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FDA Proposes Graphic Images On Cigarette Warning Labels

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Cigarette Warning Label

The FDA is proposing new graphic images on cigarette warning labels. (CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – The FDA believes pictures of corpses, sickly looking people with oxygen masks and stained, decaying teeth could scare smokers into quitting. CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole reports.

The images detailing the cancerous dangers of cigarettes are frightening and frankly hard to look at.

“A picture is worth a thousand words. These graphic pictures are worth a thousand cigarettes,” said Joel Africk from Chicago’s Respiratory Heath Association.

He’s among the anti-smoking advocates who say the frightening pictures get right to the point.

“The question is: how graphic is too graphic?” said Africk. “They’re not pleasant to look at, but they get the message across.”

It all follows the Tobacco Control Act, which now requires the Food and Drug Administration to come up with regulations for tougher cigarette labeling on 50 percent of the package.

CBS 2 mocked up a few packs with the proposed images and took them to the streets to share with smokers. The images had many fuming.

“Oh, hell no! This is horrible,” said Nancy Savage. “This should not be on cigarettes. People have the right to smoke, and this is portraying it as you’re gonna get cancer automatically. That’s not true.”

Science proves the smoker is misinformed. Over 400,000 people die from tobacco-related deaths in the country each year.

“How far are they willing to go?” asked Judy Stamper, another smoker. “Are they willing to put rotted livers on alcohol containers? So where is it going to stop?”

Africk counters: “This is the number one cause of preventable death in the U.S. today.”

But smoker Nancy Savage doesn’t believe the government should even make the effort.

“By someone saying this is what this causes, it’s not gonna stop us at all,” she said. “It’s our choice.”

The idea is nothing new. Similar labeling is already mandatory in some 30 countries. Africk says the graphic images are working.

“This is one of the things that our youth respond to,” said Africk.

Others who have tried to kick the nicotine habit for decades say they’d appreciate the chilling reminder.

Mike Athey is one of them. He says it might not stop him on the spot, but he’s sure the pictures would help others from starting at all.

“That’s probably not enough if you are already a smoker, but to keep you from starting smoking, I wouldn’t want to pull that out of my pocket” said Athey.

In all, there are some 36 proposed labels up for public comment. The final nine choices will be made in June, and then the cigarette companies will have 15 months to begin placing them on packages.

Cigarette smoking was at 40 percent of all Americans in the 1970’s. The number has now dropped to 20 percent. The federal government would like to see that number drop to only 10 percent in the coming years.

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