WASHINGTON—In an effort to accurately portray the risks of smoking tobacco, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved rules Wednesday that will require all cigarette packaging to bear a large warning label featuring a graphic image of Trish.
FDA commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg told reporters the new labeling, which depicts the face of 32-year-old chain-smoker Trish and will be mandatory as of Feb. 1, 2012, is part of an ongoing campaign to inform Americans about the gruesome consequences of smoking tobacco.
"We believe displaying a photo of Trish on every pack of cigarettes sold will help discourage young people from starting this deadly habit and also motivate current smokers to quit," Hamburg said. "I'm certain Americans of all ages will instantly understand the devastating repercussions of tobacco use after confronting the picture of Trish at a bar gesturing with a cigarette and cackling hoarsely."
"What if that were you or someone you cared about?" Hamburg added. "It really shows the ruinous impact that smoking can have on your life."
Representing the largest health initiative launched by the FDA in recent years, the new warning label will also include a single line of text: "Cigarettes caused Trish."
According to government officials, disturbing imagery of rotting gums and teeth, disease-ridden lungs, a corpse in a morgue, and a deformed infant have all proven far less effective at conveying the dangers of smoking than a single picture of Trish smiling. Numerous clinical trials have shown that more than 90 percent of individuals responded with feelings of intense nausea and despair when shown the photo of Trish with her face under a fluorescent light, bringing a cigarette to her lips.
"An estimated 443,000 Americans are killed by smoking every year, so obviously we need a straightforward image that accurately depicts the pain and suffering caused by cigarettes," said Lawrence R. Deyton, director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products. "Nearly every one of our study participants reacted to Trish's photo by saying it was one of the most disturbing images they'd ever seen."
"It's true that the warning label with Trish is both shocking and revolting, but it's also the only way to reach people," Deyton added.
While many Americans agreed that placing Trish's image on cigarette packs would definitely deter some potential consumers, others have called the scare tactic reprehensible.
"To walk by and see Trish's photograph plastered on every carton in the cigarette display is a bit extreme, I think," St. Louis resident Paula Kauth said. "I could see a written warning describing her scrunched up face, double chins, and stained tank top, but to show that picture is just too much, especially for more sensitive shoppers."
"It'll make people physically sick while they're standing in line," Kauth added. "What point does that prove?"
Steve Ponzoch, a native of Omaha, NE and smoker for the past 15 years, called the photo "fucking nasty," and remained convinced the image must have been doctored to look extra offensive.
"You could smoke fifty packs a day and I'm sure it would kill you long before you ever looked like Trish," Ponzoch said. "It's unfair. That's totally false advertising. They must have used a computer or something to make it appear more explicit, because it honestly doesn't even look realistic."
Meanwhile, other critics have claimed the photo is too tame, arguing the true ramifications of the habit cannot be clearly demonstrated without a full-body shot of Trish holding up a cigarette while wearing a two-piece bikini that reveals her flabby stomach, chunky thighs, and faded Blues Traveler tattoo.
"If they want the public to stop smoking, they need a striking image that will stick in people's mind forever," Dr. Len Litchtenfeld of the American Cancer Society said. "And to do that they're going to need a photograph of Trish in which see gazes upon the viewer with a grotesque look of genuine lust in her eyes."