By now, most people — adults, at least — should be well aware of the health dangers of smoking cigarettes. They’ve heard it from their physicians, from the media and from their loved ones. Yet, millions of Americans continue to light up. Is there any message that can get through to these smokers?
Barring a last-minute challenge, the Food and Drug Administration is poised to begin requiring graphic warnings on cigarette packages that will depict the potential health consequences associated with smoking.
The agency has proposed 13 stark images that show harsh effects such as head and neck cancer, cataracts, lung disease — even a photo showing a container of bloody urine as a result of bladder cancer.
Such warnings have been used for years in Europe, but tobacco companies in the U.S. have blocked them from being shown here. Now, the FDA is about to order the first significant changes to cigarette labels in 35 years.
The head of the FDA acknowledged it’s time to update the labels, noting the outdated content now on packages, along with its small size and location, makes the information practically invisible. The proposed warnings would occupy the top half of the front and rear panels of the packages.
The FDA noted that over time, warnings lose their impact, and written ones wear out faster than ones with images. If approved, the new warnings would begin showing up on packages sometime in 2021.
As vivid as these warnings may be, they still pale in comparison to some used in Europe, such as one that has a harsh image accompanied by these words: Smoking can lead to a slow, painful death.
The FDA hopes a splash of cold water in the face like that will get smokers’ attention.