FDA Proposes New Labeling on Cigarette Packs, Making them More Eye-Catching and Cautionary

FDA Proposes New Labeling on Cigarette Packs

Health warnings against smoking have been in the media since 1966, but until now, they’ve gone relatively unnoticed and unremarkable by smokers and nonsmokers alike. This week, the FDA proposes something more be done.

On Thursday of this week the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued a proposed rule that requires more noticeable, eye-catching labeling on cigarette packaging to promote greater public awareness of the risks associated with smoking. The proposed change will be the most significant change to cigarette labeling in the last thirty years, and the labels will use photo-realistic color images to both issue better public warnings and outline many unknown health consequences associated with smoking.

Even after decades of anti-smoking propaganda, consumers remain generally unaware of the various other health issues associated with smoking, explains Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless, M.D. Some commonly unknown health risks associated with smoking include heart disease, stroke, bladder cancer, diabetes and conditions that can cause blindness.

“Given that tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the U.S., there’s a lot at stake to ensure the public understands these risks. We remain committed to educating the public, especially America’s youth, about the dangers associated with using cigarettes and other tobacco products,” says Dr. Ned Sharpless, M.D.

What other kinds of preventable deaths are smoking-related deaths up against? Smoking kills more people each year than alcohol, HIV, car accidents, illegal drugs, murders, and suicides combined—about 480,000 Americans. Still, around 34.3 million U.S. adults and 1.4 million U.S. youth (aged 12-17 years) currently smoke, and the number does not seem to be decreasing.

The proposed new warnings on cigarette packs will better fulfill a requirement in the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. Not only that, but it will continue to make the public aware of startling, lesser-known smoking health hazards. The following are the proposed new warnings:

  • WARNING: Tobacco smoke can harm your children.
  • WARNING: Tobacco smoke causes fatal lung disease in nonsmokers.
  • WARNING: Smoking causes head and neck cancer.
  • WARNING: Smoking causes bladder cancer, which can lead to bloody urine.
  • WARNING: Smoking during pregnancy stunts fetal growth.
  • WARNING: Smoking can cause heart disease and strokes by clogging arteries.
  • WARNING: Smoking causes COPD, a lung disease that can be fatal. (paired with two different images)
  • WARNING: Smoking reduces blood flow, which can cause erectile dysfunction.
  • WARNING: Smoking reduces blood flow to the limbs, which can require amputation.
  • WARNING: Smoking causes type 2 diabetes, which raises blood sugar.
  • WARNING: Smoking causes age-related macular degeneration, which can lead to blindness.
  • WARNING: Smoking causes cataracts, which can lead to blindness.

Each warning will correspond with a full-color, realistic image that occupies the top 50 percent of the area of the front and rear panels of cigarette packages and at least 20 percent of the area at the top of cigarette advertisements. A recent FDA tweet provides examples of the proposed warnings and images.

The FDA will accept public input on the proposed rule for the next sixty days until October 15, 2019. Among other things, the FDA is open to commentary about the proposed warnings, how many to include, alternative text and images, and scientific information. Visit the FDA Newsroom article on this topic for more details.

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