Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Graphic Cigarette Labels Soon Required by FDA

The U.S. Supreme Court took a major step to help prevent and reduce tobacco use at the end of April, when it agreed with an appellate court ruling that upholds the landmark 2009 law granting the FDA authority over tobacco products. Most notably, the decision allows the FDA to move forward with the development of new cigarette warning labels that include large, graphic images and strong messages.

Despite the studies showing that graphic and emotionally evocative warning labels are effective, the 2009 law that requires these warning labels to cover the top half of the front and back of cigarette packs as well as 20 percent of cigarette ads, has yet to be implemented due to opposition from the tobacco industry. Currently, tobacco products feature text-only warnings that have not been updated since 1983. Susan Liss, Executive Director of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, recently made a statement describing the labels that currently serve as warnings on tobacco products as “stale and unnoticed.”

Dealing a blow to the tobacco industry’s interests, the Sixth Circuit Court ruling found that the graphic warning label requirement is reasonable and related to the government’s interest in preventing consumer deception and is therefore constitutional. By upholding the law to use the graphic labels, the United States will join more than 60 other countries already using the labels.

Instead of blandly stating the risks behind tobacco use as current labels do, the new labels are expected to increase awareness of the incontestable health consequences of using tobacco. According to a study done by the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project on tobacco warning labels, adult and youth smokers report that large, comprehensive warning labels reduce smoking consumption, increase motivation to quit and increase the likelihood that they will remain abstinent following a quit attempt. For more information about this and other studies showing the effectiveness of graphic warning labels, find fact sheets online at Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Consistent with the intention behind these labels to reduce consumption and prevalence, the new cigarette warnings will also include a hotline for tobacco users who are ready to quit. Find out more about this story in a recent Washington Post article.

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