All cigarette packs sold in the United States will be required to have one of nine horrifyingly graphic images that the Food and Drug Administration unveiled Tuesday morning. In what amounts to the most significant changes to U.S. cigarette labels in more than 25 years, all packs, cartons, and advertisements will be required to publish the new warnings by October of next year, reports Bloomberg.
The graphic images — including a dead man with his chest sewn up, a mouth filled with an open sore, and others that can be seen in the FDA’s website — must be accompanied by text such as “Smoking can kill you” and will be required to cover the top 50 percent of the front and back of cigarette packs and 20 percent of print ads. The FDA selected the nine graphics from 36 it had unveiled last year, saying it reviewed public comments and scientific literature before it came to its final decision. The Washington Post points out that the United States is hardly a trend setter in this respect since at least 30 other countries already require graphic warnings. And some go even further than those approved by the FDA. CNN has a slide show that depicts different warning labels from across the world.
The tobacco companies aren’t too happy about the labels. R.J. Reynolds argues that the new requirements are unconstitutional because they violate the First and Fifth Amendments as the government is trying to “confiscate the top 50 percent of both sides of cigarette packaging.” The company says that with the images, the government is not warning consumers but rather telling them not to buy a lawful product. Philip Morris broke with its rivals and supported the 2009 tobacco law but it has also told the FDA that “any government requirement that compels a private entity to carry a message not of its own choosing raises constitutional concerns.”