commercials all over tell you to DRINK RESPONSIBLE, DRIVE RESAPONSIBLE, but that does not stop them,. There has been campaigns showing folks what smoking can and will do to them, that does not stop them, There has been commercials and campaigns on what drugs do to you . Still none of them work. Why must we depend on the government to finally FIX this,, are we not intelligent enough to take control of our own lives. Must we merely be puppets to them. Most of these common sense things should start at home with kids.. FEARLESS indeed, INVINSIBLE indeed. They believe they can do anything.. But it wasn’t all that long ago where some said kids will be kids, and that its part of growing up.. To many kids are following what the adults are doing But the adults place blame on others. Good luck in trying to getting this message across.. If the adults don’t listen why should the kids.

  • Groveman

    I do not see a problem with the new packaging. Whether it will make a difference remains to be seen, but if it stops even one person from starting, then I would consider this a successful venture. I cannot understand how the tobacco industry is allowed to exist. Of course, our government is making money from the taxes collected. As far as I am concerned, double the tax. Cigarettes are poison. It is stunning how many young people I see smoking. I just do not get it. How is it “cool” to be slowly killing oneself? (Hi, emom!)

  • callicocow

    These comments all confirm my opinion. These warnings will do nothing to make any smoker that I know stop smoking, nor will they make any potential smoker hesitate to start. If anything they will make them more attractive to the potential new smoker. Pretty well every smoker I know knew the risks when they started and continue even though most of them believe they will be their cause of death. The most common thing I hear from all of them is “I’ve gotta die of something so I might as well enjoy what is going to kill me.” How do you change that point of view? Also most of them resent someone else trying to tell them to do or not do something no matter what their intention.

  • justsayin'

    Smokers know what smoking is doing to them. They don’t need pictures. My husband smoked since he was 17. he does not care what it is doing to him or the people around him. For god’s sake my sister took up smoking at 35! She’s in the medical profession and she has seen first hand what it does and smoke anyway. The pictures are just a waste of time.

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