New Tobacco Control Strategy Coming from HHS

By June 22, 2011, FDA will choose nine larger warning statements and color images that will then appear on cigarette packages and in cigarette ads.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday what it called "a new comprehensive tobacco control strategy" that includes tougher health warnings on cigarette packages and cigarette advertisements. "Once final, these health warnings on cigarettes and in cigarette advertisements will be the most significant change in more than 25 years. These actions are part of a broader strategy that will help tobacco users quit and prevent children from starting," the agency said in its announcement.

"Every day, almost 4,000 youth try a cigarette for the first time and 1,000 youth become regular, daily smokers," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "Today marks an important milestone in protecting our children and the health of the American public."

Central to the strategy is a proposed FDA rule that would require nine new larger warning statements and "color graphic images depicting the negative health consequences of smoking" on packages and in ads. The images are indeed arresting: One shows gravestones in a cemetery, another a dead man lying in a casket, and several are cancer warnings showing a diseased lung or mouth.

Public comments are being accepted on 36 proposed images until Jan. 9, 2011; FDA will chose the final nine by June 22, 2011, based on a review of the relevant scientific literature, the comments, and results from an 18,000-person study. HHS said it expects the final rule to be effect Sept. 22, 2011, and to bar companies from making cigarettes that lack the enhanced warnings.

Sebelius announced the plan in a webcast Wednesdsay morning with Howard K. Koh, M.D., MPH, assistant secretary of HHS, and FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D.

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