Public health groups applaud graphic warning labels for tobacco

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"According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 45 million Americans smoke cigarettes, about 20 percent of the population, and one in five high school students still smoke," American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown said in a statement. "The new health warnings represent an aggressive and welcome approach to reducing smoking rates that have leveled off in recent years as tobacco companies continue to launch campaigns to entice new smokers and maintain current customers."

A number of provisions of the 2009 law have already gone into effect, including:

• A ban on candy- and fruit-flavored cigarettes that can attract young people;

• A ban on the use of misleading descriptions such as "light," "mild" and "low-tar" in the marketing and packaging of cigarettes;

• Larger, stronger warning labels on smokeless tobacco products;

• A federal prohibition on cigarette and smokeless tobacco sales to minors;

• A ban on all tobacco-brand sponsorships of sports and cultural events;

• A ban on virtually all free tobacco samples and giveaways of non-tobacco items, such as hats and T-shirts with the purchase of tobacco; and

• A prohibition on the sale of cigarettes in packs of fewer than 20 that are more affordable for children.

"President Obama is committed to protecting our nation's children and the American people from the dangers of tobacco use. These labels are frank, honest and powerful depictions of the health risks of smoking and they will help encourage smokers to quit, and prevent children from smoking," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. "President Obama wants to make tobacco-related death and disease part of the nation's past, and not our future."

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