Scaring Smokers Straight: The New Labels

By Dirk Hanson 06/21/11

FDA Picks Gruesome New Warnings for Cigarette Packs.

You'll be seeing a lot of her.
Photo via fda

They’re here…  the new, intentionally awful cigarette packages the government has been threatening to threaten us with. Well, technically, the designs have been finalized; they won’t begin to appear on actual cigarette packs until September 2012. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), whose scheme this is, does not move with undue haste when it comes to regulating tobacco.

This marks the first significant design change for cigarette package warnings in 25 years, although other countries are already experimenting with the anti-PR campaigns. Other designs include: A man with smoke pouring out of a hole in his throat, a baby contemplating a cloud of smoke, a comparison of healthy and diseased lungs, ugly teeth, a dead body, a weeping woman, and a burly guy in a black “I quit” T-shirt. For the full roster, go to the FDA site here.

The FDA says “The new warnings serve as reminders of the negative health consequences of smoking every time someone picks up a pack of cigarettes or views a cigarette advertisement.” The new graphics will cover the top 50 percent of both the front and rear panels of each cigarette package. In advertisements, the gory art will occupy at least 20% of the upper portion of each cigarette add. The new labels are mandated by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009.

“President Obama is committed to protecting our nation’s children and the American people from the dangers of tobacco use. These labels are frank, honest and powerful depictions of the health risks of smoking and they will help encourage smokers to quit, and prevent children from smoking,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Each warning is accompanied by a smoking cessation phone number, 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

“The Tobacco Control Act requires FDA to provide current and potential smokers with clear and truthful information about the risks of smoking—these warnings do that,” said Commissioner of Food and Drugs Margaret A. Hamburg.

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]