This afternoon at the White House, Partnership for Prevention attended the unveiling of the nine graphic health warnings that will appear on every pack of cigarettes sold in the United States and in every cigarette advertisement. Beginning September 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will require larger, more noticeable health warnings, replacing the Surgeon General warning that is currently displayed. This marks the first change in cigarette packaging in more than 25 years. The graphic warnings attempt to accurately communicate the dangers of smoking by representing serious tobacco-related health risks including death, addiction, lung disease, cancer, stroke, and heart disease. Each warning is also accompanied by a smoking cessation phone number, 1-800-QUIT-NOW, which provides information and support from trained professionals to help smokers who are interested in quitting.
The FDA worked with experts in the fields of health communications, marketing, graphic design, and advertising to develop 36 proposed graphic images. They conducted a large-scale study with 18,000 participants from different age groups and ethnic backgrounds to measure consumer responses to the images and determine relative effectiveness of the proposed warnings. They also released the images to the public and received 1,700 comments from various groups. After reviewing relevant scientific literature, analyzing the results of the study, and reviewing public comments, the FDA selected the final nine images.
The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act requires the new graphic health warnings to appear on every cigarette pack, carton, and advertisement by September 22, 2012. They will appear on the top 50 percent of both the front and back panels of each cigarette package and in the upper portion of each cigarette advertisement. This rule applies to anyone who packages, distributes, imports, or sells cigarette products in the United States. The FDA intends to monitor and evaluate the impact of the required warnings once they enter the marketplace to determine their effectiveness with various target audiences.
“These labels are frank, honest and powerful depictions of the health risks of smoking and they will help encourage smokers to quit, and prevent children from smoking.” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Tobacco use is responsible for 433,000 deaths annually and costs our economy nearly $200 billion each year in medical costs and lost productivity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The introduction of these warnings is expected to have a major public health impact by decreasing the number of smokers, resulting in many lives saved and improved health.
Tobacco Control Team