THURSDAY, Aug. 15, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Smokers would have to get past some gruesome imagery to purchase a pack of cigarettes under a new rule proposed Thursday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Cigarette packs would have to carry very large warning labels featuring color photos that graphically illustrate the damage smoking can cause, the FDA said Thursday. It would be the most significant change to cigarette labels in more than 35 years. These warning labels would take up half the space on the front and back of a cigarette pack. They would also occupy at least 20 percent of the area at the top of all cigarette advertising.

Health warnings first appeared on cigarette packs in 1966 and were most recently updated in 1984 to include the well-known admonition from the U.S. Surgeon General about the health risks of smoking. But research has shown that these warnings have become virtually invisible to both smokers and nonsmokers, the FDA noted. Examples of the new warning labels provided by the FDA include: a young boy wheezing into an oxygen mask, with the warning that tobacco smoke can harm children; a man’s chest with a scar running down the middle, with text noting that smoking causes heart disease and strokes; and a sample jar of bloody urine, along with a warning that smoking causes bladder cancer.

The proposed rule will be open for public comments for 60 days through Oct. 15. After it goes into effect, tobacco companies will have 15 months to add the warning labels to their packaging and advertisements.

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