As required by the Family Smoking and Tobacco Control Act, the Food and Drug Administration has recently enacted a final rule that requires graphic health warnings on all cigarette packages and advertisements starting in the fall of 2012. View the final selected images at FDA.gov/TobaccoProducts.

For 25 years, warning labels on cigarettes have gone almost completely unnoticed.


As required by the Family Smoking and Tobacco Control Act, the Food and Drug Administration has recently enacted a final rule that requires graphic health warnings on all cigarette packages and advertisements starting in the fall of 2012.


The warnings combine graphic images with bolded comments like "Cigarettes Cause Cancer" in order to speak directly to the harmful effects of tobacco products. View the final selected images at FDA.gov/TobaccoProducts.


This regulation is the result of a scientific evaluation conducted by the FDA and other health agencies.


While the graphic images displayed on the new warning labels may be disturbing to some, the World Health Organization has concluded, "health warnings on tobacco packages increase smokers' awareness of their risk. Use of pictures with graphic depictions of disease and other negative images has greater impact than words alone."


Studies have also found graphic images to be effective at deterring children from smoking. Kids are the tobacco industry's prime target when seeking new customers for its addictive product.


The American Lung Association has fought hard to see these bolder warning labels added to cigarette packs, and it is planning to work with the FDA to make sure the graphic images are rotated so that consumers don't become desensitized to them.


FDA also heeded the recommendations of the Lung Association and other public health organizations that urged the inclusion of 1-800-QUIT-NOW, a toll-free smoking cessation help line, on each graphic warning label.  Smokers who think about quitting as a result of seeing these graphic warning labels need to know who to turn to for the help they need to quit.  


Katie Lorenz is the communications manager for the American Lung Association in Illinois.


-- Be Healthy Springfield (Ill.)