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Justice Department Wants Bigger, Better Warnings On Tobacco Products

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Each year in North Carolina, tobacco-related illnesses and medical care costs the state more than $2 billion. Statistics like that have the U.S. Justice Department bearing down again on tobacco.

The Justice Department wants health warnings to cover half of a pack of cigarettes. The same would go for cigarette ads -- the warning would cover half of an ad. And no more color ads either; the government wants them to be black and white.

For some, the issue is black and white -- government restrictions versus individual freedoms.

To critics, the health warning itself is a symbol, and every inch of it that creeps over a pack of cigarettes is another nick in the rights of smokers.

"I just think it's going way overboard," said a smoker at a Raleigh bar.

Sarah Cox, a tobacco control coordinator, represents the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society.

"I think what's over the top is the fact that there are things like arsenic in every cigarette that you inhale, plutonium which is in rocket fuel, and that right now your cigarette companies don't have to tell you that," she said. "If it's going to take your life, you should know."

Each year, 400,000 Americans die from smoking-related diseases. Smokers are not likely to gasp at those numbers. To some, dying is as much a right as smoking.

"You know, we know what we're in for. We know what the consequences are. Give us a break," another smoker said.

The Justice Department proposal would also ban cigarette labels such as "light," "low-tar" and "mild," and would require tobacco companies to list all ingredients in cigarettes.


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