Good Question: Will Graphic Warnings Get Smokers To Quit?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Cigarettes are addictive. Cigarettes cause cancer. Smoking can kill you. In a little more than one year, those are some of the warnings that will appear on cigarette boxes, if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gets its way.

But it’s not the direct wording that’s getting attention: it’s the graphic images that go along with them, taking up half of the real estate on the front and back of cigarette packs and cartons. Some of the nine new warnings show a man smoking through a tracheotomy hole, a mouth with gnarly teeth and a stitched up dead body.

But don’t smokers already know these things? Will new warnings get people to quit?

“I think that they’ve very good. There’s a lot of research that’s gone into it,” said Dr. Harry Lando, a tobacco cessation researcher at the University of Minnesota Cancer Center.

Lando specializes in effective ways to get people to quit smoking.

“Often smokers know in general its bad, they don’t know in detail, they don’t take it personally. This personally affects you and your loved ones,” he said.

Smokers we spoke with were skeptical.

“It’s pretty gruesome looking, but that won’t deter a serious smoker,” said one.

According to the latest Minnesota Tobacco Use Survey, in 2010, just 16 percent of people regularly smoke. That’s down from 22 percent in 1999. The 2010 national average is 20 percent.

“Is there a point where there are so few people smoking, no warning label will matter?” asked WCCO reporter Jason DeRusha.

“That may be possible, but we haven’t gotten there yet,” said Lando.  “We don’t really know the lowest we can go. Is it 12 percent? Is it 5 percent?”

“I don’t think it will (make a difference),” said another smoker. “It’s hard enough to quit. I gave up cigs for a year, then started smoking … black and mild cigars.”

But 40 countries use warning labels with images, many are more gruesome than the nine the FDA just approved. In Brazil they show a gangrened hand, and another warning of impotence caused by smoking.

In Canada, they put in huge warnings in 2000. After one year: 44 percent of smokers said the new warnings increased their motivation to quit. Of those who tried to quit, 38 percent cited the warnings as a factor.

The U.S. government estimates more than 200,000 smokers will kick the habit, in the first year after the new warning labels start showing up on shelves.

Slideshow: FDA Issues New Warning Labels

More from Jason DeRusha
Comments

One Comment

  1. tim says:

    i see nothing wrong with showing graphic pictures of smokers. Of course i will expect to see pictures of someone putting a bullet thru the cows brain on the package of hamburger i buy, or maybe a nice picture of live chickens getting de-beaked when i buy my chicken. i mean really, isnt turn about fair play??

    1. Courteney says:

      Great idea! If they are concerned about showing people the “truth” there really should be animal pictures on meat products.

      1. ohoh says:

        Absolutely! and they should show pics of aborted babies to women who want abortions too.

        1. Drunken Dissed Orderly says:

          Why? That comment didn’t add up.

    2. Drunken Dissed Orderly says:

      “Of course i will expect to see pictures of someone putting a bullet thru the cows brain on the package of hamburger i buy”

      Is that how you think cattle go to slaughter? They line up for a firing squad?

      1. idiocracy says:

        I don’t know how they actually get put down, but they definitely line up for their death.

  2. Victim Du Jour says:

    Kids will collect them like Garbage Pale kids trading cards.

    No one will take them serious at all.

    1. Joey Olson says:

      They will have pics on cheeseburgers and a fat kid with rotten teeth on soda cans. Where does it stop. These pics are from a pack a day for decades smokers who have little self control. I would love to eat and drink whatever I want but then health issues arise so I don’t. Remember that 10% tax increase on tanning beds? The girl who goes tanning once a week has to pay because yellow girls who were addicted got skin cancer.

  3. Mind Reader says:

    This is o.k. but let’s put graphic drunk driving pictures on beer bottles or divorce rates on liquor bottles. Better yet, why don’t we put pictures of Anthony Weiner on computers to deter sexting?

    One more great idea, let’s put up graphic abortion billoards to discourage them

    What a crock! The government needs to get out of the social engineering business .

    1. Drunken Dissed Orderly says:

      “divorce rates on liquor bottles”

      Is that your example of what causes most marriages to fail? Statistically, that isn’t really even used as a cause.

      I do agree that the government should stop seeking “The Final Solution” with every new altruistic engineering project on creating the perfect society.

  4. Bill says:

    Why stop there, Let’s put pictures of fat people on cheese burgers and cirrosis of the liver on Beer bottles etc…

  5. Rico Suave says:

    Liberals have an even bigger and more dangerous addiction than smoking. They crave spending the huge tax dollars cigarettes bring in. They’re schizphrenic about smoking. They love to be in the spotlight for everybody to see how much the care about the evils of smoking, but they can’t live without that tax cash. Depending on the state, 3/4 of the cost of a pack of smokes is taxes. Can you imagine the withdrawals liberals would have if they got their stated wish and everyone quit smoking? They’d be climbing the walls and freaking out big time. You’d have to open treatment centers for tax and spendaholics and they’d be full. Of course they’d probably just turn thier addiction on the rest of us to make up the loss. They will not just go without that money. They’ll never kick that habit.

    1. pat says:

      Rico you are so right, I also find it laughable that the very same people who want to keep spending on this ad campaign also want to legalize pot. Which for every joint smokeed equals the same effects on your health as 10 cigarettes.
      Hey! maybe that is where they expect to make up for the decrease in taxes, they’ll put a sin tax on pot! Wow and they said smoking them doobies would mess with my brain cells.

      1. Drunken Dissed Orderly says:

        “Which for every joint smokeed equals the same effects on your health as 10 cigarettes.”

        I question that statistic. Actually I just plain don’t believe it at all.

        1. Rico Suave says:

          It does make some sense when you think of how much you cough when you take a big hit on a doobie. I don’t think it’s the nicotine that does most of the damage, but rather the concentration of smoke particulates in your lungs. If you switched to pot brownies you probably won’t die of cancer. But you might die of stupidity. Stay thirsty my friends.

          1. Drunken Dissed Orderly says:

            I never cough.

        2. idiocracy says:

          It was a fear-mongering stat that was based on smoking being the same regardless of what you were smoking. Marijuana doesn’t cause cancer and most likely cures cancer. While it’s not healthy to inhale any smoke, pot has got to be 100% healthier than cigarette smoke. If I go on a pot bender, I’m fine. If I smoke one extra cigarette at the bar, I’m paying for it the next day.

  6. Phil Mcackin says:

    Lets just stop being stupid.

    1. Ronald Raygun says:

      Will you lead the way?

  7. Sgt says:

    Both of my Parents Smoked. There advice was dont start. I tryed it a few times,when I was in the Marines, I didnt like the way that taste stayed in my mouth for days. Brushing my teeth didnt even help. My Brother & Sister dont smoke either.
    I think a combo of Higher Taxes on Tabacco & these pictures might help.

  8. JKB says:

    NO pictures will not help. Smokers KNOW the risks, and a good many teens/young men, that have quit have changed over to chew! Chew can be used inconspicuously where a cigarette is visible and barred from the majority of places. Also, do they really think thepictures would scare kids, dont think so, kids are so acclimatized to violent movies this is mild in comparison. Very graphic pictures would be needed. I like the ideas of many posters regarding liquor and beer bottle pictures being posted with graphic accident scenes of its victims.. But then wonder how many drunks bother looking at the bottle or can.

  9. Deb salonek says:

    I am currently trying to quit by using patches, everyday that I don’t smoke is a victory. I do think the pictures will help older smokers but kids think they are invincible and it will never happen to them. I am the youngest of 6 kids, both parents smoked, Mom died of emphysema at 65 and Dad of Lung cancer, after seeing them suffer and die we all lit up a cigarette and continued to smoke, that is how stong the addiction is.
    It is my opinion that they should do the same thing with alcohoi, put pics of people with cirhhosis, fanilies broken apart by alcohol, violence caused by inebriated people, fatalities from drunken driving etc. Alcohol kills too but it is socially acceptable. they need to go after the alcohol business too!

    1. Drunken Dissed Orderly says:

      If you want to quit, you will. If you don’t then you won’t. There is no mysterious force that puts a gun to your back and walks you into the gas station for cigarettes.
      I smoked for a long time and quit and never smoked again.

      But let me ask you this…. You say they should go after alcohol too, but for what? In the same effort as tobacco, to try and stop all people from using it? I don’t think using your own personal lack of self control as a reason for all of us to be subjected to legislation for reasons that YOU think are “in our best interests.”

      It’s YOUR decision to smoke or not. It’s YOUR decision to drink or not. Stop trying to play parent and make everybody live by rules based on your own failures.

      1. Deb Salonek says:

        Lack of control? addiction is not simply a lack of control, there are receptors in your brain that makes you crave tobacco. Yes I control myself everytime I go to the store see the cigarette packs behind the counter and do not buy them. Addiction is not as simple as you make it sound, what is yours? food, gambling, judging others harshly, porn, alcohol etc. Everyone suffers from some form of addiction so tell me what is yours?
        I refuse to feel bad about being an addict, at the same time I resolve to not let it take my life like it did my parents. and I do think that putting labels on alcohol would be a good thing including where they can get help to quit. My sister in law was murdered (ran over) by a drunken driver in front of the liquor store she owned. he fled the scene and never showed remorse for her death or for leaving 3 kids and a husband behind, her youngest was only 3 yrs old. He only served 2.5 yrs in prison and had the nerve to ask the judge if he could just be on home monitoring.
        There is no need to be rude to those of us who admit we are addicts and struggle everyday not to listen to my body and brains craving. Your concern for others is underwhelming.

        1. Drunken Dissed Orderly says:

          I haven’t been rude. Not once.

          I used to smoke. Do you even read these comments or do you just pick out various sentences and then go on the attack when your delicate sensibilities are ruffled?

          You have a lack of control problem. I conquered my smoking addiction by refusing to give in to it and buy more cigarettes.

          Addiction is in your mind. It is whatever you make of it.

          From your comments, it seems you’ve resigned yourself to the fact that you’ll “try” to quit, fail at it, and rinse and repeat over and over and over and over again until you get lung cancer or have a heart attack. Then you’ll use your addiction as a reason to sneak out of your chemo to go have another cigarette, all the while grumbling about how you’re about to try to quit again….

          Happy smoking!

          1. deb salonek says:

            Your defibition of rude nust be in a different dictionary than normal folk. I am not trying to quit…I have quit! You are ignorant, opinionated and have an elevated ego. I am so glad that you are so superior to the rest of us, I have found the most perfect person in the world how incredibly lucky am I?
            I am not resigned to keep TRYING to quit, I have quit and no doubt that I will stay a non-smoker.
            You used to smoke so you also run the risk of getting lung cancer or COPD, yes you have lower your risk by not smoking but it is still there. I am a nurse so know all about it, seen the results and sad stories, I know how much of a struggle it is to quit. It does cause changes in your brain, the nicotine receptors beg for nicotine, that is a fact so your theory that it is all lack of control shows your ignorance.
            I remain strong and resolved not to use cigarettes again no matter what you think, I celebrate every day that I do not smoke. You do not know me so keep your opinions about my ability to remain a non-smoker to yourself, I don’t need your kind of support. You are very rude, it’s people like you that make me stronger just to prove you wrong so thanks for the help!

    2. Rico Suave says:

      Drunken is right. You’re making a much bigger deal of this than necessary. Throw out the patches and simply quit. The hardest part of quitting is making the decision. When you say “I’m going to try to quit, or I’m trying to quit”, you’re doomed. When you decide to do it, nothing can stop you. Until you decide to do it, nothing can help you. After a little time goes by, nothing could make you start back up. You’ll enjoy not smelling like it, coughing all the time, shivering in the cold for a smoke, and of course not funding stupid liberal programs with the taxes they get from your smokes. That’s my favorite part right there.Good luck.

      1. DJ says:

        Rico and Drunken – nice thought to say you “just quit” and it’s over. Not everyone has that happen. I have conviction, have quit for 6 years at one time and went back. I have a parent that quit 20 years ago and still admits that every once and a while the craving is there!!! So if you just quit and never had a craving you are fortunate.

        1. Drunken Dissed Orderly says:

          “Not everyone has that happen. I have conviction, have quit for 6 years at one time and went back. I have a parent that quit 20 years ago and still admits that every once and a while the craving is there!!!”

          Apparently you DON’T have the conviction. Yet. When you get it, you’ll just look at your cigarette pack and toss it away and think to yourself “what have I been thinking all these years??”

          Of course people have cravings. I’ve even had them when I am having a beer and see or smell people smoking. Not often anymore, but it happens.

          That’s natural. You don’t NEED to cave to them. You tell them to F off and you’re a grown man and those things are tiny sticks trying to take you from your family.

          Grow a spine. Throw the smokes away, and be done with it. You won’t regret it. People always have an excuse for “going back.” They say stuff like “well of course I started again when I lost myjob” or “The stress of my divorce made me start smoking again.” Those are false. You and only you control what you do. Cravings are false signals from your brain, and you have the ability to stop them by resisting them. Even resisting them for 10 minutes at a time if you have to.

          Be determined. Be realistic. Don’t give up. Make up your mind if you’re a smoker or a non-smoker and live the life of that person. Rico is right when he says that if you think you’re “trying to quit” then you’re full of sh1t and lying to yourself.

          1. deb salonek says:

            nothing worse than an ex-smoker lecturing a smoker or someone who recently quit.

            1. Drunken Dissed Orderly says:

              Sure there is.

              What’s worse is the smokers trying to convince the ones who recently quit to come out and have a smoke with them. They know they don’t have the guts to quit, and they desperately wish you didn’t either. Misery loves company, right smokers?

              1. deb salonek says:

                FYI I have quit and don’t encourage anyone to go smoke with me, I don’t even hang around smokers anymore so I can remain smoke free. I am resolved to never smoke another cig again, I am a non-smoker and will stay that way no matter what!

  10. Elly Helcl says:

    I started smoking at the age of 10. By the time I actually SAW an entire pack of cigarettes at one time I was 14 and obviously addicted to nicotine by then. My dad was a smoker but my mom (who had primary custody) was not a smoker.

    I don’t think this is going to get the crowd they truely need to target. It isn’t the adults who are smoking that the government should be so worried about…we will all me dead in 50 years anyhow. It is the next generation, the ones who haven’t started yet that we need to focus on.

    Like I said, I started at the age of 10. I went though D.A.R.E and guess what? I tried pot twice in my life and then never touched another drug because I knew the impact.

    Educate the kids, and the teens. Offer them ways to quit if they have already started. Without the judgement or their parents knowing if possible.

    By the time I was 16 I wanted to quit. I will be 30 next month. I am still a smoker. For my 30th Birthday I am going to try to quit again. But after 20 years of having a cigarette in my hand and numerous failed attempts to quit I know I am going to have to get something to occupy my hands.

    I don’t understand the “graphic images” ideal at all though. Think about it…we see worse images than the ones above on the 6 o’clock news.

    1. Drunken Dissed Orderly says:

      “By the time I was 16 I wanted to quit. I will be 30 next month. I am still a smoker. For my 30th Birthday I am going to try to quit again. But after 20 years of having a cigarette in my hand and numerous failed attempts to quit I know I am going to have to get something to occupy my hands.”

      You aren’t ready to quit. Don’t bother getting disappointed again and again. You can’t “try” to quit and be successful. Be a non-smoker instead. Live the life of a non-smoker. Nobody and nothing forces you to smoke, but your own mind.

      1. DJ says:

        I am so glad you are so perfect, Drunken. But then again I know your type and it’s so very far from the truth.

        1. Drunken Dissed Orderly says:

          Why do you think I am perfect? I appreciate the compliment, but I assure you I’m far from perfect.

          But thanks for the insult. I hope in some small way it made you feel better about your own failures in life. Keep on smiling, homie.

          Smoke if ya got ’em!

          1. deb salonek says:

            You are an arrogant jerk!

        2. deb salonek says:

          AMEN TO THAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. Lets suck the fun right out of MN says:

    Let’s help fix the budget by getting rid of overstaffed, overpaid, underworked agencies like the USDA. Smoking cigarettes is legal if you are over 18. Every smoker in the world knows the risks. If you are addicted, as with any addiction, you won’t stop until you are ready. All the treatment, punishment, lecturing, etc in the world is not going to stop an addict until they are ready. And no, I don’t smoke. Tried once, vomited on my shoes, that was enough for me. The government needs to leave us alone!

  12. jan says:

    When you’re young you think you’re invincible. I smoked for 30 years and was up to two cartons a week and one day I just quit. I didn’t even plan on quitting but a wave of common sense overtook me. It wasn’t easy and took about six weeks. I would wake up at night after dreaming I was smoking. Now 30 years later I have no desire to smoke and hate the smell of it. It can be done but it takes guts and fortitude

    1. Drunken Dissed Orderly says:

      Holy cow. How old ARE you?? You smoked for 30 years, and quit and that was 30 years ago already now too? So if you started at age 15, you’re 75 right now?

  13. Smoker says:

    Are they going to end the smoke tax now that they have these pictures. Apparently it has failed otherwise why would they need these pictures to try to reduce smoking?

  14. BS says:

    Just got back from having a smoke. What did I miss?

    1. Rico Suave says:

      Nice one. High five.

  15. PJO says:

    What we consider graphic here in the States and what they consider graphic in Europe are two totally different things. I’ve seen PSA’s that they show there on youtube, if they showed those PSA’s here I believe our attitudes would be different. Try it, I recommend the UK PSA about texting while driving.

  16. DD says:

    I think putting these graphic pictures on the back of there cigarette packages is a good idea. It might not stop the diehard smokers, but it could give the teenagers and most smokers something to think about everytime they light up.

  17. idiocracy says:

    They are making a decent attempt to disuade smokers (won’t work). However, they trying to educate people who at the least already know it’s dangerous. Other things can get you killed and the blissful-idiot-public has no idea.

    Most smokers will of course look at the package, maybe even trade the pictures (“Oh, you got a dead guy, I’ll trade you two bad teeth for it.”). But the only exposure this will get is from the newness factor. The rest of the time smokers will hide the pack because of the gross pictures. I would think the convienence store clerks are the hardest hit, since they are looking at the packs the most trying to figure out what flavor they’re grabbing.

  18. Michael Ponto says:

    I have a question. Can the cause of lung cancer be identified? Is there a difference between “second hand smoke” and radon gas lung cancer?

  19. Sarah in Outstate MN says:

    No, people need to quit on their own and realize smoking is bad for them. While I am not a smoker, I know many people who are and want to quit. They’ve tried everything and they even know and have seen the graphic images of smokers lungs.

  20. Ravi says:

    I quit smoking 10 years ago and have never had one since and lttaoly agree with you chloe when you say everyone who does those nasty habits should quit them today.

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