The next time you decide to light up a smoke, you may be greeted by an image of a cancer patient or even worse, a corpse, thanks to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) decision to put graphical warning labels on cigarette packs.
Currently, the government in many countries like India, Thailand, Brazil, Australia, Singapore and Canada, have made it mandatory for cigarette packs to carry jarring graphical images to deter people from smoking and ruining their health. In most countries such as Canada and Australia, it has worked so well that the FDA now wants to adopt the same measure here.
The FDA has already scoured several images from around the world and has shortlisted them. The agency has also invited people to give comment and vote on which of the 34 shortlisted images would most dissuade smokers ( click here ).
Each of these images comes with a warning. For instance, an image of a crying baby in an incubator and hooked up to tubes would come with a warning smoking during pregnancy can harm your baby, an image of a corpse that has undergone autopsy would come with a warning smoking can kill you while the image of a man holding a cigarette in his hand as some smoke wafts from a hole in his neck would come with a warning cigarettes are addictive.
Other images include a dead man in a coffin, a bald cancer patient, a close-up of dirty teeth and a malignant lip lesion.
The final regulations requiring adoption of the graphical images will be issued on June 22, 2011 and within 15 months, cigarette makers will need to put up the new warning labels both in English and Spanish.
According to FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., smoking is a very, very serious public health issue, with very, very serious medical consequences, such as cancer, heart disease, strokes and lung diseases.
In this regard, though the graphical image may not deter all smokers, yet the health consequences of smoking will be obvious every time someone picks up a pack of cigarettes, Hamburg said.
Some very explicit, almost gruesome pictures may be necessary, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg told The Associated Press in an interview.
American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown has applauded the new proposal, saying in a statement that it will make more Americans resist the temptations of tobacco use and participate in evidence-based smoking cessation programs that include counseling and pharmacotherapies.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the FDA's decision marks an important milestone because every day almost 4,000 youth try a cigarette for the first time and 1,000 youth become regular, daily smokers.
According to U.S. health officials about 20 percent of Americans or some 46 million people are smokers. An estimated 450,000 Americans die a premature death due to smoking-related disease every year and 8 million suffer chronic diseases at a cost to the economy of nearly $200 billion annually.
Sebelius plans to bring the smoking rate down to 12 percent by 2020.