With Graphic Labels, FDA Will Show, Not Tell, Impact of Smoking


Labels on cigarette packs are set to get more graphic. Photo: Shahbaz Majeed under a Creative Commons license.

If you've spent time in Europe, you're probably accustomed to seeing forceful health warnings on cigarette packs. If you're like me, you've wondered why American products can't pack the same punch as the French classic, Fumer tue (smoking kills). Well, thanks to the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, signed into law last summer by President Obama, the FDA has the power to take cigarette health warnings to the next level. And it's going to get graphic.According to KHI News, the law calls for larger and more visible health warnings, and the FDA has responded by proposing nine new textual statements, including "cigarettes cause cancer," "smoking can kill you," and "tobacco smoke causes fatal lung disease in non-smokers." These warnings will be backed up by color images (some photographs, some cartoons), and will take up half a cigarette pack, and 20% of advertisements. Some of the images are pretty jarring- a toe tag on a corpse, a little girl wearing an oxygen mask- and are designed really to hit home.

The FDA will have to propose a final set of regulations by June of next year, and those regulations will go into effect 15 months later. So while we'll probably have to wait two years before we see any of these labels and graphics on American cigarettes, it looks like the FDA has put its foot down, and that they're definitely on their way. As long as the tobacco industry lobbyists can be held at bay.

UPDATE: Phil Cauthon at KHI News writes, "The FDA just opened the new warning labels to public comment. Anyone may submit their opinions on the label proposals until Jan 11, 2011, here. (See "Submit Comment" at the top-right of the page)." Thanks, Phil!

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More on anti-smoking efforts:
Why the New Stricter Cigarette Laws Coming to the US are Good for the Environment
How Effective Are Smoking Bans, and How Popular Are They?
New York City to Ban Smoking in Parks & Beaches

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