Graphic warnings to appear on cigarette packages

June 21, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Health officials unveiled nine new, graphic labels warning consumers about the harmful effects of using tobacco products.

They say they are making the message clear: Smoking can kill you.

The pictures are graphic. They include a drawing of a sick baby, diseased lungs, a mouth full of rotten teeth, and a man with a breathing hole in his neck. Those are among the nine new images made public Tuesday that must be on cigarette packages and in advertisements by fall of next year, October 2012.

ABC7 showed the pictures to non-smoker Melissa Martinez who cringed at a few of them. "The hole here with the smoke coming out, that kind of got me for a minute, but other than that, I think it's reality," she said.

The health warnings will take up 50 percent of the front and back of cigarette packages and 20 percent of advertisements.

The revamped tobacco labels were proposed in November under a law that put the multi-billion-dollar tobacco industry under the control of the Food and Drug Administration. The new labels represent the most significant changes to cigarette warnings in decades.

The American Lung Association of Greater Chicago says the labels will also include a toll-free number, which will direct smokers to their state quit lines.

"We feel that here in Illinois, that will certainly increase the call volume, and the American Lung Association here in Illinois operates the Illinois Tobacco Quit line" said President and CEO of the American Lung Association of Greater Chicago Harold Wimmer.

The labels are part of a broader strategy by the government to prevent children from starting to use tobacco and to help current smokers quit.

"This changes, fundamentally, the image of every pack of cigarettes. It makes an opportunity for education of every child in America. So, we view this historic announcement as an opportunity for major change," said Dr. Howard Koh, Dep. of Health and Human Services assistant secretary for health.

"The first full year, these new, graphic warnings are displayed, almost a quarter of a million smokers will quit smoking. Obviously, that will have a tremendously positive impact on those individuals, and their families and in their communities, and frankly, to the economy of this country," Koh also said.

Ike Koutroumbis told ABC7 he has been smoking since he was 12 years old. He does not think the new labels will help people who are addicted, but he thinks they might stop a new generation from taking a drag.

"I think it should be on the boxes only because of kids. I smoke; I don't think it's a good thing. I think it's a choice, but I don't think it's a good thing, and I wouldn't like to see my kid smoke," he said.

The current tobacco warnings are more than 25 years old. Health officials say they went unnoticed, but they won't anymore.

Copyright © 2019 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.