FDA Issues Graphic Cigarette Warning Labels

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In the most significant change to tobacco packaging in 25 years, graphic new warning labels will soon be required to cover packs of cigarettes.

On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration released nine new labels that show images of the negative health effects from tobacco use.

The images will take up the top half of cigarette packages. Warning labels also must appear in advertisements and constitute 20 percent of an ad. Cigarette makers have until the fall of 2012 to comply.

Among the new the warnings released are images of rotting teeth and decaying lungs. They include phrases like "Smoking can kill you" and "Cigarettes cause cancer."

The graphic warnings are meant to convey the dangers of tobacco use, which is responsible for about 443,000 deaths in the U.S. a year. Each label includes a national quit smoking hotline number.

The FDA said the new labels will "clearly and effectively convey the health risks of smoking." The goal is to encourage current smokers to quit and discourage nonsmokers and youth from starting to smoke.

Mandates to introduce new graphic warning labels were part of a law passed in 2009 that, for the first time, gave the federal government authority to regulate tobacco.

The legality of the new labels is a part of a pending federal lawsuit filed by Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Reynolds American Inc., parent company of America's second-largest cigarette maker R.J. Reynolds; No. 3 cigarette maker Greensboro, N.C.-based Lorillard Inc., and others.

American Cancer Society CEO John R. Seffrin applauded the new labels in a statement, saying they have the potential to "encourage adults to give up their deadly addiction to cigarettes and deter children from starting in the first place."

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