On August 15, 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rolled out thirteen (13) proposed warnings in full-color utilizing graphics for rotation on cigarette packages, meant to encourage people to stop smoking or taking up the habit.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC) the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. is smoking.
- Nearly 480,000 people die in the U.S. each year from smoking-related illnesses.
- More than 35% of nonsmoking youths aged 3 to 17 were exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke.
For nine (9) years the major tobacco companies have tried to defeat the introduction of these graphic images on cigarette packages. The plan is for the graphic labels to be featured in the top half of the cigarette package, and the warnings to rotate on the packaging. The warnings themselves have been updated to reflect the ever-evolving health risks of smoking.
In the press release that accompanied the FDA’s announcement, the head of the FDA’s tobacco division, Mitch Zeller, said “the diseases embedded in these images will improve public understanding of the negative consequences of cigarette smoking.
The FDA plans to keep in rotation the following warnings:
- WARNING: Tobacco smoke can harm your children.
- WARNING: Smoking during pregnancy stunts fetal growth.
- WARNING: Smoking causes age-related macular degeneration, which can lead to blindness.
- WARNING: Smoking causes bladder cancer, which can lead to bloody urine.
- WARNING: Smoking reduces blood flow to the limb, which can regulate require amputation.
- WARNING: Smoking causes cataracts, which can lead to blindness.
- WARNING: Smoking causes COPT, a lung disease that can be fatal.
- WARNING: Smoking can cause heart disease and strokes by clogging arteries.
- WARNING: Smoking causes head and neck cancer.
A major initiative in the campaign is to focus on the lesser-known risks, especially to youth and nonsmokers. The United States was the first country to require cigarette warnings on cigarette packaging. These warnings, however, have not been updated since 1985.
The new graphic warnings are meant to raise awareness of the health risks associated with smoking. A 2019 report by the World Health Organization and other health organizations found that warning labels “are most effective when they are pictorial, graphic, comprehensive, and strongly worded.” These sentiments were echoed by a study led by Cornell University researchers that concluded that Graphic warnings in cigarette advertisements reduce the appeal of cigarette brands among youth relative to social cue advertisements with the Surgeon General’s warning. Neither graphic nor text warnings influence people’s beliefs about the health risks of smoking.”