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Cigarette graphic warning labels could reduce the number of smokers in the United States by as much as 8.6 million people, saving millions of lives, according to a new study.

The study looked at the effect of the labels on smokers in Canada, and found they resulted in a 2.9 to 4.7 percentage point drop in smoking rates between 2000 and 2009. In the United States, a similar decrease would result in between 5.3 million and 8.6 million fewer smokers, HealthDay reports.

The study was conducted by the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project, a collaboration of more than 100 tobacco-control researchers and experts from 22 countries.

“These findings are important for the ongoing initiative to introduce graphic warnings in the United States,” study lead author Jidong Huang of the University of Illinois at Chicago, said in a news release. The study is published in the journal Tobacco Control.

Cigarette warning labels have been implemented in more than 40 countries, but not in the United States, the article notes.

In April, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge by the tobacco industry to a federal law requiring that cigarette packages carry graphic warning labels. Tobacco companies argued parts of the law violated their constitutional rights to free speech. The labels include graphic images of the consequences of smoking, including diseased lungs and rotting teeth. The cigarette labels are a result of the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which gave the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate the content, marketing and sale of tobacco products. It could take years for the new warning labels to appear on cigarette packages.

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