Good news for those who think that anti-smoking warning labels aren't prominent enough on cigarette packs and cartons (bad news for the squeamish though)—the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will require tobacco companies to include blackened lungs, corpses, crying babies and other disturbing images on their products so that smokers fully understand the risks they're taking.

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (Tobacco Control Act), signed into law in June 2009, calls for cigarette packages and advertisements to feature larger and more visible graphic health warnings. The FDA will select nine of 36 proposed images by June 2011 (the public can express their thoughts on the candidate images through January 9, 2011). By the end of September 2012, cigarette makers will be prohibited from manufacturing their tobacco products for sale or distribution in the U.S. without the graphic new health warnings. Instructions for public commenting are available via the FDA's Web site.

Tobacco use is the leading cause of premature and preventable death in the United States, responsible for 443,000 deaths each year, according to the U.S. Department Health and Human Services. Further, 30 percent of all cancer deaths are due to tobacco.

The labeling requirement is the latest in the government's well-financed efforts to discourage smoking. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) invested $225 million to support local, state and national efforts to promote tobacco control and expand call centers for people seeking to quit. The Tobacco Control Act also gave the government the ability to restrict tobacco companies' use of the terms "light," "low" and "mild," and it banned characterizing fruit, candy and spice flavors from cigarettes. Meanwhile, the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA) of 2009 raised the federal cigarette tax by 62 cents per pack.

Images courtesy of the FDA