New Graphics on Cigarette Packs Aim to Reduce Smoking

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In 1965 the U.S. added the first warning on cigarette boxes, which said, “Cigarettes may be hazardous to your health.” Over the years, the warnings have changed, but none of the updates have been as dramatic as the graphic labels that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services unveiled yesterday.

The gory images and text warnings, which will cover the top half of cigarette packs, are receiving praise from anti-smoking advocates and criticism from tobacco companies, who are already filing lawsuits. They include the corpse of a smoker, a close-up image of rotting teeth, and a man blowing smoke out of his tracheotomy. “They do in fact make a difference; they do encourage current smokers to stop smoking and discourage potential smokers from taking up the habit,” FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in this video by the Associated Press.

Graphic labels are already required in 30 other countries – some with images far more grisly than the nine that will appear in the U.S. (To see a sample of labels from other countries, CBS News put together a slideshow.) Proponents of the new labels are hopeful that the U.S. will see some of the successes that other countries have in terms of reducing the smoking rate. According to CBS News, Canada was the first country to introduce graphic smoking warnings in the year 2000 and, following the change, the smoking rate fell from 26 percent to 20 percent.

The warning labels will also be included in print advertisements for cigarettes. Companies have 15 months to comply with the new mandate.

If you are a smoker, quitting smoking is–by a gigantic margin–the single most important thing you can do to improve your health. At One Medical Group we are committed to helping you quit, and we hope you’ll come in to talk to your provider about it–the sooner the better!

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The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, an innovative primary care practice with offices in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Washington, DC.