Cigarettes to get graphic new warning labels
Will the gruesome images make any difference?
The government is requiring that packages show gruesome images designed to remind people of the health dangers of smoking. Those images include corpses, diseased lungs, endangered babies and a man with a tracheostomy hole. (You can see all the images here.)
The images are the first major changes to cigarette warning labels in 25 years. Altria Group (MO), Reynolds American (RAI) and Lorillard (LO) will be watching anxiously to see how the new labels affect sales. Click here to see before and after pictures of how the cigarettes will look on store shelves.
Will the new packaging make any difference? The Food and Drug Administration says that tobacco use kills 443,000 Americans every year and that the current cigarette warnings don't grab consumer attention. In Canada and other countries, graphic health warnings have helped reduce smoking.
See more images and listen to a discussion about the new packaging in the following video.
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Cigarette companies are required to add the graphic images to packages by September 2012. The warnings must fill the top half of both the front and rear panels on cigarette packages as well as the left half of front and rear panels of cartons. Cigarette advertising also must have the warnings.
"These labels are frank, honest and powerful depictions of the health risks of smoking, and they will help encourage smokers to quit and prevent children from smoking," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said.
Investors in cigarette stocks seemed not to care. Shares of Altria and Lorillard slipped slightly Tuesday morning but had recovered by midday, while Reynolds American shares were pretty much unchanged. Investors have known for some time that these labels were coming.
Reynolds American and Lorillard are fighting the new requirements, saying it's unconstitutional for the government to hijack so much territory on cigarette packages and require shocking graphics.
So will these new images make you quit smoking? One Wall Street Journal reader summed it up this way: "I've been smoking for nearly 13 years, and to be honest, no, these will not stop me from smoking."
Others were skeptical as well. "I find this sort of thing incredibly tasteless and I believe ultimately fruitless," one commenter told The Spokesman-Review. "Not one person who starts smoking in modern America thinks it's healthy."
I see someone smoking a cigarette and, these days, it puts me in mind of some fool sucking their crack pipe.
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