LOS ANGELES -- In the first major change to cigarette packaging in a quarter-century, the Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday it will require graphic warning labels that cover half a package's front and rear and the top 20 percent of all cigarette ads.
The labels will feature either drawings or photos illustrating graphically the dangers associated with smoking and will be accompanied by text stating that smoking is addictive or that it kills. The pictures feature such things as a diseased lung, a corpse and a man smoking a cigarette through a tracheotomy tube. They are not quite as grim as some used in other countries, but regulators hope they will be sufficiently frightening to keep young people from beginning to smoke and to strengthen the will of those who are attempting to quit.
"We want to make sure every person who picks up a pack of cigarettes knows exactly what the risk is they are taking," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said at a news conference.
Current regulations require only a written warning on the edge of the cigarette pack and a similar small warning at the bottom of ads.
"These are great. I am pleasantly shocked that HHS is doing this," said Stanton A. Glantz, a tobacco control expert at the University of California-San Francisco, echoing the response of most observers. "There is no question but that strong graphic warning labels work" and that, in particular, they influence kids, he said.