Graphic Images on Cigarette Packages Could Save 650,000 Lives

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A new study published in Tobacco Control indicates that including graphic images of the effects of smoking on the printed warning labels on cigarettes might save hundreds of thousands of lives.

According to the study titled “Public health benefits from pictorial health warnings on US cigarette packs: a SimSmoke simulation”:

While many countries have adopted prominent pictorial warning labels (PWLs) for cigarette packs, the USA still requires only small, text-only labels located on one side of the cigarette pack that have little effect on smoking-related outcomes. Tobacco industry litigation blocked implementation of a 2011 Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) rule requiring large PWLs. To inform FDA action on PWLs, this study provides research-based estimates of their public health impacts.


Literature was reviewed to identify the impact of cigarette PWLs on smoking prevalence, cessation and initiation. Based on this analysis, the SimSmoke model was used to estimate the effect of requiring PWLs in the USA on smoking prevalence and, using standard attribution methods, on smoking-attributable deaths (SADs) and key maternal and child health outcomes.


Available research consistently shows a direct association between PWLs and increased cessation and reduced smoking initiation and prevalence. The SimSmoke model projects that PWLs would reduce smoking prevalence by 5% (2.5%–9%) relative to the status quo over the short term and by 10% (4%–19%) over the long term. Over the next 50 years, PWLs are projected to avert 652 800 (327 000–1 190 500) SADs, 46 600 (17 500–92 300) low-birth-weight cases, 73 600 (27 800–145 100) preterm births and 1000 (400–2000) cases of sudden infant death syndrome.

Fifty years is a long time, but 650,000 is roughly the population of Seattle or Boston.