In about two years, smokers will begin seeing some very graphic pictures on their cigarette packages: startling and grisly images of corpses, diseased lungs and tobacco-stained teeth framed by cancerous lips, among others.
The labels, which must cover at least 50 percent of each pack, are intended to encourage smokers to quit and keep new smokers from starting. Such depictions are already required in 38 nations, and studies in those countries show they discourage smoking among both young people and adults. Similarly graphic television commercials in New York City are also credited with curbing smoking rates dramatically.
The new labeling is not a new tax on smokers. It's not a new restriction on smokers' rights. It's not an encroachment of the government on personal freedoms. And it makes sense.
The current warnings on cigarette packaging, created in 1984, are now so familiar they are all but invisible. Too few people notice or care about them anymore.
The move comes at a time when smoking rates, after declining for years, have stalled. Recent studies show about 21 percent of adults and 20 percent of teens smoke.
So bring the images on, and the starker the better. Show tracheotomy patients inhaling through the holes in their necks. Show the blackened, failing lungs. Add in pictures of children at the funerals of their tobacco-addicted parents.
Perhaps showing the effects will prevent them. hN