Dead Body, Cancerous Lungs Will Appear on U.S. Cigarette Packs

Part of Biggest Change to Tobacco Marketing Rules in a Quarter Century

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Source: FDA

Images of a corpse and cancerous lungs are among the nine graphic warnings tobacco companies led by Altria Group must start placing on cigarette packs sold in the U.S. next year.

The labels, required under a 2-year-old tobacco law to convey the health effects of smoking, also include pictures of rotting teeth and a man exhaling smoke through a hole in his neck, the Food and Drug Administration said today on its website. The FDA selected the nine images from 36 it proposed last year.

Cigarettes can't be sold in the U.S. after Oct. 22 , 2012, without the warnings, part of the biggest tobacco marketing rules change in a quarter century. Each pack must carry one of the nine labels pairing images with text such as "Smoking can kill you." The graphics must cover the top half of the front and back of cigarette packages and 20 percent of print ads.

"These labels are frank, honest and powerful depictions of the health risks of smoking, and they will help," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said today in an e- mail. "These labels will encourage smokers to quit and prevent children from smoking."

U.S. cigarette packs and ads now carry one of four text warnings under a federal law enacted in 1984. The messages include "Cigarette Smoke Contains Carbon Monoxide" and "Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, and May Complicate Pregnancy." They aren't paired with images.

Canada, the U.K. and Brazil are among countries that require graphic cigarette warnings. One in five Canadian smokers reported smoking less as a result of the graphic labels in a 2004 study of more than 600 people.

Altria's Philip Morris USA of Richmond, Va., the biggest U.S. cigarette maker, broke with rivals Reynolds American and Lorillard Tobacco to back the 2009 tobacco law as a way to standardize manufacturing rules and spur development of less-harmful tobacco products.

Reynolds, based in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Greensboro, N.C.-based Lorillard are among tobacco companies seeking to overturn the law's graphic warning-label requirements. Altria isn't part of the lawsuit.

It's unconstitutional for the government to "confiscate the top 50% of both sides of cigarette packaging and mandate shocking color graphics," Reynolds and Lorillard said in September in a brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati.

More than 20% of adults in the U.S., or 46 million people, smoke cigarettes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Smoking is the biggest cause of preventable death in the U.S., killing about 443,000 people a year, according to the CDC. The Obama administration is pushing to reduce the U.S. smoking rate to 12 percent in a decade.

-- Bloomberg News --

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