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Stern Warnings, Scary Pictures Coming to U.S. Cigarette Packs

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Cigarette packs in the U.S. will soon feature blunter health warnings and graphic images of body parts riddled with cancer and other diseases associated with smoking, thanks to the tobacco-regulation bill recently passed by Congress and signed by President Obama.

The Washington Post reported Aug. 4 that the legislation requires health warnings to spread over at least half of cigarette packs, including definitive messages such as “Cigarettes cause fatal lung disease,” “Tobacco smoke can harm your children,” and “Smoking can kill you.”

Similarly strong warnings and images are already a feature of cigarette packaging in Canada and more than two dozen other nations. Images that have been deemed especially effective include a photo of a cancer-ravaged mouth from Canada and a photo of a diseased lung from Malaysia. In Brazil, some cigarette packs show a picture of a dead fetus next to cigarette butts.

Gangrenous feet and throats pierced by holes also have appeared on cigarette packs. “The health effects of smoking are inherently hard and frightening,” said David Hammond, a researcher from the Department of Health Studies at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. “Lung cancer is not a pretty disease. Mouth cancer is not pretty. And any warning that falls short of communicating that probably isn't doing its job.”

The World Health Organization has called on all nations to add graphic warnings to cigarette packs, but Lyle Beckwith of the U.S. Association of Convenience and Petroleum Retailing said, “We are not enthusiastic about any type of graphic image openly displayed in our stores.”

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