Gruesome cigarette pack warnings go up in smoke

The FDA is backing away from a legal battle over requiring graphic images on packages showing smoking's health effects.

By Aimee Picchi Mar 20, 2013 2:55PM

File photo of FDA cigarette warning label (© U.S. Food and Drug Administration/AP)A plan to place gruesome images on cigarette packs has apparently ended, with the U.S. government saying it'll drop a legal battle to include photos depicting the habit's impact, such as diseased lungs and a smoker's corpse, on the packaging. 

Attorney General Eric Holder said the Food and Drug Administration will instead rethink the packaging and create labeling that would replace the graphic photos, reports the Associated Press.

The government had faced a Monday deadline to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review an earlier ruling that found the packaging violated First Amendment free speech protections. The decision is a victory for tobacco companies such as R.J. Reynolds (RAI), which increasingly rely on packaging to appeal to smokers, given limits on the companies' ability to advertise. 

The move follows New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's latest fight against unhealthy products. He's now proposing a law that would require stores hide cigarettes from sight, as reported by my colleague Jason Notte

The anti-smoking group Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said it was "disappointed" with the government's decision to drop the graphic images, and it urged the FDA to quickly develop new cigarette package warnings.

"Studies around the world and evidence presented to the FDA show that large, graphic warnings are most effective at informing consumers about the health risks of smoking," the group said in a statement. "The warnings discourage children and other nonsmokers from starting to smoke and also motivate smokers to quit."

Whether the images are effective at getting people to quit or not, they're certainly skin-crawling. One image showed a man exhaling smoke through a tracheotomy hole in his throat, while another depicted an infant wrapped in the cigarette smoke breathed by his mother, the AP notes. 

It's a tactic that's mandated in Australia, where cigarette packaging shows gangrenous limbs, cancerous mouths and clogged arteries.

Such graphic images are more effective than text warnings, which have appeared on packs since at least the mid-1980s, according to a study from researchers at the University of South Carolina. 

"We found the more graphic the image, the more credible, relevant, and effective smokers saw the warning," professor James Thrasher, who conducted the study, told US News and World report in November. 

While about 19% of Americans smoke today, the AP notes that's down from about 40% in 1970.

More on moneyNOW

Mar 20, 2013 3:20PM

So let's put photos of obese people with gangrenous limbs on pop bottles.

Photo's of headless corps that went thru windshields on seat belts.

Twisted joints on skateboards.

Flattened bodies on parachutes.

Stops where ??


Smoking is a physical addiction....let's offer help to people that are interested in quitting ?

If they are not interested, I think they know the end results by now.............


Mar 20, 2013 6:56PM
I was a smoker for many yrs, but quit over 10 yrs ago, but its a person right to smoke, there is lots of things in this world that is bad for you, the Gov't needs to keep the nose out of people business.
Mar 20, 2013 6:54PM
I just wonder where the Government is going to get the money to replace the Billions of dollars in cigarette sales tax money they receive every year...if everybody quit...
Mar 20, 2013 6:23PM

First of all, the alleged 450,000+ deaths attributed to smoking (and that's just in the US) is a joke. Basically, anyone that has ever smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetimes and dies of a heart attack, stroke, or cancer will automatically become a smoking "statistic."   


Second, less than 10% of smokers will ever get lung cancer, and the mean age at diagnosis of the 9% or so that do is about 71 years.  

Mar 20, 2013 6:55PM
Cigarettes are legal and sold in many stores.  Most of the cost of a pack of cigarettes goes to taxes.  How can a govt. agency go after a legally sold product?  If everyone quit smoking, there would be a huge loss of tax revenue that would have to be made up elsewhere.  
Mar 20, 2013 7:12PM
What about putting pictures of thoat cancer and mouth cancer on chewing tabacco or maybe a mutilated body of someone that was killed on a alcohol bottle because they were thrown from their car after drinking and driving?  Yes smoking is bad for you but enough is enough.  Where does it stop?  If smoking tabacco is bad for you why isn't chewing tabacco just as bad?  When I was growning up my parents taught me that there are choices in life that everyone makes and you have to live with those choices and the affects of those choises.  Just because you don't like something doesn't mean that everyone has to abide but what you want.
Mar 20, 2013 6:53PM
...So, the advertising demands made by the FDA are a violation of the company's right to free expression.  So a blowhole in New York retools to: inability to display product?  Isn't this exactly the same argument already lost?  What a punk!  What a waste of resources. Just another attack on liberties.  If they get away with this, it's only a short amount of time before they come after YOU!
Mar 20, 2013 6:40PM
Was a smoker  for 40 years till my heart attack and it took that to make me quit and see the light of day.
Mar 20, 2013 4:07PM
Holder is suggesting a picture of Obama instead.
Mar 20, 2013 7:18PM
I am tired of this crap about cigarettes, wait til they start taxing alcohol at the rate they tax cigarettes. A drunk in a car  will kill somebody faster than a cigarette,
Mar 20, 2013 7:05PM
Good Lord get over the smoking were on to fat tax to replace the smoking tax. Not much money in that any more they've bled it dry.
It's now for profit healthcare insurance and any food that has calories in it tax.  Lettuce just went up in price.
Happy now.

Mar 20, 2013 7:05PM
Yeah they go after smokers with high taxes and anti smoking campaigns,and then pass legislation to legalize pot.They're looking to the future for another "sin tax" How bad is pot for you?
Mar 20, 2013 7:27PM
It's all a matter of personal freedom.  If what you are doing is not illegal, you have the right to do it, though obviously there may be a price to pay later.  Almost anything, if done to excess, can be detrimental to physical or mental health, but do we really want to government telling us what to do, up to and including how to wipe our butts?  Come on, now.  We are human beings, not machines.  The real problem is how we treat each other.  How we treat ourselves is our own business.
Mar 20, 2013 7:13PM
I watch CSI, NCIS and Bones. You can't put anything on a pack of smokes I haven't already seen on tv.
Mar 20, 2013 7:48PM
let's show dead people that have been killed by a drunk driver, we could post picture in bars, on bill boards, news papers, wow just think , might just slow down drunk Drivers,,,,which is about as stupid as dead people on cigarette packages,,,, i' am dyeing from cigarettes, my lungs are almost gone, i live on oxygen , till i  die..  but this is just stupid, 
Mar 20, 2013 7:20PM

i hope that guy's family is gettin a kickback!

Mar 20, 2013 7:15PM
Rethinking of how if they push Tobacco, they might have to cough up the 9 Billion they blackmailed from the industry in court.
Mar 20, 2013 7:19PM

Must have been enjoying a smoke on a Southside Chi street corner.

Mar 20, 2013 4:43PM
I believe in the freedom to make your own choices.  If you want to smoke, you should be able to smoke.  Images like this won't discourage people who want to smoke.  But for those who regret their addiction, or children, or non-smokers, these images could be an effective prevention or quitting method.  I am a smoker of 3 years, and 2 of those years have been spent trying to quit.  I would be grateful for any kind of help in my difficult endeavor, regardless of the morbidity. 
Mar 20, 2013 8:28PM
People will do what they want. Let them kill themselves if they want. We are getting tyranny from our Government all the time and we have learned to ignore them
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