FDA Proposes Graphic Images of Cancerous Tumors on Cigarette Packs -- Is That Too Much?

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The Food and Drug Administration proposed new health warnings for cigarette packs and ads. The suggested graphic content includes images of cancerous tumors, diseased lungs, malignant neck tumors, diseased lungs, feet with amputated toes, and bloody urine, among others.

Similarly to the cigarette packs in Europe, these labels would take nearly half of the package. They would also feature text warnings such as ''Smoking causes neck cancer.'' The same information would appear on tobacco advertisements too.

The first draft of the proposal comes after a judge ordered that FDA has delayed issuing a regulation for such graphic warnings on tobacco products and advertisements.

The final version should be ready by March 15, 2020. If approved, the rules would be the first amendment to the U.S. cigarette warnings in the last 35 years. The graphic notifications would start appearing on cigarette packs 15 months after the final rule is issued.

The current warnings against smoking on the U.S. cigarette packs have not been updated since 1984. According to the FDA, they are hardly visible as the text is too small and usually go unnoticed by the consumers.

The FDA lost its first court battle to put graphic images on tobacco products in 2012. Back then, a panel of judges ordered that the agency could not force tobacco companies to put grisly images on their packs.

According to Mitch Zeller, the FDA's tobacco director, the new initiative would increase the public knowledge on cigarette smoking. In his view, Americans generally understand that smoking is dangerous. However, added he, a significant amount of people are not fully aware of the associated health risks and diseases caused by smoking, such as bladder cancer for instance.

The producer of Camel and Newport cigarettes, Reynolds American, said in a statement that it is in favor of the public awareness efforts on smoking. However, the firm doubted whether the way the message is delivered was in line with the First Amendment.

Altria, the largest tobacco company in the United States, said it would carefully review the FDA's proposal before taking sides.

If the FDA's proposal gets an approval, our country will join the list of 120 nations that have already finalized their requirements for warning messages on cigarette packages. According to a recent study by the journal Tobacco control, the graphic warning labels could reduce smoking rates by 5% in the short term and 10% over the long run.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with the FDA's idea to put graphic images on the cigarette packs?