Kansans React To Graphic Cigarette Labels

By: Stephanie Diffin Email
By: Stephanie Diffin Email

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

New, graphic warning labels are soon to greet smokers every time they pick up a pack. The FDA released new requirements today with information on nine new images that will go on every cigarette package and advertisement. The images will take up the top half of the front and back of every package.

Health advocates say the warnings are a necessary and overdue change, but tobacco companies say the new labels go too far.

We asked local residents about the images and got mixed reviews.

"They look pretty graphic but maybe it makes the point," said Joetta Hoelker.

The point the FDA is making is listed on each warning. An image with a man blowing smoke out of a hole in his neck reads "Cigarettes are addictive." Another image shows a 'before' and 'after' image of lungs and reads "Cigarettes cause fatal lung disease." Another image with what appears to be a body reads "Smoking can kill you."

You can view the images by clicking here.

One woman we spoke with says the images will persuade her to quit smoking.

"Yeah it will. I mean [now] even though they've got the regular stuff on there... This will, it would get my attention," said Ruthie Adams.

Getting people's attention is the goal, according to the American Cancer Society which has been pushing for new labeling for over a decade.

"I can't imagine that anybody would want to pick up a cigarette when they see these pictures," said American Cancer Society Spokeswoman Dana Kemp.

But not everyone agrees the labels will prevent smokers from lighting up.

"I don't really think so. I think people know the dangers. If they want to smoke they're going to smoke," said Wichita resident Kyle Nilsen.

Whether they're effective or not, some tobacco companies say the requirements aren't fair, especially since they'll take up half the front and back of every pack.

Altria, parent company to the largest tobacco company in the U.S., submitted public comments earlier this year saying, "Any government requirement that compels a private entity to carry a message not of its own choosing raises constitutional concerns."

Citing its first amendment rights, the company also said, "Compelled warnings may not drown out or overwhelm commercial speech."

"We have to look at the rights of the public health as well," said Kemp. "I mean children and family members and people out at restaurants, what are their rights, when they're around a smoker?"

This is the first time labeling requirements have changed in 25 years. The regulations go into effect September of next year.

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