The FDA is proposing 36 labels for public comment, which include phrases like "smoking can kill you" and "cigarettes cause cancer," but also feature graphic images to convey the dangers of tobacco use.
updated 11/10/2010 4:17:17 PM ET 2010-11-10T21:17:17

The federal government hopes new larger, graphic warning labels for cigarettes that include images of corpses, cancer patients, and diseased lungs and teeth will help snuff out tobacco use.

The images are part of a new push announced by the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday to reduce tobacco use, which is responsible for about 443,000 deaths per year.

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The number of Americans who smoke has fallen dramatically over the past 40 years, but those declines have stalled in recently. About 46 million adults in the U.S., or 20.6 percent, smoke cigarettes, along with 19.5 percent of high school students.

The new prevention plan is part of the law passed in June 2009 giving the FDA authority to regulate tobacco, including marketing and labeling guidelines, banning certain products and limiting nicotine. The law doesn't let the FDA ban nicotine or tobacco entirely.

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"Today, FDA takes a crucial step toward reducing the tremendous toll of illness and death caused by tobacco use by proposing to dramatically change how cigarette packages and advertising look in this country," FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in a news release. "The health consequences of smoking will be obvious every time someone picks up a pack of cigarettes."


The FDA is proposing 36 labels for public comment, which include phrases like "smoking can kill you" and "cigarettes cause cancer," but also feature graphic images to convey the dangers of tobacco use.

The agency will select the final labels in June after reviews of scientific literature, public comments, and results from an 18,000-person study. Cigarette makers will then have 15 months to start using the new labels.

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The new warning labels are to take up half of a pack — both front and back — of cigarettes and contain "color graphics depicting the negative health consequences." Warning labels also must constitute 20 percent of advertisements.

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Video: FDA proposes graphic cigarette warnings

  1. Closed captioning of: FDA proposes graphic cigarette warnings

    >>> welcome back. it is time now for the "news nation" gut check. but before we get to that, you saw our e-mail addresses up there. you can e-mail me or tweet me or reach out to us on facebook. this is what we're talking about. i know you'll want to reach out. imagine for a moment that every time you reach for a pack of cigarettes, you're greeted by pictures of corpses, cancer patients and diseased lungs. would that scare you into kicking the habit for good? the fda is hoping that congress passed the smoking prevention and tobacco control act back in 2009 , and it actually requires us to put in place graphic warning labels with new text messages -- textual messages about the risks of smoking. so we're starting a process to select the graphic images that will go with those warning messages to help people understand the serious health consequences of smoking. and hopefully to help them stop smoking or never take it up in the first place.

    >> is there any research that proves this would be more effective than the warnings that are already on cigarettes or even the commercials and ads that we see often that show real-life people who are battling for their lives as a result of smoking?

    >> well, as you know, the consequences of smoking are horrendous. it's the leading cause of preventable death in this country. almost 500,000 people a year die from smoking-related deaths. it costs our health care system about $100 billion. it's a serious, serious problem. we need to take a range of actions to address it and graphic health warnings is one. and we know that it does have an effect, but it's part of a constellation of approaches that need to be taken.

    >> that's very interesting. thank you very much, dr. hamburg, for coming on and explaining the process behind this and how we got here. we're asking


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