Cigarette Packages Will Tell Ugly Truth In 2012

Federal officials are taking off the gloves: They're pitting a mouthful of rotting teeth against a camel, and they're banking on the teeth.

For decades, cigarettes companies have relied on flashy packaging and iconic images like Joe Camel to sell their cigarettes. Now, for the first time in 25 years, the U.S. government is forcing them to overhaul the packages and blanket the labels with graphic images, like a mouth ravaged by smoking cigarettes, to warn of the hazards of cigarettes.

The United States has taken years to follow the lead of nations like Australia, Malaysia and Pakistan, which have adopted similar rules in the past decade. The U.S. regulation goes into effect in September 2012.

"The United States has the weakest, most outdated warning labels in the world, so anything we do to the packaging will be an improvement," said Dr. Stanton Glantz, director of UCSF's Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education.

Tuesday revealed the nine designs that will adorn cigarette packages. At least four of the images are disturbing - featuring badly diseased lungs, tracheotomy holes, a cadaver or lips with open sores - and all but two of the images are pictures of real people.

Almost all of the images are designed to make people feel uncomfortable, at the least, and possibly outright disgusted. That's the hope of antismoking cigarettes folks, who point out that while fear isn't always the best motivator for promoting good health, it has proved to be fairly effective when it comes to making people quit cigarettes.

"There is evidence that fear can motivate people when there is a specific action that they can take that will reduce their risk," said Dr. David Sobel, medical director for patient education and health promotion for Kaiser Permanente Northern California. "With smoking cigarettes, there's a specific action people can take - they can stop."

At least two studies looking at antismoking cigarettes labels in Australia and Canada have shown that people were less likely to buy online cigarettes and more likely to avoid smoking cigarettes if the packages had large, graphic labels on them instead of the small, text-only warnings that have existed on U.S. packages for 25 years.

The ads may be especially useful in California, where the vast majority of tobacco users are "light" smokers, who smoke cigarettes only a few cheap cigarettes a day, and may not be especially attached to their habit, said Colleen Stevens, head of the Tobacco Control Program with the California Department of Public Health.

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