As reported by the Valley Press, June 30, 2011.

When It Comes to Quitting, Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words?

Local Doctor Discusses the Strong Message Sent by New Cigarette Labels and Details Effects Not Seen on the Package

By Jennifer Senofonte

A black lung. Smoke sifting through a hole in someone’s throat. A baby surrounded by a cloud wafting from a cigarette.   Some call these images honest and inappropriate – yet effective.

However the new cigarette labels are described, the question is will they stop people from reaching for their next cigarette?

When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released these nine, graphic health warnings, they announced that the images will be required to appear on every pack of cigarettes sold in the United States along with every tobacco advertisement. 

This bold gesture is an effort to help prevent children from starting the addictive habit and to encourage those who already do smoke to take a leap and quit. By understanding and seeing the dangerous effects of smoking, the FDA hopes it will stop one from grabbing their next smoke from the pack.

“I think the aim of the FDA is to educate and I think the goal of education is to deter people from either starting or to at least be forced to think about it every time they pull their pack of cigarettes out of their purse or pocket,” Dr. Kanwar Singh of West Hartford said.

What’s missing from the aforementioned list of images, according to Singh, is a person with a missing leg due to gangrene as a result of smoking.

As the director of vascular medicine and intervention at the UConn Medical Center, Singh’s patients suffer from peripheral arterial disease as a result of smoking.

“It’s the same kind of blockages that people get in their heart and in their neck that cause heart attacks and strokes,” he said. In addition, leg artery blockages result in amputations from gangrene caused by smoking.

“Just as important as an image of a hole in someone’s throat is a person without their leg,” he said.

Regardless, he hopes these kinds of images will drive away non-smokers who are considering becoming smokers – such as young people who have not yet become addicted to cigarettes.

“They will see some of this and take another pause,” Singh said.

He also thinks the images will stand well against peer pressure. Instead of having to be the courageous one who says “no” when encouraged by others, kids have the ability to support themselves by showing reasons not to right there on the cigarette pack itself.

As for people who already smoke, he said, they have an invincible mentality where “it can’t happen to me.” “It may just make [smoking] a whole lot less enjoyable,” he added.

The nine selected images were picked from 36 proposed options. Each warning will include a phone number to call to help smokers quit, 1-800-QUIT-NOW. This effort is part of the Tobacco Control Act passed by Congress in 2009.

By September 2012, all cigarettes manufactured for sale in the U.S. will be required to include the new graphic health warnings on their packages.