Published: Sat, August 17, 2019
Markets | By Otis Pena

US FDA proposes new health warnings on cigarette packs, advertisements

US FDA proposes new health warnings on cigarette packs, advertisements

The FDA said the proposed changes, which also drastically increase the size of the warnings, could be the most significant to cigarette labels in more than 35 years. Other countries have long used such shock tactics to discourage smokers, so why does the USA lag behind?

What's more, more than 16 million Americans live with diseases caused by cigarette smoking.

Other color illustrations would warn smokers that cigarettes can cause heart disease, impotence and diabetes. "We have more prominent warnings on many other products that don't pose even a fraction of the risk that cigarettes do".

Although health warnings were updated in 1984 with the Surgeon General's warnings, research shows that smokers are misinformed regarding cigarettes and its negative health effects, the FDA said in a press release. Our lawsuit sought to force the FDA to comply with provisions of the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which required graphic warnings covering the top half of the front and back of cigarette packs and 20 percent of cigarette advertising.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed that cigarette packs carry graphic new health warnings including pictures and text outlining lesser-known risks of smoking like bladder cancer and diabetes as well as lung cancer.

Warnings first appeared on cigarette packages in the USA in 1966, and were most recently updated in 1984.

The new warnings would be accompanied by a color image demonstrating the health risk.

Despite the statistics, an estimated 34.4 million USA adults and an additional 1.4 million US youths are active smokers. We can not afford more delays - not when tobacco use still kills half a million Americans and costs the nation $170 billion in health care expenses each year.

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Erika Sward, assistant vice-president of national advocacy for the American Lung Association, called the graphic warning labels "overdue". The FDA was therefore obliged to come up with new warnings that would pass constitutional muster. Since then, almost 120 nations around the globe have mandated the bigger, graphic warnings. By 2007 this number had grown to nine - 5% of the global population - before gradually expanding to cover all 28 members of the European Union, and countries such as India and New Zealand.

The FDA plain packaging law could face litigation in the future similar to the 2012 first amendment case. They are supported by extensive scientific evidence showing that graphic warnings are far more effective at communicating the health risks of smoking than text-only warnings.

Why is the U.S. lagging behind?

The FDA on Thursday unveiled 13 new graphic health warnings in all. "Smoking is the deadliest behavior we engage in; more people die from smoking than from anything else". In the end, the federal court determined that the agency's rule violated the first amendment.

"We firmly support public awareness of the harms of smoking cigarettes, but the manner in which those messages are delivered to the public can not run afoul of the First Amendment protections that apply to all speakers, including cigarette manufacturers", the spokesperson said (Hellmann, The Hill, 8/15; Siddons, Roll Call, 8/15; Bever, Washington Post, 8/15; Kaplan, New York Times, 8/15; FDA proposal, Federal Register, 8/16).

Meanwhile, tobacco companies say they are reviewing the FDA's proposed rule. Prior to 2009, when Congress passed the Tobacco Control Act, only 18 countries required graphic warnings, showing how far behind the rest of the world the USA has fallen over the past 10 years. The FDA stated in March 2013 that it planned to issue a new rule requiring graphic warnings, but failed to do so before today. But that momentary reprieve before lighting up may only last a few more years. But, "that doesn't mean they're going to win". At the same time, however, the court didn't strike down the law under which the FDA was acting, and a separate appeals court specifically upheld the law.

"We firmly support public awareness of the harms of smoking cigarettes, but the manner in which those messages are delivered to the public can not run afoul of the First Amendment protections that apply to all speakers, including cigarette manufacturers", Neassa Hollon, a spokeswoman for the tobacco giant RJ Reynolds, told the New York Times on Thursday.

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