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A graphic shock; New warning labels on cigarette packs boost the fight against a deadly habit

It's finally come to pass. The Food and Drug Administration released nine gruesome new warning labels for cigarette packs. Hopefully, it signals a healthier horizon for all of us. Those working to stamp out the habit of smoking welcome the labels as one more tool in their fight. Even so, they know their work is never easy as hundreds of thousands in this country continue to develop the often lifelong addiction to smoking.

Still, it's good to know that the tobacco industry may be choking on a taste of its own bad medicine by showing customers some of the effects of the habit. And that's what makes the new labels so useful in the eyes of anti-smoking advocates and prevention agencies.

The new cigarette packs are nothing short of a reality horror show, displaying images such as a diseased lung and a smoker wearing an oxygen mask.

Anyone with a smidgen of interest in persuading a loved one to quit the habit or, better yet, trying to prevent a young person from ever starting, should love these labels. In fact, they should have been on cigarette packs sooner.

President Obama in 2009 signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, giving the FDA the authority to require the labels.

It had been 25 years since the warning labels were last strengthened. Quite frankly, those mid-1980s text-only warnings that smoking can cause lung cancer, heart disease and other illnesses can seem more like wallpaper, to be ignored in today's over-stimulated society.

Still, those labels were an improvement over the first U.S.-mandated warning labels in 1965 stating, "Cigarettes may be hazardous to your health."

In 2000 Canada became the first country to pass a law requiring tobacco companies to affix warnings that included gruesome photographs depicting the results of smoking-related diseases.

Many countries have joined in with the stronger warnings, which have been associated with an increasing number of smokers attempting to quit.

According to government estimates, more than 400,000 people in this country die of tobacco-related causes each year. The FDA believes the new labels will reduce the number of smokers by 213,000 in 2013, with smaller additional reductions through 2031.

Consider it a healthy start.

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