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New Cigarette Warning Labels Include Dead Bodies, Sick Patients

OK, I’m tired of slagging on the Cat Food Commission (have I mentioned you should visit our new mini-site?), so let’s step away for a second. In somewhat better news, I’m surprised to see these extremely graphic cigarette warnings to be placed on all packages and advertising.

Federal health officials Wednesday unveiled plans to require cigarette packs and ads to carry dramatically bigger, much more graphic health warnings, including for the first time images that might depict dead bodies, cancer patients and diseased lungs.

The new warnings, which will mark the first replacement of warnings that cigarette packs began carrying 25 years ago, will cover half the front and back of each pack and 20 percent of the top of each ad.

“Today marks an important milestone in protecting our children and the health of the American public,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said.

These warnings will be filtered in between now and October 2012, the implementation date, and they are pretty aggressive. In one, the caption “WARNING: Cigarettes are addictive” accompanies a man smoking through a hole in his throat. In another, a woman in a hospital bed, clearly dying of cancer, is joined with the slogan “WARNING: Cigarettes cause cancer.” Other images include a body with a morgue tag, a full ashtray next to a pacifier, and a dead man in a coffin. All of the images can be found here.

This puts us in line with other developed countries. I remember similarly blunt slogans on packs of cigarettes in Ireland when I went in 2006. In addition, federal regulators have banned the terms “light” and “mild” from cigarette packs, and stopped fruit or candy-flavored cigarettes from bring sold. That’s in addition to raising cigarette taxes to pay for SCHIP, and using stimulus funds to support anti-smoking programs.

I think we can say that the Obama Administration has performed pretty decently in the area of fighting the effects of tobacco use on public health.

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David Dayen

David Dayen