Will graphic images and stronger warnings decrease cigarette smoking?
In June 2011, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released the nine warning messages that will appear on packs of cigarettes sold in the USA beginning in September 2012. The images, described as “grisly” and “graphic in news reports, were intended to decrease the number of cigarette smokers (estimated to be about 43 million by the Centers for Disease Control) and prevent people from taking up smoking (especially teenagers). The new labels replace the box with the "Surgeon General's Warning" with images and messages that will cover the entire top half of each cigarette pack. To view the images and learn more about the new warnings, go to warnings and http://www.hhs.gov.
The FDA had 36 potential messages to choose from, and selected 9 of them. One is a close up of a patient with an oxygen mask, another shows an eroding mouth cancer and rotting teeth, and yet another shows a surgical incision that runs down the length of the patient’s chest. The accompanying messages include statements that cigarettes cause cancer, smoking harms others, and quitting reduces health risks. USA Today reported that calls to the national 1-800-QUIT-NOW smoking cessation line surpassed 4,800 calls on the day the images were released , and 3,200 calls were received the next day (up from about 2,000 calls per day).
As an oncology nurse, I have seen the adverse effects of smoking and have wished for a stronger warning on cigarette packs. Now that wish has come true and my hope is that smokers and people contemplating having their first cigarette will heed the warnings that will be placed on cigarette packs next year.