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FDA proposes graphic warnings for cigarette packages

by nickj on November 12, 2010

The Food and Drug Administration will be gathering feedback over the next two months on a proposed rule to instate graphic warning labels on all cigarette packages and advertisements.

The planned new labels include a series of textual warnings such as "smoking can kill you" and "cigarettes cause cancer" accompanied by upfront images of a sickly cancer patient or a man smoking a cigarette out of a tracheotomy hole. The FDA will open a public forum until January 11 and is required to select nine of the 36 labels by June 22 based on the commentary, scientific reviews and a study involving 18,000 people. Cigarette manufacturers that do not begin using the new labels by October 2012 will be banned from selling their products in the U.S.

Under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, cigarette packages and advertisements are required to promote the visibility of health warnings, which will take up the top half portion of both the front and back of packages. The federal health care over-haul has also allocated funds for anti-smoking efforts and therapies, as well as restricted the use of words like "light" and "mild."

Some smokers expressed indifference or amusement regarding the new packs. "I know cigarettes are bad, but these won't make me know anything I don't. I'm addicted," Kathy Lollar, 36, told The Washington Post. "I'm going to buy my cigarettes, and will see this funny ad on the pack."

Others acknowledged the effectiveness of the labels and the pressing need for the measures. The Associated Press reported that smoking rates in the U.S. have dropped from 40 to 20 percent since 1970, around when the first warning labels were instated, but since 2004 the rates have stalled. Some major tobacco companies are suing the federal government over the regulations.

More than 30 other countries already have similar laws. Canada was the first to instate such rules in 2000, and has seen a six percent drop in smoking rates, reports the AP.

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