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Anti-tobacco Advocates Say Graphic Images, Other Measures Influence Smokers to Quit

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Plans for graphic warning labels on cigarette packs have gone up in smoke. The Food and Drug Administration decided not to challenge a judge's ruling that the labels violated free speech under the first amendment. Instead, the FDA will go back to the drawing board.

Anti-tobacco advocates say it's really a combination of factors that help people quit. Changing the labels was part of that plan and mandated by Congress. Tobacco companies fought and won a court ruling against the U-S government to prevent graphic pictures from covering packaging. They depict exaggerated, rendered pictures of the effects of tobacco use. Big Tobacco calls the images 'government propaganda.' Prevention experts say the pictures and other methods deter people to smoke.

A jar at Mercy Medical Center shows all the tar that builds up in your lungs if you smoke one pack a day for one year. And some images show an artist's depiction of the effects of smoking.
"In the countries that do use those images we know there's been a drastic reduction in their tobacco use rates," said ASAC Deputy Director of Prevention Services Melissa Walker.

But you won't see these photos on new cigarette labels in the U.S. after the FDA backed down from Big Tobacco. The FDA plans to go back to the drawing board. That's why ASAC's Melissa Walker says the fight isn't over.

"Release new images and new messaging ads more factually based versus scare tactics," said Walker.

Mercy Medical Center's Tobacco Treatment Specialist Dawn Sabin says some graphic images don't frighten people anymore. But the positives encourage people to make a healthier choice.

"We do talk about the financial reasons to quit, time saving benefits, productivity for employers," said Mercy Medical Center's Tobacco Treatment Specialist Dawn Sabin.

Sabin uses this machine to do a check for pulmonary damage for smokers. But much of the damage can be reversed so there's still hope.

"It can be done. Out of all the people that ever smoked, half have quit. So there's a lot of positive research that needs to get out as well," said Sabin.

More than getting people to quit, Sabin and Walker want the FDA and local organizations to work to keep kids from ever getting addicted. Next Thursday, on the 28th at 6pm, the Hall Perrine Cancer Center will host a forum on quitting. "Are you Ready to Quit Smoking?" features Mercy Medical Center experts, tools for kicking the habit, and information on support groups. QuitLine Iowa is still the number one way Iowans chose to quit. You can call, chat online or even text to find out how to start the process.

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