The Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday that it will begin requiring a change in the warning labels put on cigarette packages and ads.
Cigarette manufacturers will be required to place graphic images that cover half of the package’s front and back. The top 20 percent of ads will be required to contain such images as well.
The FDA will choose from a list of 36 images that include diseased lungs, rotting teeth, people lying in coffins, and myriad other graphic images and accompanying text demonstrating the dangers of smoking, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“We want to make sure every person who picks up a pack of cigarettes knows exactly what the risk is they are taking,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at a news conference.
The reason for the shift in cigarette advertising requirements — which is the first major change in a quarter-century — is a concern from federal agencies about smoking trends.
Smoking rates declined from roughly 42 percent in 1965 to less than 21 percent in 2004. Rates have remained at a flat rate since, however, which has prompted federal agencies to take action.
It is estimated that 450,000 Americans die annually because of smoking-related disease, and 8 million suffer from related chronic disease. This places a $100 billion burden on the national economy each year, according to the Times.
The FDA will choose nine images to use by June 22, 2011, and will require cigarette manufacturers to place them on packages by the following Sept. 22.
The ultimate goal is to reduce smoking rates by 12 percent by the year 2020.
“There is still a long way to go to reduce the enormous burden of death and disability, but we can make progress,” said Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, FDA commissioner.