RICHMOND, Virginia — Dead bodies, diseased lungs and a man on a ventilator were among the graphic images for revamped tobacco labels unveiled on Tuesday by U.S. health officials.
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Proposed in November under a law that put the multibillion-dollar tobacco industry under the control of the Food and Drug Administration, the new labels must be on cigarette packages and in advertisements starting in October 2012.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg were to announce the nine new warnings at the White House, but the labels were released early Tuesday.
They show images that may disturb some, including one titled "WARNING: Cigarettes are addictive," illustrated with a photograph of a man smoking a cigarette through a hole in his throat. Among the images to appear on cigarette packs are rotting and diseased teeth and gums, 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.
Other messages point out the dangers of secondhand smoke to children, tobacco's causal link to fatal lung disease, cancer, strokes, heart disease and death.
Sebelius said their goal is to stop children from starting to smoke and offer adults who want to quit some help.
"We have about 4,000 people under 18 who try their first cigarette and about 1,000 of them become permanent smokers. And that's not good for our country," she told the CBS "Early Show."
"This is really aimed at making sure kids don't start in the first place."
The 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act called for cigarette packages to include warning statements in large type covering half of the front and back of each package and graphic images showing adverse health effects from smoking.
The warnings are also to occupy the top 20 percent of every tobacco advertisement of companies such as Altria Group Inc's Philip Morris unit, Reynolds American Inc's R.J. Reynolds Tobacco unit and Lorillard Inc's Lorillard Tobacco Co.
The anti-smoking group Campaign for Tobacco Free-Kids said the images represent a dramatic change from current health warnings.
"The current warnings are more than 25 years old, go unnoticed on the side of cigarette packs and fail to effectively communicate the serious health risks of smoking," the group said.
R.J. Reynolds has challenged the legality of mandated larger and graphic warnings in a federal lawsuit.
Why aren't more quitting?
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.
A 1964 surgeon general's report that linked smoking to lung cancer and other diseases spurred a broad anti-smoking campaign and health warnings on cigarette packages.
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Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report