June 22, 2011

Picture This: Smoking Can Kill You

Photo Credit: Food & Drug Administration, 2011


The Food and Drug Administration wants the public to get the picture of the harmful effects of cigarette smoking – literally.

Beginning September 2012, the familiar caption on the spine of cigarette packs will now be positioned to the front and back covers complete with full-color graphics.   As the above photo illustrates, a typical pack of smokes will be wrapped with a billboard ad proof of a nine-part anti-smoking campaign series. 

The current text of the SG’s warning has as much as 14 words in one message.  However, the wording has been reduced to 3 words in some and a1-800 prefix to QUIT-NOW which provides anti-smoking support, coaching, educational and referral services in each state, Puerto Rico and Guam  Based on the images posted on the FDA’s website, the miniature, anti-smoking murals will occupy as much space on the cigarette packaging than the brand name itself. Cigarette advertisements will be required to devote another 20% of ad space to the messages.

Though the new labels are the first significant change in the smoking warnings in over a quarter of a century, the FDA plans to maintain the fear factor of the disturbing images which include rotting teeth and an autopsied corpse by updating the images as early as next year. The nine morbid images will be used to reduce the smoking-related deaths of nearly a half million people in the US annually.  The FDA and the anti-smoking group Campaign for Tobacco Free-Kids assert that the current SG warnings that are now over 25 years old are ineffective for a target group who become lifetime smokers well under their 25 th birthday – children under 18 years of age. The law allowing the FDA to regulate tobacco for the first time is responsible for the grotesque change in the current warning labels. 

Alcohol is still regulated under the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms which may explain the stark contrast between the proposed nicotine billboards of dying cancer patients and the alcohol billboards of bikini-clad women.

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