Cigarette warning labels could get 'most significant' overhaul in 35 years

Daniel Fowler
August 17, 2019

As outlined in the proposed rule today, the unchanged content of these health warnings, as well as their small size, location and lack of an image, impairs their ability to convey relevant information about the negative health consequences of cigarette smoking in an effective way to the public, the FDA said.

The plan would mark the first change to cigarette warnings in 35 years, or since the U.S. Surgeon General's warning was mandated in 1984. The tobacco industry can not be allowed to further delay these necessary warnings that show and tell the truth about the deadly consequences of smoking.

"They cause cancer, heart disease, stroke, emphysema, and other medical problems". Other images to go along with other specific warnings show things like diseased or dead lungs, a cup of bloody urine and a low-birthweight infant.

The FDA said it would develop a new batch of labels, but when new ones didn't appear, eight health groups sued the agency in 2016 for the "unreasonable delay".

It's quite a jump from 20 years ago, when Canada became the first and only country to put graphic warnings on cigarettes.

The proposed rule stated that the FDA was confident the new warnings could stand up to the legal challenges that took down the earlier rule. It's considered the toughest type of restriction on cigarette packages.

Patricia Folan, an expert in helping smokers quit, said she "applauds" the proposed move.

According to the agency, the new images won't violate any laws, and are exclusively meant to educate the American public about the health risks of smoking.

General warnings are "virtually invisible".

The FDA says the new proposed cigarette health warnings provide an "enormous public health opportunity" to increase the public's understanding of the serious health consequences of cigarette smoking.

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A previous effort to toughen warning labels by the FDA was defeated in court in 2012.

Meanwhile, tobacco companies say they are looking into the FDA's proposed rule.

The agency is now under court order to issue a final rule on warning labels by March 2020, Zeller said during a media briefing Thursday. Graphic health warnings depicting the consequences of smoking was ordered to cover 75% of the front of packs and 90% of the reverse.

Despite the fact that cigarette smoking has declined sharply over the last two decades some 34.3 million US adults and almost 1.4 million USA teens still smoke.

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability and death in the United States, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For years, American smokers have been spared the unpleasant images of gangrene infected feet, swollen tongues overtaken by cancerous tumors and blackened lungs that are often plastered onto packs of cigarettes sold around the world.

In a proposed rule from the agency, the 13 new graphic warnings would call needed attention to the lesser-known health risks of cigarette smoking, such as head and neck cancer, erectile dysfunction, and diabetes.

The FDA also mentioned that smokers were four times more likely to contract bladder cancer and smoking contributes to 5,000 bladder cancer deaths annually.

NED SHARPLESS: While most people assume in this day and age that the harms of cigarette smoking are pretty well understood by the public, this is not true. The warnings then would appear on products and in advertisements 15 months after the final rule is issued. "They are supported by extensive scientific evidence, and they will help the United States catch up to the 120-plus countries that have adopted this best-practice strategy to reduce tobacco use and save lives".

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