Do Graphic Warnings On Cigarette Packs Really Affect Smokers?

The first study conducted by the researchers at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center to estimate the effects of graphic warnings on cigarette packs shows that the warning images are effective and could avert more than 652,000 deaths, up to 92,000 low birth weight infants, up to 145,000 preterm births, and about 1,000 cases of sudden infant deaths in the U.S. over the next 50 years.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that smoking is the number one cause of preventable death" in the United States, claiming more than 440,000 lives a year.  Graphic warnings aim to cut down the death rate.  "With these warnings, every person who picks up a pack of cigarettes is going to know exactly what risk they're taking.  Somebody said when they first saw the warning, these are really gross, and they are.  We want kids to understand smoking is gross, not cool," Sebelius said.

The research studied changes in smoking rates in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, which already implemented prominent graphic warnings on cigarette packs.  In Canada, 8 years after the prominent pictorial warning labels (PWLs) were implemented, there was an estimated 12 percent reduction in smoking prevalence.  In Australia, smoking prevalence among adults fell down from 21.3 percent in 2007 to 19 percent in 2008, and in the UK, it fell down 10 percent.

David T. Levy, one of the researchers from Georgetown Lombardi said, "The bottom line is that requiring large pictorial warnings would help protect the public health of people in the United States. There is a direct association between these warnings and increased smoking cessation and reduced smoking initiation and prevalence. That would lead to significant reduction of death and morbidity, as well as medical cost.  The other countries have persisted and gotten the graphic warnings, so if they can do it, there's no reason that the United States shouldn't do it".

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