• Cigarette smoke contains over 4000 toxins such as arsenic, carbon monoxide, cyanide, ammonia and more than 50 carcinogens. -Ministry of Public Health of Ecuador
  • The front of the packs show a pregnant woman smoking and says -Smoke poisons the baby, causing premature birth and death

When I was in Ecuador, something interesting I noticed was that on all the cigarette boxes, they have graphic images showing the harmful effects of smoking. They also explicitly say that the product is toxic. This is in stark contrast with the U.S., where right now there are just text warning labels. I did some research when I got home, and discovered that recent legislation in Ecuador required the size of health warnings on cigarette packs to be increased. Cigarette packs there now require images that occupy 60% of the front cover. Their efforts have been acknowledged, as Ecuador was placed in 8th place for good management of health advertisements, among the 198 member countries of the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Ministry of Public Health has also imposed regulations prohibiting cigarette advertisements in mass media, and actively watched and demanded their completion. They have also persistently carried out communication campaigns (“Ecuador free of tobacco smoke” and “The damages to health by tobacco consumption”), the production of educational and promotional material, the declaration of spaces 100% free of tobacco smoke, the prohibition of advertising and sponsorship of tobacco products.

A study conducted in 2012 shows that graphic tobacco warning labels are more effective than text-only warnings at delivering anti-smoking messages. The researchers found that 50 percent of subjects remembered the text-only warning label, while 83 percent correctly recalled the label that contained a graphic image.

In 2009, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act mandated the FDA to require graphic labels on cigarette packages. In June 2011, the FDA approved nine images it would require cigarette manufacturers to place on cigarette packs. While placing these images may seem like an excellent idea, there are certain groups not interested in consumer health, and rather place their profit first. Tobacco companies sued to block the requirement, and the cases are pending.

Do you think the U.S. will soon follow suit with Ecuador and other countries that are using repulsive images to dissuade consumers from purchasing cigarettes? Why or why not?