Graphic warnings proposed for cigarette packages

CNN Wire Service

WASHINGTON — The federal government unveiled new proposed regulations Wednesday mandating “bolder health warnings” on cigarette advertisements and packages, according to a news release from the Department of Health and Human Services.

The proposed requirements, characterized as the biggest change in tobacco health warnings in 25 years, include “nine new larger and more noticeable textual warning statements and color graphic images depicting the negative health consequences of smoking,” the release stated.

The public will have an opportunity to weigh in on 36 proposed images through January 9. Assuming the plan moves forward as scheduled, Food and Drug Administration officials will select the nine statements and images to be used no later than June 22.

Rules requiring the use of the new images and warnings on all cigarettes distributed for sale in the United States would take effect by Oct. 22, 2012.

“Today, FDA takes a crucial step toward reducing the tremendous toll of illness and death caused by tobacco use by proposing to dramatically change how cigarette packages and advertising look in this country,” FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said.

“When the rule takes effect, the health consequences of smoking will be obvious every time someone picks up a pack of cigarettes. … This is a concrete example of how FDA’s new responsibilities for tobacco product regulation can benefit the public’s health.”

Tobacco use, according to the federal government, is the cause of 443,000 deaths in the United States every year. It remains the number one cause of premature and preventable death nationwide.

An estimated 30 percent of all cancer deaths are related to tobacco use, officials say.