You’ve Been Warned

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has new images to inspire smokers to drop the coffin nails

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The public is asked to give feedback on the images and plan to the FDA, which is seeking public comment on the proposed rule from Nov. 12, 2010 through Jan. 11, 2011. To submit an official comment during this time period:
Go to and insert docket number FDA-2010-N-0568 into the “search” box and follow the prompts.
Send a fax, with your comments, to 301-827-6870.
Mail/Hand delivery/Courier (for paper, disk, or CD-ROM submissions) to the Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061, Rockville, MD 20852.
All comments should be identified by Docket ID No. FDA-2010-N-0568.

Last week, in accordance with the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which requires that cigarette packages and advertisements have larger and more visible graphic health warnings, the FDA announced its proposed images. These new warnings will have nine new warnings accompanied by color graphics depicting the health consequences of smoking.

Starting June 22, 2011, some of these images will comprise at least the top half of the fronts and backs of cigarette packs. The proposal also requires that they appear in cigarette advertisements, where they’ll occupy at least 20 percent of the ads.

The nine new warning statements include:

WARNING: Cigarettes are addictive;

WARNING: Tobacco smoke can harm your children;

WARNING: Cigarettes cause fatal lung disease;

WARNING: Cigarettes cause cancer;

WARNING: Cigarettes cause strokes and heart disease;

WARNING: Smoking during pregnancy can harm your baby;

WARNING: Smoking can kill you;

WARNING: Tobacco smoke causes fatal lung disease in nonsmokers;

WARNING: Quitting smoking now greatly reduces serious risks to your health.

The public is being asked for feedback through Jan. 11, 2011.

In order to facilitate the FDA in its efforts to publish the most effective images for helping smokers to kick the habit (and because this newspaper possesses a keen sense of absurdity about a free-market government that promotes war, has infected native people with disease, and exports toxic technological waste), a Reno News & Review staffer went to local bars to ask patrons their opinions (see photo captions) of the new images. And then, tired and hungover, he went to Facebook for some real crowdsourcing and commentary.

The faint of heart may find these images somewhat offensive, but get ready. Soon they will be the public face of the government’s efforts to curb America’s smoking habit and will be seen in magazines, newspapers, and everywhere tobacco is sold.

To see all 72 of the images and to add your comments, visit our Facebook page,

Facebook comments

Jud Domenici: I find it hypocritical that these anti-smoking ads are OK’d by our government, yet cigarette ads are not. Freedom of speech and free commerce, my ass. I am a smoker and pay a lot of taxes that non-smokers do not. People should shake my hand rather than look at me like I’m breaking a law or something.

Christine Whitmarsh: What will they be putting on bottles of Jack Daniels, vodka, beer, etc.?

Mark Pipes: Look at warnings in other countries. Ours are far too mild. Photos of cancerous lungs, for example. The simple message “Cigarettes Kill” is seen on packets in India.

Kurt Ploeger: Smoking, drinking, and gambling are the Holy Trinity here in Nevada. Get rid of any one of them and there’s a good chance what’s left of the economy will go, too.

Mark Pipes: I see plenty of ads for cigarettes. Nope, [the Holy Trinity] is drinking, gambling and whoring.

Karl Larson: It’s a pretty sick society when cigarettes are legal, and weed is not.

Bean Paulson: How about smoking will kill you. I think the tracheotomy one is great, but his fingernails need to be more yellow.

Phil Peretz: These pictures will keep very few people from smoking. What would be better would be a toll free number for smoking cessation. Make the cig companies pay for free counseling if people want it.

Jen Hadayia: For decades, tobacco has been completely unregulated, one of the very few industries allowed to conduct business in our country without disclosing what’s in their product. As a result, the industry has made billions and billions of dollars from something that is known beyond any shadow of a doubt to contribute to all leading causes of death.

If we can warn people about the dangers of smoking in a more graphic visual way, then all the better. In fact, these kinds of warning labels have been proven to keep kids from starting smoking. That’s a success!

Trust me, the tobacco industry does far more than warning labels to encourage people to become addicted to a product that will kill them. Research shows that warning labels do stop kids from smoking. Shouldn’t we all support that?

Kimberly Esse: I’m a non-smoker but people already know it’s bad for them. … Honestly, my friends that smoke don’t care and that’s fine, but it’s their choice. So should we put stuff on animal products, then, that say “Warning: an animal died so you could eat this” with a picture of the slaughter or something? No, no one would do that. So why is this acceptable?

James Wilkins: To both the smoker and non: Does it make you wanna kill someone you see smoking in a car with kids in it? Sometimes they’ll have all the windows up, too.

Jjeffrey Jeff: I also believe that there are many other problems the FDA could be focusing on including cigs. These pics won’t do much to stop people from smoking.

Kimberly Esse: Yes, but let’s just put it this way: If we start labeling all things that are dangerous, what won’t have a label?

Rebecca M. Thomas: I’m a smoker, and those warnings will not make me quit. Both of my parents smoked when we were kids—in the house, in the car—and all of us are healthy adults. Not that I encourage it—just saying there are far worse things I see parents do to kids.

Clint Jolly: I’m pretty damned sure that smokers know they are killing themselves. It’s a worthless cause to add [these images] to cigarettes. Why not spend the money to help people quit if they feel so inclined?

Taunee Perry: One thing I just heard that would make me quit if I had ever started is that you are 154 percent—yes 154 percent—more likely to get Alzheimer’s Disease if you smoke up to two packs a day.

Librada Gonzalez: If they add these images to cigarette packs, then they need to put drunk driving victims on alcohol bottles and cans!

Mandy Northrop: Honestly, people are already informed of the dangers of smoking tobacco, it’s your choice whether or not you want to smoke. If you aren’t a smoker and you are around someone who smokes, it’s your choice to speak up and ask them not to smoke around you, or leave, that simple. I personally feel that wasting money on new campaign ads isn’t going to get you anything. Maybe a disgusted look here and there, but again, it falls back on the person who actually smokes. So why waste money? To save money? Maybe, however, it’s the person’s choice. We only have one life to live, so leave them alone. Smokers pay the price for it between taxes, getting sick, and even the ridicule that comes from it. Why waste more money on it?

Malva McIntosh: Maybe cigarettes should be against the law.

Laura McKerrow: I don’t think it makes the slightest bit of difference at all to smokers. In Canada, they were not so tentative though—just “Smoking Kills” in big letters across the top of the package, none of this “can” nonsense as a sop to the tobacco-advertising industry. Maybe they should have a notice “Idiots smoke” or “Smoking for Morons” on the packaging?

Karl Larson: Screw the suicidal adults who persist in smoking. It’s all worth it if it keeps kids away from the foul things—after all, isn’t our government supposed to be working for the people, not the corporate masters?

Chuck Reyome: I like the images, but it’s going to take more than that to get through to the smokers.

Ursula Powers Sindlinger: Overkill. Literally. Especially when state and local governments nationwide depend on cigarette taxes for so many things. Real hypocrisy is present.

Sue Kephart: The ads are probably a waste of money. Smokers don’t care that cigarettes are bad. They also don’t care that their smoke harms others or even children. Put the money into promoting healthy habits and preventive health care for those who want to be healthy and can’t afford it. Also raise the tax on cigarettes and other unhealthy things like sodas and junk food.

Tara Hall: I like the ads and like the idea of them being presented every time they go to light up a smoke, though I’m not sure its going to have a huge impact on the smoker. As said before, most of them know the dangers of smoking already and still choose to. I do feel, however, that we need to try whatever we can to cut down cigarette smoking, and it’s worth a shot. So many people seem to think that they’re an exception to the rule when it comes to what cigarettes do to their body, and maybe having a constant reminder in front of them won’t let them forget what they’re risking.

Joshua Trudell: The ads are overkill by far. Germany has some similar posts on the cigarettes sold in their country, but they don’t have pictures, just saying that smoking kills you and caused cancer. Also, it’s in large print on the front of the pack, so it does get seen. They also put those warning on advertisements. too. I think the FDA can go with that instead of graphic and disgusting pictures.

Laura Fillmore: This is visual literacy and communication, and once I put the lung comparison up in my classroom, and kids were really affected. It proves that pictures speak louder than words. I vote for the visual confrontation—it has worked really well in other countries, and this is such an interesting comparison. Can’t wait to ask my photography students to “read” these images. So interesting in black on white and white on black.

Tom Stone: Love the photos. I think they are just what the doctor ordered!

Kurt Ploeger: Make them illegal. It worked for marijuana!

Terri DeLarosby: I grew up in the ’60s. Just about everyone smoked, in the house, in the car, in public and at work—if kids were around or not. But, so far, so good. I haven’t had any health problems, and I am a social smoker myself. I do think this is government stepping beyond its bounds, as it did with the banning smoking in bars and banning toys in Happy Meals (WTF?). That should be left up to the business owner. The world isn’t and can’t be 100 percent safe, and I don’t want the government trying to save us from ourselves.

If you are a non-smoker, you know where to not go to avoid cig smoke. Right?

I agree with some of the other comments … are we going to have roly-poly fat dead people on butter packages, cookie packages, etc.?

Sean Boyce: Thank you, Big Brother. Without your wisdom to guide me, I don’t know what I would do or how to live.

Gina Pogol: The problem is, at least according to studies I’ve read, if you creep people out too much they tune out the warning. You have to be sneaky. I remember growing up in Hawaii and seeing a poster at a bus stop that showed an old worked-over woman with a few black teeth and a cig at her lip with a heading that read, “Smoking Is Very Glamorous.” Hit them in their vanity, not their health. Young people don’t give a rat’s ass about their health.

Karl Larson: It seems to me that the real hypocrisy is the government making a lot of tax money from something it knows is killing the very people it supposedly represents.


If smokers were more considerate about smoking, there would not be this backlash. People who smoke are completely aware of the consequences.

Jack Sosnowski

I agree with the downside of nicotine consumption, but how do you compare a level 2 drug like heroin to something our government allows in supermarkets and gas stations nationwide. David J. Karp,

I don’t have kids for a reason! Cigs are delicious.

Indy at Sheas

Screaming children bother me more than second-hand smoke!

Mark Bjorlin

This is what the kid looks like during a nic fit.

Brian Rocca

LAME. Jeff Frallicciardi

Sugar and methamphetamine abuse ravages your mouth exponentially quicker than any old cigarette ever could.

Joy Souza

This one is nastyyy Brady Sambrano

Looks more like someone who chews a lot! Terri DeLarosby

Say cheese. James Wilkins

This is straight nasty and discouraging to smokers I would think. Lora Mattingly-Enget

So can doctors. The surgeon probably killed this guy.

Chris W.

That sucks. Poor dude. Box of Marlboro Reds, please.

Mike F.

Well, when I quit smlking after 10 years of a pack a day, it seriously affected my mental health and my emotional health. (Maybe quitting was a bad idea.)