It's About Time: Graphic Warnings Come to Cigarette Packs

Well, it’s about time. After decades of tobacco companies working hard to glamorize cigarette smoking, in some cases blatantly targeting teens and young adults (think Joe Camel), the FDA is finally doing something to show this deadly habit for what it is.

For twenty-five years, cigarettes have carried small, text only, easy to ignore, safety warnings of dubious efficacy. That is about to change.

Yesterday, the FDA released nine pictorial images that will appear as large warning labels on cigarette packs (click here to view). These are pretty graphic and include a mouth with rotting teeth and gums and a person blowing smoke out of a tracheostomy (hole in their neck). Are these exaggerated. I can assure you they are not. I remember rotating at the VA hospital in Atlanta during medical school. Every day I had to walk by a group of veterans smoking in front of the hospital. Invariably, two or three of them were smoking through trach’s and another couple were hooked up to oxygen tanks - it was quite a sad, and shocking, site to see. I also remember rotating through otolaryngology (ENT) and participating in surgeries to remove half of the jaw of someone with mouth cancer or part of the upper jaw and nose of someone else for the same reason.

Fortunately, smoking is decreasing overall. However, quite a few of our older children and teens are getting hooked on cigarettes. This is usually because they think it makes them somehow more adult-like, rebellious or courageous. In reality it just makes them addicted to something that they many or may not be able to ever quit. Something that costs a great deal of money, leads to bad breath and stained fingernails, a smoker’s cough, and eventually to complications such as emphysema, gum disease and tooth loss and mouth, throat, or lung cancer.

Please share these pictures with your children and teens before they take that first drag of a cigarette. You might just be saving their life.

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