FDA proposes gruesome cigarette packs to freak out smokers

The FDA is targeting smokers with a newly published proposed rule that, if implemented, would put disturbing imagery on packages of cigarettes. The 'photo-realistic color images' would be part of warnings placed on cigarette products and advertisements intended to depict the kind of serious health consequences associated with smoking. This would, the FDA says, represent the biggest change to cigarette packaging labels implemented in more than three decades.

The FDA has shared images showing the types of labels that may be featured on cigarette packages under this proposed rule, including one showing someone's chest after having open heart surgery, another showing a pale child with an oxygen mask, and another showing a container containing bloody urine meant to represent bladder cancer.

According to a listing recently published on the Federal Register, the proposed rule will be made publicly available tomorrow, August 16 — it'll be located here for anyone to access. Ahead of that publication, the FDA has explained its proposal, saying the rule would fulfill a Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act requirement.

Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless, M.D., said:

As a cancer doctor and researcher, I am well aware of the staggering toll inflicted on the public health by tobacco products, which cause cancer, heart disease, stroke, emphysema and other medical problems. While most people assume the public knows all they need to understand about the harms of cigarette smoking, there's a surprising number of lesser-known risks that both youth and adult smokers and nonsmokers may simply not be aware of, such as bladder cancer, diabetes and conditions that can cause blindness.

The US has made considerable progress in reducing smoking among adults and teenagers, yet the agency says nearly half a million people die annually in the country as a direct consequence of tobacco use. The number of tobacco-related deaths is still higher than that of car accidents, illicit drug use, alcohol, HIV, suicide, and murder combined.