Make warnings on cigarette packs scary, health groups say

4 October 2016

A lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal District Court in Boston aims to force the Food and Drug Administration to require cigarette packages to display images starkly depicting what tobacco can do to the human body.

Dozens of countries already require such graphic warnings. In Canada, a smoker can’t open a pack without seeing an arresting picture, such as a sad-eyed child with an oxygen mask, or a pair of hands holding a diseased human heart, each with bold text about the risk of secondhand smoke and heart disease. In Australia, smokers have to stare down a photo of a gangrenous foot.

In the United States, cigarette packages merely display the brief surgeon general’s warning, a small text unchanged since 1984.

But a 2009 federal law required tobacco companies to display color images showing the hazards of tobacco use and occupying more than half of the cigarette pack and 20 percent of any advertisement.