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Local Smokers Doubt Impact Of New Cigarette Labels

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Cathy Turner helps smokers kick the habit at Virginia Hospital Center. She says it takes much more than graphic pictures to make longtime smokers think about quitting.
Jonathan Wilson
Cathy Turner helps smokers kick the habit at Virginia Hospital Center. She says it takes much more than graphic pictures to make longtime smokers think about quitting.

Cathy Turner has taught smoking cessation classes at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington for nearly 20 years.

She says she can remember big increases in the number of people trying to quit when taxes were increased on cigarettes, and then when more localities started making public buildings and restaurants smoke free. But she says there haven't been any big shifts like that in a long time.

"We haven't had any major new initiative that has had an impact. So maybe with the labeling, this'll be something new, and we'll start to see a decline," she says.

But Turner says the labeling is likely to only deter new smokers because longtime smokers know the dangers by now.

Outside a tobacco outlet store in Alexandria, smoker Nikki Jardine says she hopes the new labels keep more teens from picking up the habit. She only started smoking seven years ago, and labels or not, she's not quite ready to give it up.

"I've had doctors tell me I have to quit. I have certain illnesses that are very bad with smoking. But it keeps me calm when I'm driving in D.C. so that makes a difference," Jardine says.

The new labels, which include images of diseased gums and teeth, or a man with a tracheotomy smoking, will take up the top half of both the front and back of cigarette packs.

In an interview with NPR, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg says that the changes are necessary because the current labels "had lost their power and effect."

"We absolutely believe that these warning labels will make a difference," Hamburg says.

Tobacco companies have until 2012 to put them on packages.

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