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FDA Unveils New Graphic Cigarette Health Warnings


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has unveiled the new graphic health warnings which will be mandatory on all cigarette packaging and advertisements in the United States beginning September 2012.

The FDA’s authority to regulate tobacco products, gained on June 22, 2009 when President Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (FSPTCA) into law. The FSPTCA requires nine new larger and more noticeable textual warning statements to appear on cigarette packages and in cigarette advertisements.

The FDA authority was highlighted in November 2010 when the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) unveiled their comprehensive tobacco strategic action plan, “Ending the Tobacco Epidemic.”

Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death. In the United States, an estimated 443,000 people will die from tobacco-related heart attacks, strokes, cancers, and other diseases this year. Smoking costs the United States $96 billion in medical costs and $97 billion in lost productivity each year.

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In 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) called for the use of pictorial warnings as part of their effort to increase public awareness and understanding of the health hazards of cigarette smoking.

New York City was the first area in the United States to do so with their nothing-left-to-the-imagination campaign where signs showing the health effects of smoking began showing up in shops December 2009.

Last November, the FDA released 36 proposed color graphic images and a proposed rule for public comment. From these nine were selected and can be seen here (pdf file).

Beginning September 2012, cigarette packages must have one of the new graphic health warnings. The warning must cover the top 50% of both the front and back panel of the package. In addition, the new graphic health warnings must be in each advertisement, occupying at least 20 percent of the area of the advertisement.

Adult smoking rates in the United States have been cut in half (from 42.4% in 1965 to 20.6% in 2008). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly a quarter of high school students in the U.S. smoke cigarettes. Another 8% use smokeless tobacco.

Image Credit

Food and Drug Administration
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention